Albert Owen's Utopian Vision by Josiah D. Hillner

According to Chris Jennings in Paradise Now, “The dream of utopia is eternal.” Furthermore, utopias, whether literary or lived, “tend to be born from the mind of” a single individual, a visionary. For the colony of Topolobampo, Albert K. Owen was that visionary. During the nineteenth century, the utopian dream became prevalent in the United States. For these dreamers, paradise was not lost, but rather, imminently available. Owen’s dream was shaped by multiple components. For example, during the 1800s the second most commonly held book in American households was Milton’s Paradise Lost, from which Owen quotes frequently. From Milton’s work Owen derives his notion of temperance, order, license, and liberty. Owen, along with other utopians of the nineteenth-century shared common anxiety about the rising specter of industrial capitalism, a then-novel system that seemed to lay waste to everything in its path. The vision for Topolobampo started when Albert Owen traveled to Mexico to survey railroad possibilities in 1872. Owen later wrote of his experience in Integral Co-Operation at Work No 2: “I, if the morning should discover a deep and safe channel, from this inland sea to the Gulf of California, then here, decided I, at the midnight hour, is the site for a great metropolitan city” (212). What attracted so many to Owen’s scheme was Owen’s idealistic dream and his desire to find some meaningful solution to the pressing social problems. Fellow utopian, C. Hoffman, wrote that he was “tired, very tired, of the even ever? recurring, never-ending conflict between man and man which brutalizes and demoralizes us in savagery. I fear that capitalism and monopoly have engulfed” the treasures of humanity, leaving people with a sense of cosmic orphanhood. Ray Reynolds, in Cat’s Paw Utopia, records how colonist wrote, “I sometimes feel that Pacific Colony is my last peaceable hope…” (24). Both of these quotes speak to the allure of Owen’s utopian dream, which then laid the foundation for the two thousand colonists who traveled to Topolobampo in hopes of creating a better life. This exhibit page explores many of the facets of Albert K Owen’s utopian ideology, which imbued the communal structures of Topolobampo as they engaged in the process of utopia.