By Michael Maune
Primary Creator: Owen, Richard (1810-1890)
Extent: 0.2 Cubic feet
Subjects: Purdue University--History
The Richard Owen papers (1866-1878; 0.5 cubic feet) document the life and career of Richard Owen, his correspondence, and his administrative recommendations to the Purdue University Trustees. They include materials from Owen’s time at Indiana University and Owen’s tenure as President of Purdue. They also show Owen’s various professions as geologist, professor, and administrator. Types of materials include: books, reports, and letters. The series is organized into two form series:
1. Books, 1873-1878 (0.1 cubic feet).
This series includes Owen’s diary, which records his daily affairs from 1873-1878. Events and topics recorded include faculty meetings, payments, travel, and correspondence. Materials in the series are arranged chronologically.
2. Papers, 1866-1873 (0.4 cubic feet)
This series documents correspondence and administrative recommendations of Richard Owen. A letter documents communication between Richard Owen and Dr. Blackwell of the Literary Society of Bedford. The letter, written during Owen’s tenure at Indiana University, documents Owen’s geological studies and confirms his intention to meet with Blackwell on May 25, 1866. The series also includes a photocopy of the first Presidential report to the Purdue University Trustees, where Owen provides recommendations regarding faculty and staff, the plan of education, and general administrative affairs.
“Richard Owen, born January 6, 1810 in New Lanark, Scotland,…traveled to New Harmony with his father in 1827. After serving in the Mexican War, he returned to New Harmony to assist his brother David in the geological survey of parts of the Northwest Territory. In 1849, Richard accepted a position as chair of natural science at the Western Military Institute of Kentucky, a position he held for 8 years. In 1858, Owen received his M.D. at the Nashville (Tennessee) Medical College. After his brother David's death in 1860, Richard became the State Geologist of Indiana and in 1861, a member of the Indiana University faculty. Dr. Owen was called from this position, however, at the outbreak of the Civil War. He returned to his duties as professor at the University in 1864, a position he held until 1879” (Biographical Note).
Owen “became Purdue's first president in 1872. At the time, there were no buildings, no faculty, and no students on the West Lafayette campus, and Owen never actually occupied an office there…Through his belief in hard work and invention, Owen brought the Morrill Act's idea of an ‘Indiana Agricultural College’ to reality. He resigned the day before the first class met” (Past Purdue Presidents).
“After his retirement, Owen continued his scientific studies in New Harmony. It was in New Harmony that he died on March 24, 1890, after mistakenly drinking embalming fluid” (Biographical Note).
Access Restrictions: Collection is open for research.
Letter purchased from M. Benjamin Katz Fine Books, July 27, 2012
Library purchased from R.E. Banta, circa 1933
Original/Copies Note: Photocopy of President's Report to Purdue Trustees. Original is located at Indiana University Archives.
Related Materials: 0000NHC1 New Harmony collection, 1845-1890
Preferred Citation: MSP 59, Richard Owen papers, Archives and Special Collections, Purdue University Libraries
Processing Information: This collection was created by Archives and Special Collections staff. All materials were transferred from existing collections related to Richard Owen. All materials have been housed in polyester sleeves, acid-free folders, and acid-free boxes. Owen’s books have been cataloged and placed in the Special Collections General book collection.
Transcription of letter:
Dr. Blackwell Inda. State University
Pres. Lit. Soc. Bedford. 19 May 1866
On returning from a geological examination in Putnam County, I graciously(?), found your favor awaiting me and obtained today the consent of the faculty to the arrangement proposed.
You may therefore expect me, unless some unavoidable accident occurs, on Frid. 25 inst.
Wishing your Literary Society much success, I am, with kind remembrances to Capt. Friedley.