The Life of Robert L. Owen, Jr.:
A Chronology



Robert Latham Owen, Jr. was born in Lynchburg, Virginia, to Robert L. Owen, Sr. and Narcissa Chisholm. Narcissa was from Indian Territory and was part Cherokee.

1860s to 1872


Owen attended prep schools in Lynchburg, Virginia, and Baltimore, Maryland.





Father Died

Robert Owen, Sr. died deeply in debt after struggling to regain control of Virginia and Tennessee Railroad, for which he had served as president for several years. Later, Owen said the economic disruption of those years impressed on him several economic lessons.



Owen graduated with a master’s degree from Washington and Lee University in Lexington, Virginia.


In Indian Territory

Owen migrated to Cherokee Nation where he was employed as principal at the Cherokee Orphan Asylum, Salina.




1880 to 1885

Multiple Positions & Ventures

  • Served as secretary of the Cherokee Board of Education
  • Studied law and passed bar
  • Owned and edited the Vinita Indian Chieftain
  • Served as president of the International Indian Fair at Muskogee
  • Sought grazing land leases in the Cherokee Outlet
  • Acquired oil lease for the entire Cherokee Nation

1885 to 1889

Indian Agent

Owen served as Indian Agent at the Union (Five Tribes) Agency in Muskogee, Indian Territory.



Robert Owen and Daisy Dean Hester were married on December 31, 1889.




1889 to 1907

Attorney, Businessman, Democratic Politician


He helped establish the First National Bank of Muskogee, the first bank under federal government charter in Indian Territory.


Served as delegate to the Democratic National Convention in Chicago: Owen discussed the monetary issue thoroughly prior to the convention, served as a member of the platform committee, and proposed a unique idea for the federal government to issue emergency currency in times of panic.


Owen studied European banking procedures. While on a family vacation in Europe, Owen visited several banks and discussed European methods with leaders in the business.


1907 to 1913

1st Term as U.S. Senator

Major Banking/Monetary Issues in 1st Term:



First Major Speech: In a debate on the Senate floor Owen attacked Senator Nelson Aldrich and his bill, later known as the Aldrich-Vreeland Act. The legislation attempted to address the causes of the banking Panic of 1907 and created a commission to study the banking system.

December 1909

Discussion of the Postal Savings Bank: Owen staked out a position on the postal savings bank and advocated guarantee of bank deposits.

Other Issues during 1st Term:

  • Proposed creation of U.S. Department of Health
  • Promoted various direct democracy devices
  • Led fight for the Removal of Restrictions Act, which removed most restrictions from sale of Indian lands in Oklahoma
  • Took part in controversies of Taft Administration—Payne-Aldrich Tariff
  • Pushed for various changes in Indian Policy—many self-serving


1913 to 1919

2nd Term as U.S. Senator


Federal Reserve Act


He proposed a bill to control the stock market. This was a precursor of SEC but it failed in committee.

1914 to 1915

Other Issues Involving Creation and Structuring of the Federal Reserve Board:

  • Appointment of national Federal Reserve directors
  • Structure and operation of regional banks
  • General functioning of the new system

1917 to 1918

Promoted “Federal Reserve Foreign Bank” to deal with International Finance

  • Included alliance with Nathan Musher, Baltimore olive oil importer
  • Designed to stabilize and make international currency uniform


Involved in Creation of War Finance Corporation

Other Issues during 2nd Term:

  • Helped found and promote the National Popular Government League (advocated direct democracy)
  • Fought for change in cloture rules in U.S. Senate (limiting filibustering)
  • Aided Senator Robert M. LaFollette (Wisconsin) with his Seaman’s Bill (1915), which protected rights of merchant marine employees at sea
  • Sponsored and assisted with passage of Keating-Owen Child Labor Act (1916)
  • Supported independent oil companies in Oklahoma
  • Pushed for legislation involving Indian affairs—again, often to protect his own interests in Oklahoma

1919 to 1925

3rd Term at U.S. Senator

1918 to 1919

Owen continued promotion of a Federal Reserve Foreign Bank & Foreign Finance Corporation.

1919 to 1920

He criticised Federal Reserve deflationary policies affecting agriculture

1922 to 1923

He revived Federal Reserve Foreign Bank and Foreign Finance Corp. ideas, however, they failed.

Other Issues during 3rd Term:

  • Owen was one of the leaders attempting to reach compromise on the League of Nations
    (1919 to 1920)
  • He allied with National Popular Government League in criticizing Palmer Raids during Red Scare
  • Owen became a revisionist on the causes of World War I


Debate over Authorship of Federal Reserve Act

Carter Glass published the book, Adventures in Constructive Finance, which seemed to claim the most credit for writing and introducing the original bill. Owen’s friend, Samuel Untermeyer, responded with a pamphlet refuting Glass.


1933 to 1941

Owen Criticized Federal Reserve Policies and Tangled with Glass

Upon the election of Franklin D. Roosevelt, Carter Glass played a major role in restructuring the Federal Reserve and other in formulating other monetary and banking policies.

Owen supported Roosevelt, but soon criticized the Federal Reserve’s policies.

The conflict with Glass became vitriolic.



Robert L. Owen died in Washington, D.C., at the age of 91.