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Topolobampo Collection

About this Collection

The Topolobampo digitized collection consists of photographs taken by colonist and official photographer for the Credit Foncier Company of Sinaloa, Ira Kneeland. The photographs document the area around Topolobampo bay during the late 19th century, focusing on the efforts of Albert Kimsey Owen and others to establish a socialist utopian colony. The Topolobampo cooperative colony was founded at Topolobampo Bay near Los Mochis, Sinaloa, Mexico, by a group of American colonists in 1886. The colony was established and governed under a set of idealistic bylaws, predicated on socialistic reforms. The driving force behind the colonization effort was Albert Kimsey Owen (1847-1916). Owen began working as a surveyor and civil engineer for the Denver and Rio Grande Railroad. In the course of his work, Owen was sent to Mexico's west coast to look for promising harbor sites, and there he had his first look at Topolobampo Bay. From 1873 through 1880 Owen worked to implement his dream of a port at Topolobampo Bay. He quickly organized an American syndicate and with a small contingent, embarked on a journey in late August of 1880, bound for Vera Cruz, Mexico. The ship was lost in a hurricane off the coast of Florida with only four survivors. The accident set back Owen five years. Owen’s original plan was to build a railroad from Texas to Topolobampo (the Texas, Topolobampo, and Pacific Railroad). However, Owen’s family background and experiences living at another utopian colony in Indiana led to him being a staunch and idealistic socialist in addition to being a railroad promoter and engineer. His plan included a cooperative colony in Sinaloa where the reorganization of labor and distribution followed the principles laid out in his essay "Integral Co-Operation." Out of this plan came the Credit Foncier Company of Sinaola. The Credit Foncier Company issued stock, script and credits in return for labor which benefited the colony. It was also the agency used to acquire and hold land for Owen and the colony. Plans for the colony included a grand city called Pacific City, based on Owen’s utopian ideal, as well as several agricultural colonies along the Fuerte River to the north of Topolobampo Bay. The railroad and the colony were to be mutually beneficial. However, the colony never had much success and the premature settling of twenty-seven colonists at Topolobampo in 1886 ultimately concluded with the "grand experiment's" failure. The reasons were multifarious and complex. The digitized collection consists of photographs taken by Ira Kneeland, the colony’s official photographer. View this collection on the contributor's website.

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