New Harmony was an Owenite socialist community in Indiana which existed from 1825 to 1827.
In early 1825 Robert Owen and William Maclure bought 30,000 acres of land from the Rappites at Harmony, Indiana and started the community of New Harmony. There were already 2,000 acres of highly cultivated land, including a 15 acre vinyard, a 5 acre vegetable garden and an orchard of 35 acres. In addition, there was already a large number of buildings there, including housing and agricultural buildings, left to the new community by the group which had previously started the Harmony settlement.
The aim of the community:
Owen’s ambition was to create a better society through the abolition of social classes and personal wealth combined with free education. He said that he had gone to the United States “to introduce an entirely new system of society; to change it from an ignorant, selfish system to an enlightened social system which shall gradually unite all individuals into one and remove all causes for contest between individuals”. A “communist” constitution for the community was drafted in February 1826. Owen and Maclure persuaded a number of scientists and educationalists to come from Europe, and started a kindergarten and introduced vocational education and other educational reforms. Equality of all inhabitants, men and women, was a further aim. Each member was responsible for contributing to the communal workforce, and to motivate members Owen instituted “time money” and “time stores”, a sort of LETS system, where the New Harmony currency was worth the amount of time that the member had worked and could be exchanged for goods worth the equivalent amount of work.
The first year:
Owen took executive control of the community for the first year with the idea of giving it clear leadership and to prevent possible dissension. By the end of the first year, the community had about 1,000 members. The community had the reputation of being atheistic, and Owen heavily criticised those members who had orthodox religious beliefs. In addition, he was a teetotaler, and would not tolerate strong drinks at New Harmony. Class differences came into being, with the intellectuals unwilling to undertake the hard physical labour which was necessary and unwilling to mix with those community members of working class backgrounds. Some parents had problems with the educational ideas and the schooling which took place in the community as children were often separated for long periods from their parents.
The end of the community:
The community lasted for about two years. In March 1827, after Owen had actively campaigned against prominent religious figures, William Maclure took over the leadership of New Harmony. By May 1827, there were ten different sub-communities on the New Harmony estate, and by the following year, the failure of the project was clear. Despite the rational, scientific ideas behind the community, members did not have enough commitment to make New Harmony a success.
Macluria /Community No.2 : This was a splinter group set up by Methodists who did not like Owen’s ideas about religion. In 1826, between 80 and 150 people lived in 9 log cabins on 1,300 acres of uncleared land about 2 miles from New Harmony. This group also broke up due to internal conflicts.
Feiba – Peveli / Community No.3 : This was a more successful community which survived the end of New Harmony. Owen granted a group of experienced English farmers 1,400 acres of the best land. They built timber framed houses and log cabins with glass windows. The buildings and land slowly passed into individual private ownership some years later.
Other communities of the “Owen epoch:”
According to John Humphrey Noyes, as many as eleven Owenite communities were founded in other places in 1826. Most failed within a couple of years. The communities included Forrestville Community in Indiana, with sixty members; Haverstraw community, New York, with eighty members: Kendal community, Ohio, with four hundred members; and Nashoba, Tennessee with fifteen members.
(Noyes, “History of American Socialism”, Dover Publications, Inc. New York , 1966).
See also Harmony Hall at Utopia Britannica.
Information about New Harmony has been taken from a number of Websites including those above.
Further information from Chapter 3 of “the new communes“, Ron E. Roberts, Prentice-Hall, Inc., Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey, 1971.
Information about the Sub-communities comes from the Utopia Britannica, which cites “Backwood Utopias” as source..
Stub Alert! This article is a stub, requiring further development... Even stubs should include some content on the article topic. You're invited to help develop this page's content.