Skip to content
Contact USI
The Journey Begins

The educators, artists, and scientists that were invited by William Maclure started their journey to New Harmony in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania on Thursday, December 8, 1825.  The passengers and crew departed on a keel boat named “Philanthropist”.  For the next month, the keel boat traveled down the Ohio River, passing numerous geologic exposures, most notably the Jeffersonville Limestone at Falls of the Ohio.  This locality became well known in the mid-19th Century as one of the world’s richest Devonian fossil deposits, which attracted renowned geologists such as James Hall (1811-1898) to study the fossils. 

The Philanthropist arrived safely in Mount Vernon, Indiana on January 23, 1826. The following day, wagons transported most of the passengers to New Harmony.  In contrast, Robert Dale Owen rode there immediately by horseback, arriving in time to hear part of his father’s evening lecture.  Others continued down the Ohio River and then to New Harmony on the Philanthropist. 

Expertise in New Harmony

The passengers on the Philanthropist included many prominent scientists of the day.  For instance, Thomas Say (1789-1834), an American naturalist, entomologist, conchologist, made the journey down the Ohio River.  Say was elected captain of the Philanthropist shorty after departing Pittsburgh.   Charles-Alexandre Lesueur (1778-1846) was a French naturalist, zoologist, ichthyologist, artist and teacher, and documented the trip down the Ohio River with detailed sketches. 

Additionally, prominent educators of the time made the journey on the Philanthropist.  Specifically, Madame Marie Louise Duclos Fretageot, who was a French educator in William Maclure’s schools in Philadelphia (1821-1825) joined the social movement in New Harmony.  She was in charge of the New Harmony schools.  Likewise, William S. Phiquepal d’Arusmont was a French educator and Maclure engaged him with the School of Industry in New Harmony shortly thereafter their arrival in 1826.

Additional Reading

To learn more about the Philanthropist and its journey from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania to Mt. Vernon, Indiana, please read the following:

Burgess, C., 1998, The Boatload of Trouble: William Maclure and Robert Owen Revisited: Indiana Magazine of History, v. 94, no. 2, p. 138-150.

Pitzer, D.E., 1989, The original boatload of knowledge down the Ohio River: William Maclure's and Robert Owen's transfer of science and education to the Midwest, 1825-1826: Ohio Journal of Science, v. 89, no. 5, p. 128-142.

Pitzer, D.E., 1998, William Maclure’s Boatload of Knowledge: Science and Education into the Midwest: Indiana Magazine of History, v. 94, p. 110-137.