Feature Article

Professor donates unique maps, rare books to Purdue Calumet library


John Lucas (left) with Chancellor Thomas Keon
John Lucas (left) with Chancellor Thomas Keon

While John Lucas was writing his thesis for his doctoral degree at Loyola University, he came across information that, to this day, still fascinates him. The subject matter involved scholars William Maclure and Robert Owens, two men from Pennsylvania who developed the town of New Harmony, Indiana in the mid-1800s.

Originally owned by the Mennonites and called ‘Harmony’, the property was re-named ‘New Harmony’ after purchased by Owens. Maclure joined Owens with the development in 1825, organizing the educational sector, while Owens directed the community. Their dream was a utopian society with innovative educational institutions. “While I was working on my dissertation, I was researching William Maclure’s economic theory,” Lucas said. “I was impressed by his remarkable vision for the future.” That vision included bringing world scholars to the town, as well as people of all skills – to offer a ‘perfect society’.

Maclure’s primary interests were education and geology. Before settling in Indiana, he traveled through Europe to collect and catalogue rocks and mineral specimens. His primary goal was to develop a geological survey; his interest in education also figured prominently with the New Harmony project.

Instead of continually checking out the three volumes entitled, “Opinions of Various Subjects Dedicated to the Industrious Producers”, written by Maclure in the 1830s, Lucas bought a reprinted edition of the volumes to continue his research on Maclure’s Economic Theory.” Inside, he found an unexpected treasure – three maps, one of them the first geological map of the United States. He wanted to share his find with the Purdue Calumet library.

To that end, a scan of the maps, produced by his colleague Jonathan Furdek, is displayed on a wall near the library’s entrance. Hand-painted in French, the maps are encased in a glass frame.
The volumes also will come to the library this month, as well as other books pertaining to the New Harmony communitarian experiment, to be housed in the Archives and Special Collections area. “This three-volume set by Maclure is a very unique perspective into the time period he wrote about,” said library archivist Adam Carey. “It is extremely useful for both Purdue scholars and scholars from abroad.”

A few years after completing his dissertation on Maclure’s Ecohnomic Theory, Lucas bought a book, “Geology of America”, from a bookseller in California. Initially he was searching for an original copy of the three volumes of the economic theory, but discovered this rare book, which was in mint condition.
Again, he wanted the Purdue Calumet library to benefit from this piece of history. “This is an amazing donation that John is giving to the university,” Purdue Calumet archivist Adam Carey said. “The book is very rare, there are less than 200 of them in the world. The University Archives is exceptionally appreciative of John’s generosity and continued support.”