History of the Workingman's Institute, New Harmony, Indiana
From: History of Posey County, Indiana
John C. Leffel, Editor
Standard Publishing Company
Chicago, 1913

By Joel Willis Hiatt, A. M.

One cannot properly understand the genesis and development of the library of the Workingmen's Institute unless he knows something of the men who builded New Harmony and of the spirit which moved them. New Harmony stands alone among the towns of the country in the character of the men who lived within its borders and who gave it renown throughout the world.

William Maclure was associated with Robert Owen in the purchase of the village and the lands surrounding the Rapp town of Harmonie, on the lower Wabash in Indiana. Mr. Maclure had visited the manufacturing town of New Lanark, Scotland, where Robert Owen conducted a model cotton factory; had witnessed the schools which Mr. Owen conducted for the benefit of his operatives' children; had been profoundly impressed with the work which they were doing for the people, and he had seen the order and industry and happiness which prevailed there. Therefore, when Mr. Owen came to this country to establish a community in which to work out his ideas for the betterment of the people, he was personallly known to Mr. Maclure as a philanthropist who had achieved a notable success in Scotland. When Mr. Owen proposed to Mr. Maclure that he assist in the formation of a community at Harmonie he consented to do so, not because he accepted all of Mr. Owens's theories as being correct, but because, from what he had seen at New Lanark, he thought that he could do a great good in an educational way in this new undertaking.

Inasmuch as Mr. Maclure was the founder of the Workingmen's Institute it would be well to know something about his career.

William Maclure was born at Ayr, Scotland, in 1763. He received a primary education under Mr. Douglas, "an intelligent teacher, who was especially reputed for classical and mathematical attainments." At nineteen years of age he came to this county, and having established the necessary connections, returned to London and entered the mercantile business, as a partner in the firm of Miller, Hart & Company. He was very successful in business and soon amassed a fortune. He seems to have laid aside the cares of a commercial life at an early age, for we find him, at the age of forty years, acting for our Government as a commissioner in adjusting the damages arising to American citizens from spoliation of France.

He then traveled over Europe, making natural history observations, particularly in geology. He thus laid the foundations for making a geological survey of the United States, a thing which he had greatly desired to do for years. He entered upon that work and in 1809 he published the first geological map of the United States, at Philadelphia. He was "Father of American Geology." In 1817 he was elected president of the Academy of Sciences, in Philadelphia, and continued to reside there until 1826. At that time he joined Mr. Owen in making the New Harmony experiment. Mr. Maclure induced a number of scientific gentlemen to accompany him to New Harmony and assist in the work of establishing schools there. He introduced the Pestalozzian method of teaching through Madam Fretageot, of Paris, France, and Joseph Neef, a coadjutor of Pestalozzi's in Switzerland, also taught in New Harmony. True to his respect for labor, he embraced manual training as a branch of instruction in his school and some works of great scientific value were issued from the press of this school. Thomas Say, Mr. Lesueur, Dr. Troost and others were in the assemblage of talent which he brought to carry on the work of his school. They have always been known in New Harmony history as the "boat load of knowledge" because they came down the Ohio and up the Wabash in a keelboat. In a year the community project failed, but Mr. Maclure continued to reside in New Harmony until some time in 1827. After that time he resided almost continuously in Mexico, because of its milder climate. He died in 1840. In his absence from New Harmony he committed the management of his philanthropic enterprises to his friend, Thomas Say, the great chonchologist and entomologist. In 1838 he established and endowed the Workingmen's Institute. He gave to it an order on a debtor publisher in London for $1,000, which was partially honored, and he gave books and philosophical instruments from his own collection. Upon the order given on Mr. Rich by Mr. Maclure the institute obtained 360 volumes. Subsequently the brother and sister of Mr. Maclure conveyed to it by deed a house and lot and it became an institution with a home. Mr. Maclure was not alone a devotee of science. He was full of plans for the ameloriation of the condition of those who toil with their hands He despised the affectations of the wealthy and loved the poor, in their affliction. It was at his suggestion that the membership of the institute was limited to those who "get their living by the work of their hands."

The Institute took advantage of a provision in his will that gave $500 to any community that would give that amount of money, or books of that value, towards the establishment of a library. By this provision $80,000 was distributed to found 16o libraries throughout the country.

We have a catalogue of the library issued in 1847, nine years after it was founded. It shows that they possessed 1,092 volumes. They were not trifling works, but they were works of seriousness and merit.

