|Visitors to the New Harmony Workingmen's Institute often stand before Thomas James Northcote's magnificent portrait of William Maclure and marvel at the founder of the Institute. Northcote painted the portrait in 1795 or 1797, and Maclure founded the Institute in 1838. It includes the oldest continuously operating library in the state of Indiana, as well as a small museum.|
In the early years, meetings of the Institute were held in a wing of one of Maclure's buildings called "the hall," formerly a Harmonist church. Membership was initially limited to "any Working-man over the age of eighteen years, who gets his living by the labor of his hands."
With the generous support of Dr. Edward Murphy, a new building for the Institute was completed in 1894. Above you see an image of the building as it appeared in 1905.
The image to the right is from a photograph taken in August, 1998. The library occupies the ground floor, with storage in the basement and historic materials preserved in a vault. The second floor houses the museum, including fine fossil collections of James Sampson and former Indiana State Geologist E. T. Cox.
Maclure provided for many other libraries, of which only the New Harmony Workingmen's Institute is still in operation. A description of the libraries and their importance within the communitites in which they were located are given in
Josephine Mirabella Elliott,, "William Maclure: Patron Saint of Indiana Libraries," Indiana Magazine of History 94 (1998) 178-190.
Minutes of early Institute meetings are quoted and discussed in
Jeffrey Douglas, "William Maclure and the New Harmony Working Men's Institute," Libraries and Culture 26 (1991) 402-414, and
Thomas James De la Hunt, editor, History of the New Harmony Workingmen's Institute, New Harmony, Indiana, Evansville, 1927.