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New Harmony

New Harmony


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New Harmony, originally Harmony, was one of the earliest Utopian Experiments in the United States.

George Rapp started the Harmonist Society in 1814. Their first community was in Pennsylvania and was called Harmony. After deciding to leave Pennsylvania, they settled in Indiana and began another town called Harmony. Around 1824, they sold the land and buildings to Robert Owen and moved back to Pennsylvania to start Economy, now known as Ambridge. Owen changed the name to New Harmony and recruited settlers to join him.


The community at New Harmony of Robert Owen

Owen’s plans for the cure of pauperism were received with considerable favour until he declared his hostility to religion as an obstacle to progress. Many of Owen’s supporters believed that this action made him suspect to the upper classes, though he did not lose all support from them. To carry out his plan for the creation of self-contained communities, he bought 30,000 acres of land in Indiana from a religious community in 1825 and renamed it New Harmony. Life in the community generally was well ordered and contented under Owen’s practical guidance for a time, but differences in opinion about the form of government and the role of religion soon appeared, though a historical consensus exists that an admirable spirit prevailed amid the dissension. Owen withdrew from the community in 1828, having lost £40,000—80 percent of his fortune. The other chief Owenite community experiments were in Great Britain—at Queenwood, Hampshire (1839–45), in which Owen took part for three years at Orbiston, near Glasgow, Lanarkshire (1826–27) and at Ralahine, County Cork (1831–33). He was not directly involved with either of the latter two communities.


WASHINGTON COUNTY HISTORICAL SOCIETY (Washington County, Utah)

The New Harmony name came from Harmony and Fort Harmony. The name originally came from Harmony, Pennsylvania where the Mormon Prophet, Joseph Smith, translated the Book of Mormon. The local settlers also liked the name because it suggested the harmony and united action the pioneers wanted to engender during their periods of trial and hardship.

HISTORIC SITES

PHOTOS

REFERENCES

Washington County Chapter, Daughters of the Utah Pioneers, " Under Dixie Sun".
1950 with 1978 Supplement.
Pages 129-144, Supplement Pages 20-21.

Gathering in Harmony: A Saga of Southern Utah Families, Their Roots and Pioneering Heritage, and the Tale of Antone Prince, Sheriff of Washington County
Book by Stephen L. Prince
See the information page

"Historic Context and Detailed Documentation of the Main Canyon Ditch, Town Ditch, Comanche Dam (42WS4376), and Comanche Ditch (42WS2507), New Harmony, Washington County, Utah"
by Dale R Gourley and Jon Baxter (Bighorn Arhaeological Consultants, LLC)
for The Town of New Harmony and St. George Field Office of the Bureau of Land Management
Report Number 05-03
August 2005
Includes some history of New Harmony and its water resources.

"History of New Harmony, Utah"
by Work Projects Administration (WPA)
St. George, Utah

" History of New Harmony"
by Laverna J. Englestead
August 20, 1962

"New Harmony's Cemeteries"
Book by Gerald Williams Prince
New Harmony: Privately printed by Gerald Williams Prince, 2003, 2006


New Harmony: America's failed 19th-century socialist experiment

The history of socialism in America did not begin with Bernie Sanders or Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. Rather, it began in 1825 on the banks of the Wabash River in Indiana.

On April 27 of that year, Robert Owen, a Welsh textile manufacturer-turned-philanthropist, welcomed 800 eager arrivals to the settlement he had christened New Harmony.

New Harmony was to be a "community of equality" heralding a new way of life. Owen's followers would soon coin a new name for his vision: "utopian socialism."

On July 4, 1826, the 50th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence, Owen issued his own variation, what he called the "Declaration of Mental Independence." From that day forward, Owen proclaimed, men would be free from what he called a "trinity of the most monstrous evils that could be combined to inflict mental and physical evil upon the whole race . I refer to private property, absurd and irrational systems of religion and marriage founded upon individual property."

The quest to do away with private property would animate the philosophy of socialism for the next 150 years.

Intellectuals were drawn to Owen and the promise of New Harmony, but managing the community's resources without individual ownership proved highly inefficient. One New Harmony member wrote that "even salads were deposited in the store to be handed out, making 10,000 unnecessary steps [and] causing them to come to the tables in a wilted, deadened state."