There were 95 volumes of high class fiction, 12 of poetry, 17 of philosophy, 7 of religion (four of these opposed to Christianity), 60 of sociology, 105 of science, 250 of history (including biography and travels), the remainder treating of miscellaneous subjects.

In 1870 another catalogue was issued. It shows that they then possessed 3,207 volumes. The institute had now become the home of the township and school library, I have not made an analysis of the books in this catalogue, but, generally speaking, they were of the same character as those of the first catalogue. The same men were at the head of the Institute then who were connected with it in is infancy. Advanced thought in science, sociology, philosophy and comparative religion found a welcome home on its shelves.

The library was maintained during these years, and for some years after, by dues assessed on members, by gifts of books and by benefits given for the library by local theatrical talent. The dues were $1.50 per year for each member. It held its own and grew slowly until 1894. At this time an event occurred which entirely changed its condition.

Dr. Edward Murphy had been an active member of the Institute all of its life. He came to New Harmony just after the failure of the Owen community, a ragged, barefoot, friendless Irish boy. He learned the tailor's trade and worked at it for some time, but studied medicine and successfully practiced his profession for many years. By frugality and prudence he was able to accumulate a competency. He retired from the practice of medicine and spent the last twenty five years of his life in travel and study. Dr. and Mrs. Murphy, when they were of middle age, had the misfortune to lose all of their children. They were compelled to struggle on through old age, childless and alone. In 1894 Dr. Murphy gave to the Institute $42,000 in first mortgage notes. This sum represented that portion of his fortune which gave him care in handling. When he had completed the transfer he expressed himself as feeling greatly relieved and very happy.

Subsequently, on the death of Dr. and Mrs. Murphy (Mrs. Murphy died a few days after the doctor), the Institute came into possession of the greater portion of their fortune, the whole of their gifts amounting to $140,000. During Mr. Murphy's lifetime he built the home which the Institute now occupies. It cost $24,000 and all of that amount except $4,000 was contributed by Dr. and Mrs. Murphy. The Institute sold the home which the Maclures had given it and invested the amount so realized ($4,000) in its new home.

It now possesses a working capital of $100,000, which is invested in first mortgage real estate loans and bonds. Its total assets are estimated at $170,000. Its income at present is about $6,000 per year. This is divided among the following funds: The lecture, museum, book, insurance and repair, and the expense funds.

About $1,200 is spent in lectures each year. Season tickets to these are sold at 5o cents. Dr. Murphy wished they should be absolutely free. He said in a meeting which was considering the matter, "I wish the lectures to be absolutely free. When I was a boy in this place, I could attend any lecture that was given without paying anything. I wish these lectures to be free." He was, however, overruled by the members and a nominal admission charge, as given above, was fixed. The Institute has now (1913) bought a lot adjoining the library site, at a cost of $3,000 and is erecting an auditorium at an approximate cost, when completed, of $25,000.00.

The income of $10,10,000 set aside for the maintenance of the Museum. This consists of the geological and mineralogical collection of the late Edward T. Cox, one time Indiana State geologist; of a part of the collection of Prof. Richard Owen, for many years professor of natural science at Indiana State University; the collection of James Sampson, a local scientist, and with the two aforementioned persons, among the founders of the Institute. It also contains other objects of scientific value or local interest. It occupies one half of the second story of the library building.

The other half of the second story of the library building is occupied by a collection of oil paintings which Dr. Murphy bought in Europe and gave to the Institute. In this gallery is a portrait of William Maclure, painted by Northcote, which is regarded as a fine work of art. There are also portraits of Dr. and Mrs. Murphy as they appeared in their latter life.

For several years the Institute conducted a free school of art during the summer months. Its purpose was to inculcate the principles of art and enable the young to appreciate the works in the gallery and all works of art. The library building was decorated by a young man, Harry Hawkins, who obtained his first instruction in art in this school. He has painted in the hall of the library a notable representation of George Rapp deeding the site of Harmonie to Robert Owen.

In 1908 the writer of this article arranged and classified the books of the library according to the Dewey system of classification. At that time the library contained 17,474 volumes, divided as follows: General works, 1,624; philosophy, 236; religion, 694; sociology, 890; philology, 288; science, 1,367; useful arts, 469; fine arts, 235; literature, 2,226; history, 4,004; children's books, 1,220; popular fiction, 1,414; public documents, 1,977; duplicates (mostly public documents), 830; total, 17,474.