"In the end, I think one of the problems in New Harmony was that it was a big group of idealists in one place -- in a very isolated place," says Connie Weinzapfel, longtime director of the Historic New Harmony site. "They spent a lot of time thinking about the idea of a perfect community. Ultimately you had a lot of thinkers and not enough doers."

After two years, several re-organizations, and seven different constitutions, Owen's great experiment collapsed.

"Owen had a very hard time acknowledging that there was a failure at New Harmony," Joshua Muravchik, author of the 2003 book "Heaven on Earth: The Rise and Fall of Socialism," told Fox Nation. "And through a period of many months when everyone around him, including his sons, was saying, 'Things are falling apart,' Owen was saying, 'Things are going great here.'

"But eventually, he couldn't keep up that pretense any longer because everyone was leaving," Muravchik adds. "And so Owen found a kind of alibi, I think, in blaming the people who came to New Harmony as being poor human material for his experiment."

Owen's son, Robert Dale Owen, stayed at New Harmony after its collapse and went on to serve two terms in Congress. He had a different assessment of his father's experiment, writing: "All cooperative schemes which provide equal remuneration to the skilled and industrious and the ignorant and idle must work their own downfall. For by this unjust plan they must of necessity eliminate the valuable members and retain only the improvident, unskilled and vicious."

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New Harmony - History

Historic Sites, Facilities, and Town Resource

Historic New Harmony, a department within Outreach and Engagement at the University of Southern Indiana, maintains 26 buildings and 40 acres in New Harmony, Indiana.

Historic New Harmony sites are available for rental starting May 2021.

The Atheneum Visitors Center

Designed by internationally acclaimed architect Richard Meier, the Atheneum has received numerous design awards, including the Progressive Architecture Award for 1979, the American Institute of Architects Award in 1982, and the Twenty-five Year Award in 2008. The stunning building, which serves as the Visitors Center for New Harmony, houses exhibits on the communal history of New Harmony, a large theater where an orientation film on the town is shown, and the Museum Shop. Many of the galleries can be used for receptions, small meetings, and cocktail events.

The Atheneum will be closed starting December 23rd. It will reopen March 2, 2021 and be open Tuesday-Sunday from 9:30 a.m.- 5:00 p.m. excluding Thanksgiving and Easter. New Harmony is located in the Central time zone.

Daily 1 p.m. tours will begin on March 16, 2021.

Please contact Paul Goodman at 812-682-4488 or [email protected] for availability.

Gallery of Contemporary Art

The mission of New Harmony Gallery of Contemporary Art is to provide a not-for-profit (non-commercial) exhibition space for current Midwestern artists and to promote discourse about and access to contemporary art in the southern Indiana region. Since its inception in 1975, New Harmony Gallery has provided an exhibition space for young and mid-career artists to show their work in a professional setting and further, to provide a venue for contemporary art to the general public. The cornerstone of the Gallery’s mission is education and access through a carefully planned series of eight exhibitions per year. The exhibition series, which explores contemporary art concepts, is intended to provide increased opportunity for artists and the public to engage in discourse on and about the arts and culture.

Please contact Iris Williamson at 812-682-3156 or [email protected] for availability.

In 1911, the Working Men's Institute purchased a lot adjacent to their museum/library with the purpose of building an auditorium. This project was funded through the Dr. Edward Murphy Fund. Today, USI's Murphy Auditorium continues to be used for conferences, concerts and lectures.

Please contact Paul Goodman at 812-682-4488 or [email protected] for availability.

Built on the original site of the two Harmonist churches, Church Park is a peaceful location in the center of the town. A fountain by noted sculptor Don Gummer sits in the middle of the formal gardens and the park is entered through a recreation of the Door of Promise, which welcomed Harmonists to their large brick church. It includes the Harmonist golden rose motif and inscription, "Micah 4 vs. 8." This inscription refers to the German Lutheran translation of the bible verse: "And thou Tower of Eden, the stronghold of the daughter of Zion, the golden rose shall come, the former dominion, the Kingdom of the daughter of Jerusalem."

Please contact Paul Goodman at 812-682-4488 or [email protected] for availability.

Schnee Ribeyre Elliott House

Since David Michaelis Schnee, a saddle and harness maker, built the home on the southwest corner of West and Tavern streets in 1867, the home has been a rich part of New Harmony history. The home was sold to Corn King Captain Alfred Ribeyre in 1879, who later passed the home to his son Robert. Captain Ribeyre was a prominent farmer in the area, and he built many of the commercial structures still in use downtown. It was during the New Harmony Centennial in 1914 that former President Taft visited the home.

In 1925, the Ribeyre family sold the home to Elmer Elliott, who lived in the home until his death at age 100 in 1965. His daughter, Helen Elliott, then lived in the home until her death in 1982. She bequeathed the home to Historic New Harmony. The home has been fully restored and has housed the administrative offices of Historic New Harmony since 2006. It is available for parties and meetings.

Please contact Paul Goodman at 812-682-4488 or [email protected] for availability.

The Double Log Cabin was moved from another site. It was long considered the oldest structure in New Harmony, but is now known to be of more recent origin. The cabin illustrates frontier construction techniques in this area. Early community living demonstrations are available during special events and tours. Two rooms may be rented with a capacity for 30 people with limited seating. There is no electricity at this location.

Please contact Paul Goodman at 812-682-4488 or [email protected] for availability.

Image used by permission of Indiana State Museum and Historic Sites.

Constructed in 1822 by the Harmonists, a religious Utopian group from Germany, Community House No. 2 served as one of four large dormitories for men and women. After the Harmonists left the area in 1824, the building was integrated into the Owen-Maclure Utopian experiment and functioned as a school and living quarters for students and teachers. Once the Owen-Maclure community dissolved, the structure housed a variety of businesses, including a hotel, tavern, rooming house, print shop, cigar factory, hardware store, and tea room. The State of Indiana purchased the building in 1940.

Perfect for gatherings, the feast room features long tables and benches for meetings or meals. The third floor’s exposed walls and ceiling create a cozy loft atmosphere. The three floors are fully accessible.

For rental information, please contact Mike Linderman by email at [email protected] or call 812-270-1277 .

Image used by permission of Indiana State Museum and Historic Sites.

Originally built by the Harmonists as the fourth and last dormitory, the building was completed shortly before they departed New Harmony in 1824. The Owen-Maclure community used the space for a variety of purposes, from a multi-family dwelling, to a warehouse, to a venue for hosting lectures and dances. In 1859, the structure was purchased by the New Harmony Dramatic Association and renamed Union Hall. The building was transformed into a theatre and was home to a famous local acting company, the Golden Troupe. In 1888, Eugene Thrall became the sole owner and the theatre was renamed Thrall’s Opera House. For a short time from 1911 to 1913, the Opera House was a nickelodeon movie house, and in 1914 was converted to a gas station and garage. In 1964, the space was purchased by the Harmonie Associates, who persuaded the State of Indiana to purchase, restore, and maintain the site.

Beautifully restored to its Victorian elegance, Thrall’s Opera House is ideal for weddings, receptions, reunions, concerts, meetings, conferences, and fundraising events. The venue can accommodate up to 161 guests theater-style and the first floor is fully accessible.

For rental information, please contact Mike Linderman by email at [email protected] or call 812-270-1277 .

Image used by permission of Indiana State Museum and Historic Sites.

The Fauntleroy Home was built in c. 1815-1820 by the Harmonists. In 1841, the home was sold to Robert Henry Fauntleroy and his wife Jane Dale Owen Fauntleroy. The Fauntleroys lived in the house with their four children Constance, Ellinor, Edward and Arthur.

In 1859, the parlor of the house became the birthplace of the Minerva Society, a literary club for women that was organized by Constance Fauntleroy. The house continued to remain in the Fauntleroy family until 1925 when it was sold to the Indiana Federation of Clubs to be maintained as a shrine to the Minerva Society. Later, in 1939 the Indiana Federation of Clubs gave the house to the State of Indiana to be preserved as a historic site.

The lovely grounds to this New Harmony landmark provide a picturesque setting for weddings or parties. The nearby weathered barn is a popular backdrop for photos.