The two classes - popular fiction and children's books - were made because the books had been roughly grouped into these two classes for a long time and it was thought best not to disturb an arrangement which had been in existence so long.

The notable features of the collection are, first, the works relating to local history and those produced by former residents of this place. The influence which New Harmony exerted on the sociological and scientific thought of the early part of last century was both profund and wide spread. No pains have been spared or will be spared to obtain all of the information which can be procured on these matters.

The division of sociology is well represented both in the number and character of the works which we possess.

In general works it possesses complete sets of Harper's Monthly, Century, Scribner's, Popular Science and others and has the best cyclopedias.

In philosophy the library is rich in works which are fundamental and important.

In religion it has outgrown the bitterness and meagerness of 1847, although the number of doctrinal works is small. Works treating of practical religion are more numerous and it has some works on the great world religions that are important. The influence of the fathers, who annually celebrated the birthday of Thomas Paine with a ball, is still manifest in the small number of sectarian publications and in the selection of works which take a world wide view of religion.

The science class contains all of the library of Dr. Richard Owen, which Dr. Murphy bought during his lifetime, and it was enriched by contributions from other men of scientific attainments who have lived here. The collection in this class, which is full enough and rich enough to meet the requirements of the village, at present, is not such as satisfy the requirements of the advanced student of today.

A special effort was being made to bring the library up to what its founder wished in the useful arts class. Mr. Maclure had adopted as the principal motto of his "school of industry," "Utility shall be the scale by which we shall endeavor to measure the value of everything." This has not been the controlling principle in the library management, but it ought to exercise a strong influence.

In literature the library is rich in its collection and in history it is, as has been the case from the beginning, especially rich. Old works and reprints of old works abound. It has the "Annual Register" in unbroken series from 1758 to the present time. Some years ago those who were investigating the question of the boundary lines of Venezuela found here data that they could not obtain elsewhere.

The library, against stubborn opposition of some of the members, was card indexed by Miss Rena Reese in 1908. She was an accomplished librarian and was vouched for by the secretary of the Public Library Commission of Indiana. Miss Reese was instructed by the writer of this to pay particular attentinon to instructing Mrs. Nora C. Fretageot, who was then employed in the library and is now de facto librarian.

In addition to the instruction in library work given by Miss Reese Mrs. Fretageot has profited by attendance at the library school conducted by the State Commission and is extending the sphere of usefulness of the library.

Given form and sustenance in its infancy by William Maclure, "who loved his fellow men," endowed in later years with the rich, golden sheaves which were the harvest of the lifetime of Dr. and Mrs. Edward Murphy, it is to be hoped that the institution will broaden and deepen in a benign influence in the community.

In 1844 the town contained twelve stores, two steam mills and two tanneries. The streets were raised and the sidewalks graveled. A high levee was built to the river in order to make a passable road to it at all seasons, and at the sides of the levee were canals to admit keel boats and flat boats into the city when the water was high.

The town of New Harmony was incorporated in August, 1850. The board was organized by electing James Sampson president and proceeding to pass the customary ordinances and by laws regulating saloons, peddlers, the rate of taxation, etc. The board adjourned their meeting April 11, 1867, sine die, and their charter was allowed to lapse.

The town was not reincorporated until 1881.

When the town was reincorporated the following men were elected trustees: J. W. Miller, first ward; O. N. Fretageot, second; Henry Hunsden, third; John Walz, fourth, and W. M. Ford, fifth. John Walz was chosen president of the board. The following were chosen as school trustees: Richard Owen, John Corbin and Thomas Mumford. June 13, 1882, the city was provided with a fire engine and a hook and ladder company.

New Harmony has perhaps the finest parks of any town of its size in Indiana or elsewhere. Murphy park, consisting of six acres, and situated in the southern part of town, east of Main street, is a beautiful, well kept city park, of which the town may be justly proud. The ground was donated to the town by Dr. Edward Murphy in 1890, during his lifetime, and he also donated a fund of $10,000. the income of which was to be used to maintain this park. The fund, however, consisted of municipal bonds in a western city and the value thereof depreciated to some extent so that the actual amount which finally reached the park fund was a little less than $7,000. This amount is now held in trust and the income from it is used to defray the park expense. The direction of the park is in the hands of a committee of three, composed of two members of the town council and one citizen member. The grounds are well laid out. having been surveyed and designed by Mr. Elliott, a landscape gardener of Pittsburgh, Pa. The trees, shrubs and flowers are artistically arranged and present a very pleasing appearance.