For rental information, please contact Mike Linderman by email at [email protected] or call 812-270-1277 . .

Image used by permission of Indiana State Museum and Historic Sites.

The Harmonists established the cemetery at the beginning of their settlement in New Harmony as the resting place for over 200 members who died due to the harsh conditions of their new frontier life. No headstones mark the graves of these early settlers because the society believed in the equality of all members in both life and death. The red brick wall surrounding the cemetery, while not original, was built in 1874 of bricks rescued from the old Harmonist brick church.

Also in the cemetery are several Native American mounds dating from the Middle Woodland Period, over two thousand years ago. These mounds were investigated by the Harmonists, and, during the Owen-Maclure period, by the artist and naturalist Charles Alexandre-Lesueur.

Labyrinths have been used over the centuries as a symbolic form of pilgrimage. The Harmonists built labyrinths in all three of their towns. The original Harmonist labyrinth consisted of shrubs and flowering plants such as currant and hazel bushes, dogwood trees, and a variety of flowers. The current labyrinth was constructed near the site of this original labyrinth in 1939 by the New Harmony Memorial Commission and recently reconfigured to reflect the original Harmonist layout.

The labyrinth has delighted visitors for decades, and is a gorgeous site for an intimate wedding or a garden party.

For rental information, please contact Mike Linderman by email at [email protected] or call 812-270-1277 .

Richmond Group Exhibition
Located in the Scholle House

Discover the art of the Richmond Group, a late 19th century group of primarily self-taught, plein-air artists in Wayne County. They were among the earliest group of painters associated with a specific city and were important components of a rich cultural scene in
Richmond, IN.

This is an exhibition from the Indiana State Museum and Historic Sites and the Richmond Art Museum. Learn more about the Richmond Group.

The exhibit can be seen on Historic New Harmony’s guided walking tours. Tours take place at 1 pm daily from the Atheneum/Visitors Center. Information on the tour program and how to obtain tickets may be found here . The exhibition was produced by the Indiana State Museum and Historic Sites.

The park is located on the former location of Community House No. 3, also known as The Tavern.

The redbud trees bloom a brilliant purple in springtime. The park is situated in a quaint spot fitting for an outdoor concert or ceremony.

For rental information, please contact Mike Linderman by email at [email protected] or call 812-270-1277 .

Because so many of the facilities interpreted in Historic New Harmony date from the early 19th Century, some historic buildings present accessibility challenges for visitors with limited mobility. Please contact Historic New Harmony at 812-682-4488 for information on specific buildings, locations, or events.


Floor Plans

NARRATOR: This Indiana Bicentennial minute is made possible by the Indiana Historical Society and law firm of Krieg DeVault.

Drawn images of the bird’s eye view of New Harmony in Indiana is shown.

PAULEY: A lot of people have considered Indiana a utopia. George Rap brought his German-American Harmony Society in 1814 and built, “New Harmony.”

Men and women in 18th-century-style plain dress is shown.

PAULEY: A remarkable communal society with a famous labyrinth and a bank so prosperous that it lend the state money, all while society members awaited the second coming in celibacy. In 1825, they sold New Harmony to a secular Scotsman named Robert Owen, who invited anyone to come and help create a new moral order.

PAULEY: Both groups achieved technology and science unrivaled in the country and the New Harmony School of Industry was the forerunner of today’s vocational college. Utopia in Indiana? A lot of us Hoosiers have known it for years. I’m Jane Pauley with this Indiana Bicentennial Minute.

NARRATOR: Made possible by the Indiana Historical Society and law firm of Krieg DeVault.


Indiana State Museum and Historic Sites

There’s a quiet town on the banks of the Wabash that’s home to only about 800 residents but contains 204 years of Indiana history through the stories of its buildings and grounds just waiting for you to explore.

New Harmony State Historic Site served as home in the 1800s to two groups of people seeking heaven on Earth and trying to establish a model community where education, hard work and social equality would be part of daily life.

George Rapp and the Harmony Society first founded the town in 1814. The Harmonists first came to the United States from Germany in search of a place of perfection and like no other – a utopian society. The Harmonists traveled to the undeveloped Indiana territory after living in Pennsylvania, eventually settling on 20,000 acres on the eastern edge of the Wabash River.

The Harmonists believed Jesus Christ was coming back to Earth and prepared for this by creating a perfect metropolis in the middle of the wilderness, where they built 180 buildings in 10 years. New Harmony was completely self-sufficient and made goods that were traded to the East Coast and overseas.

“They were very practical people,” said Amanda Bryden, who serves as the state historic sites collections manager and New Harmony State Historic Site manager. “They planned everything to a T.”

Several of the buildings constructed in the early 1800s can be toured by visitors today during a visit.

“We have 200-year-old buildings still scattered throughout town,” Amanda said.

Eight properties in town are owned by the Indiana State Museum and Historic Sites, but other buildings also are open for visitors to explore through a partnership with the University of Southern Indiana. Other structures built by the Harmonists are now private homes, but the architecture can still be admired from the outside.

By 1824, Rapp and the rest of the Harmonists returned to Pennsylvania. But the Harmonists left a few things behind other than their 20,000 acres, which were sold to Robert Owen in partnership with William Maclure in 1825.

Visitors to New Harmony can actually see the original sundial from the Harmonist period, as well as a replica still in use. There’s a note left by a member of the Harmonist Society under the stairs of a third-floor staircase in Community House 2 that visitors can read for themselves.

Robert Owen, an industrialist, hoped to continue the utopian idea of the Harmonists, but Owen didn’t follow the Harmonists’ ideology on religion. Owen and Maclure, a geologist, wanted to create a utopian society through social reform and education. They brought followers to New Harmony who sought to better the world through science discoveries and the arts. A scholar himself, Maclure also attracted naturalists, geologists, educators and feminists to the area.

Owen and his followers – called Owenites – attempted to achieve a “Community of Equality” through what others at the time would have considered radical ideas. They didn’t believe in slavery and supported equal rights for women, even allowing them to wear pants and own land.

But, Owen and Maclure’s community dissolved within just a few years of its founding.

Still, those early utopian communities brought contributions to education and the arts which continue to affect Indiana today.

Earlier this year, Indiana legislators named the state’s official insect as Say’s Firefly. Thomas Say – a naturalist who wrote extensively on entomology, conchology and paleontology – was living in New Harmony when he first described the Say’s Firefly in 1826.

That legacy of the arts continues in New Harmony today, with several working spaces for creatives and visiting scholars. Special events and musical performances happen throughout the year at Thrall’s Opera House. One of the last dormitories built by the Harmonists before they left the area, it was converted into a theater in 1859 and served as home to the world-famous acting company, the Golden Troupe.

Don’t take our word for it, though. Experience New Harmony for yourself to fully appreciate the legacy of two early American utopian communities truly ahead of their time.

Tours begin at the Atheneum at 401 N. Arthur St. daily at 1 p.m. CST and last about two hours. Visitors also are welcome to walk throughout the town to explore gardens, labyrinths and other open-air locations throughout their visit.

Follow the Indiana State Museum and Historic Sites on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram during the month of July as we share more stories and fun facts about New Harmony State Historic Site – and be sure to schedule a visit soon!


New Harmony, Indiana, (Population 915) is a small historic town located on the Wabash River in southwestern Indiana. During the early part of the 19th century, New Harmony was the site of two attempts to establish Utopian communities. The first, Harmonie (1814-1825), was founded by the Harmonie Society, a group of Separatists from the German Lutheran Church. Led by their charismatic leader Johann Georg Rapp, they left their first American home in Harmonie, Pennsylvania, and established a second community on the western frontier of Indiana, where they acquired a much larger tract of land.

During the 10 years in which they cultivated the new town of Harmonie, the Harmonists, with their strong German work ethic and devout religious rule, achieved unheard of economic success and the community became recognized as “the wonder of the west.” Slightly more than a decade later, however, they sold the town and surrounding lands to Robert Owen, a Welsh-born industrialist and philosopher, for his communitarian experiment. The Harmonists then returned to Pennsylvania to build a third town, Economy, near Pittsburgh.