McClure park is also a very pretty park, but not so large as Murphy park. It consists of one city block and is located north of Church street. It was originally a part of a common kept by William McClure in the city plat. J. W. Hiatt, the present citizen member of the park commission, designed the landscape plan of this park and, while the trees and shrubs are yet young, the place bids fair to be very attractive.

Thoroughly in keeping with the educational spirit of the town, New Harmony built a new school building during 1913 which is one of the most complete and modern structures in the United States. Practically consisting of three floors, for the basement serves a number of material purposes, it is the last word in school architecture and in it is expressed every influence that will conduce to the physical and mental welfare of the pupil.

The building is a beautiful two story brick, strong in outline and finished in every detail. Thoroughly modern, except in one instance when modernity gives way to the historic Rapp doorway that has been saved to posterity, and placed in the west side of the building where it causes the mind to hark back to Rappite times.

The system of heating is a low pressure direct and indirect radiation, using two thirds direct and one third indirect radiation gravity system, all water of condensation being returned to the boiler by gravity without the aid of pumps. The boiler is a ten section sectional boiler with a capacity one third larger than the radiation required to heat the building.

The indirect radiation is connected to fresh air ducts leading from the outside of the building in the basement, and fresh air is carried over an aspirating coil placed in each fresh air duct, and is warmed and carried into each room at a point eight feet above the floor line.

In each room there are two or more foul air ducts placed at the floor level, into which is placed a radiator which forms a draft and carries the foul air into the attic, and from thence it is carried through the roof ventilators.

The system is guaranteed to maintain a temperature of seventy degrees when the temperature is ten degrees below zero.

There are two drinking fountains in the hallway on the first floor, and one in the hallway on the second floor.

The entire building is supplied with water from a composition tank in the basement with a capacity of 1,500 gallons. The water is pumped into the compression tank by a Kewanee electric deep well pump with automatic starting and stopping device.

The basement extends under the entire building and will serve a multitude of purposes. The boiler room is located in the northeast corner and the other sections are as follows: Agricultural science room, manual training room, domestic science, boys' toilet room, boys' locker room, gymnasium, girls' toilet room, girls' locker room.

The first floor will be devoted to the grades, beginning at the primary and including the eighth and the sewing room. Ascending by a wide and ample stairway, either in the front or west end of the building, one comes to the second floor, where the higher departments are conducted.

At the head of the front stairway is situated the superintendent's room and private office. Much of the south side is given to the large assembly room, capable of seating 300 pupils. Other rooms on the second floor are the music, English, botany and physics room, physical laboratory, supply room, dark room, teachers' retiring room and two toilet rooms.

A system of electric bells leads throughout the building and the old time bell in the tower is a thing of the past. The pupils will be called and dismissed by electric bells, the headquarters of which will be the superintendent's room.

The lighting is one of the important features of the new building and the pupils will be seated so that the light comes over their left shoulders. Each pupil is guaranteed an ample amount of light and fresh air by the law which governs the new school buildings erected in this State. The interior woodwork is of southern pine and the panels in the doors are made of a beautifully grained veneer.

When completed the new building will represent an expenditure of $35,000. It will give added glory to New Harmony as an educational center and show the centennial guests of next year that this town has not fallen behind in the march of progress that education has made in this State.

Here, within a radius of two city blocks are located the Working Men's Institute or library building, which was built at a cost of $24,000, the Auditorium, a magnificent structure now in course of erection, to cost about $25,000, and the new public school building. Truly the hope and ambition of Robert Owen and his illustrious contemporaries for the advancement of education and the diffusion of knowledge could not reach a more fitting climax, even though it was realized by means other than those of which he dreamed.

New Harmony is the second town in size in Posey county. The census of 1910 gives its population 1,229. It is situated in the heart of one of the best agricultural districts in the State. It has many beautiful residences and several blocks of macadamized streets with concrete curbing and gutters. There are four churches, representing the Episcopal, Catholic, Methodist and German Evangelical denominations, all of which are well attended. The business interests of New Harmony are represented by two substantial banking institutions, one flour mill, three grain elevators, and several prosperous and extensive mercantile establishments, representing every branch of trade. The town has two weekly newspapers, the New Harmony "Times" and the New Harmony "Register." The city owns and operates its electric light plant, which has proven a success.

As a place of residence New Harmony has few equals and no superiors. It is situated on the banks of the Wabash in the most picturesque country in America. Its citizens are upright, the climate ideal, and its institutions unsurpassed.

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