Robert Owen’s ambition was to create a perfect society through free education and the abolition of social classes and personal wealth. He encouraged world-renowned scientists and educators to settle in “New” Harmony. With the help of his partner, William Maclure of the Academy of Natural Sciences in Philadelphia, the Owen/Maclure community introduced educational and social reforms to America.

Today, residents and tourists alike enjoy the slower pace of the town’s opportunities for dining, shopping for antiques, visiting art galleries, and admiring the quaint surroundings where even the architecture pays tribute to a blend of the past and future. New Harmony has become known for its many gardens, sculptures, restored historic buildings and public spaces designed for quiet contemplation and spiritual renewal.

Visitors from all over the world come to experience the town’s legacy of creative endeavor which has spanned nearly 200 years. They discover a distinctive rural village, where the simple wooden structures of the Harmonists, blend with modern architectural masterpieces on quiet tree-lined streets. Local preservationists and town officials acted early on to secure control in the public interest over substantial parts of the town’s central Historic District, thus creating a village museum and preservation project that has been a center for culture and learning.

New Harmony is a vacationer’s dream and a researcher’s paradise with twelve buildings from the early nineteenth century and twenty buildings from the mid-nineteenth century, including a museum, library, gallery and opera house. Guests to the town will find comfortable accommodations from which to choose. Selections range from an upscale, modern inn to historic guest houses and intimate bed and breakfasts. Camping sites and rustic cabins can be reserved at the nearby Harmonie State Park.

Guided tours to historic sites in New Harmony begin at the Atheneum Visitors Center at the west end of North Street.

New Harmony is governed by a Town Council of five elected members. The New Harmony Town Plan and Historic Preservation Commission is comprised of seven appointed members.


The town was originally settled as part of efforts to mine and refine iron in the area. Settlers built a crude foundry in 1852, but abandoned it soon after due to transport and logistics issues. [1]

The town of New Harmony was settled in 1862, by families driven from Fort Harmony when the fort had to be abandoned after most of its adobe walls were washed away during a month of heavy rains in January and February, during the Great Flood of 1862. [5] : 174

Historical population
Census Pop.
186074
1870243 228.4%
1880150 −38.3%
1890102 −32.0%
1900119 16.7%
1910105 −11.8%
1920157 49.5%
1930169 7.6%
1940170 0.6%
1950126 −25.9%
1960105 −16.7%
197078 −25.7%
1980117 50.0%
1990101 −13.7%
2000190 88.1%
2010207 8.9%
2019 (est.)234 [2] 13.0%
U.S. Decennial Census [6]

As of the census [3] of 2000, there were 190 people, 69 households, and 58 families residing in the town. The population density was 473.8 people per square mile (183.4/km 2 ). There were 86 housing units at an average density of 214.5 per square mile (83.0/km 2 ). The racial makeup of the town was 98.95% White, 0.53% Native American, and 0.53% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 2.63% of the population.

There were 69 households, out of which 24.6% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 71.0% were married couples living together, 8.7% had a female householder with no husband present, and 14.5% were non-families. 14.5% of all households were made up of individuals, and 8.7% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.75 and the average family size was 3.05.

In the town, the population was spread out, with 25.8% under the age of 18, 6.8% from 18 to 24, 18.9% from 25 to 44, 25.3% from 45 to 64, and 23.2% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 43 years. For every 100 females, there were 115.9 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 110.4 males.

The median income for a household in the town was $34,583, and the median income for a family was $36,250. Males had a median income of $23,750 versus $11,875 for females. The per capita income for the town was $17,133. About 15.6% of families and 14.1% of the population were below the poverty line, including 16.3% of those under the age of eighteen and 18.2% of those 65 or over.

According to the United States Census Bureau, the town has a total area of 0.4 square miles (1.0 km 2 ), all land.

New Harmony's Köppen climate classification is Csa (Hot-summer mediterranean). [7]

The natural vegetation in the immediate vicinity of New Harmony is pinyon-juniper woodland. [8]

The boundary of the Pine Valley Mountain Wilderness lies less than a mile outside of the New Harmony city limits. [9]

New Harmony lies in the watershed of Ash Creek and is therefore in the Colorado River basin. [10] It lies in or near the Basin and Range - Colorado Plateau Transition Zone. [11]


Harmonist History

In 1804, the followers of the Separatist George Rapp (1757-1847) emigrated to America from Iptingen (near Stuttgart in Württemberg) in southwest Germany seeking religious and economic freedom. About 800 farmers and craftsmen followed their leader to Butler County, Pennsylvania where they built the town of Harmony. Ten years later they migrated westward to Posey County, Indiana founding a second town named Harmony, which today is known as New Harmony.

In 1824, the Harmony Society returned to Pennsylvania, this time settling in Beaver County along the Ohio River, eighteen miles downriver from Pittsburgh. There they founded the town of “Oekonomie,” or Economy. Leaders purchased 3,000 acres of land with rich soil for farming. The location was ideal for shipping Society products to markets on the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers and to the West in the newly settled areas on the frontier.

Economy was planned for efficiency. After twenty years in the United States and the experience of building and operating two other towns, the Society’s leaders had a clear understanding of the community needs. The church and the houses of George Rapp and his adopted son Frederick (1775-1834) were located at the center of town. Business locations included a store, post office, mechanics building, wine cellar, warehouse, and granary. The Feast Hall, used for communal dinners and concerts, with the Natural History Museum on the first floor, was also located in the center of town. Directly surrounding the center were members’ houses, eighty of which survive. At the outer edges of the community were livestock barns and stables, a tannery, textile mills, blacksmith shop and other buildings.

The Harmonists developed a simple, pietistic lifestyle based upon the early Christian Church. They turned over everything they owned to the Harmony Society when they became members. Everyone worked together for the good of the Society and received, in turn, what he or she needed to live simply and comfortably. Because they expected Christ’s Second Coming to Earth at any moment, they adopted celibacy in 1807 in order to purify themselves for the Millennium – Christ’s 1,000-year reign on Earth.

Flour mill and cotton factory

While the religious aspects of the Society held little importance for the nation’s political leaders, its success in “placing the manufacturer beside the agriculturalist” did arouse interest as an accomplishment held in high regard in the early nineteenth century. National leaders like Thomas Jefferson viewed this as the ideal plan for America’s economic and political future. This ideal would create a national economy that would thrive in both agriculture and industry, independent of foreign influence.

The Harmonists created, adapted, and adopted the new technologies of their day giving them a competitive edge in the growing early American economy, particularly in textile manufacturing—wool, cotton, and silk—and agricultural production. By 1825 they had constructed textile factories powered and heated by steam engines. They built shops for blacksmiths, tanners, hatters, wagon makers, cabinetmakers and turners, linen weavers, potters, and tin smiths, as well as developing a centralized steam laundry and a centralized dairy for the community. Later, they perfected the technology of silk manufacturing, from worm to fabric, for which they received gold medals during exhibition competitions in Boston, New York, and Philadelphia.

Frederick Rapp was recognized as the driving force behind the Harmony Society’s business ventures. His insights were valued to the extent that in 1828, Rapp, who corresponded with political leaders in Harrisburg and Washington D.C., was subpoenaed to testify before the United States Congress in support of a bill for higher tariffs on imported goods. However, his declining health prevented him from testifying in person.

The Society’s financial success and self-sufficiency stirred the interest of economists and social reformers in the United States and Europe. Among Economy’s many important visitors was prominent German economist Friedrich List, who visited Economy in 1825 and observed the community at work. The same year, British social reformer Frances Wright stayed for several days, seeking guidance from Frederick Rapp as she planned a community for freed slaves in Tennessee. German royals also visited, as did President Zachary Taylor while in office.

Despite the Society’s economic success, time and events brought about its decline. In 1832, one third of the members left Economy under the leadership of Count de Leon, a self-proclaimed prophet. Following the uprising and departure of these disgruntled members and the death of Frederick Rapp in 1834, the Society became less open to the outside world and less active in the political arena. After Father Rapp died in 1847, Romelius Baker (1793-1868), Jonathan Lenz (1807-1890), and Jacob Henrici (1804-1892) became trustees of the Society. The Harmonist leaders turned to new business ventures, investing the Society’s substantial assets into railroads, oil, coal, lumbering, and building the town of Beaver Falls and its industrial complex. Eventually their economic vitality, like their membership, waned.

The Society’s interest in accumulating wealth was not for greed or material gain. Funds were necessary to provide for the needs of the members and to pay workers hired to look after the orchards, fields and livestock, or to work in the laundry and bakery. The residents of the region relied on them to provide employment in the business and factories the Society underwrote. In addition, some charities and religious groups from across the nation and the world sought financial help from the Society.

In 1885, Lenz wrote that if the Messiah should not return before the last member died, the Society’s assets were to go to the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and be used for charitable purposes or to pay the state’s sizeable debt. Less than ten years after the death of Henrici in 1892, the Society’s remaining assets, estimated to be worth several million dollars, were engulfed in legal battles. These battles were between non-member relatives of Society members who had already successfully argued in court that the Society was not a charity and, therefore the Commonwealth was not entitled to receive its assets. The court case was won by former Society schoolteacher and music instructor, John Duss (1860-1951). By the end of the nineteenth century only a few Harmonists remained. In 1905 the Society was dissolved, and its vast real estate holdings sold, much of it to the American Bridge Company who subsequently enlarged the town and renamed it Ambridge.

Ultimately, the remaining six acres of Economy and associated buildings became the property of Pennsylvania in 1916, and in 1919 became Old Economy Village, a state historic site. Today, these six acres, surrounded by Ambridge’s National Register Historic District, are administered by the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission as a National Historic Landmark site. The historic site, which contains the restored historic structures and garden built between 1824 and 1830, originally was the religious and economic hub of the Harmony Society. The buildings, grounds, library, archives, and original artifacts are a memorial to the Society’s commitment to the religious discipline and economic industry that built their American Utopia.


8 thoughts on &ldquo The Harmony Company, est. 1892 &rdquo

Outstanding article. The guitars of the early 20th century are still popular in Vast numbers but have such a complicated web of manufacturers,distributors etc. It can be hard to trace some of them. But I’ve found that 8 out of 10 end up being a Harmony. I’ve recently acquired a 1937 Sears catalog model “The Flash” I haven’t been able to find another photo or resale record of this model on the internet. Im wondering how many were produced and if you can give me any information at all about its rarity . Thank you so much.
Dana

Thanks for the great info. in this well written essay. As a guitar enthusiast and historian I was impressed by the personal details of the owner and company history.

There is, I feel an important missing section The Harmony Company’s foray into the development and manufacture of their electric guitar line during the 1930’s and early 40’s. Although not a big player in the field their design’s we’re unique and well thought out. The one of a kind pickup design suspended on a dowel stick that ran the length of the archtop guitars body isolating it from acoustic overtones was genius. As well, the stunning design of the 1936 cast metal Electric Hawaiian was a visual masterpiece.

great insight, Lynn. Thanks for sharing. I’ll try to add some more detail on the early elec guitars.

Hello,
I own a small music store in CO, and a customer brought in a “The Harmony Company” Classical guitar H605… Orange Top and what looks like Rosewood back and sides! I cannot find this model # anywhere on the internet. Is this thing pretty rare? Any info would be appreciated – especially a selling price – It is in very good condition. I can send pics if you email me. Thank you!

I have a Silvertone guitar with the numbers 4554 900 inside. I have photos I could share. I’d love to track down the exact year it was made. It’s a family heirloom that belonged to a long ago deceased uncle.

I recently found a 1950s Harmony Ukulele at a Salvation Army for $3.99. I didn’t know anything about it when I saw it, but when I saw the screws on the fretboard I knew it was a good find. How can I tell what year it was manufactured? I was able to pinpoint it to the 1950s based on the design of the Harmony logo. BTW my daughters name is Harmony.

Uschi, I think you’ll find that to be a Honda rand guitar from the mid-1980s.

Dear Mr. Cayman,
I’m interested in informations about my guitar.
It’s a 12string model with the number H160A
Can you tell me in which year they produced this guitar?


Watch the video: New Harmony 2 (May 2022).


Comments:

  1. Masar

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  2. Deaglan

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  3. Scowyrhta

    Would shake hands with the author, and punch all his haters in the face.

  4. Weiford

    Well, who knows ...



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