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xxix jane blaffer owen’s memoir begins with her 1941 entry into New Harmony, Indiana, a town with a substantial and significant history. A brief overview of its history and development will provide a helpful orientation to her many references to its past. New Harmony is the site of two of America’s important early communal experiments. The first utopians—the Harmonie Society of Iptingen, Germany, from within the area of Württemberg—­ were led by Georg Johann Rapp (1757–1847) from their first settlement to the Northwest Territory in 1814. (Members of the Harmonie Society have been referred to as Rappites or Harmonists.) “Father Rapp,” the title given him by his Pietist flock, and his adopted son Frederick hired engineers from Vincennes, Indiana , to design their new town, Harmonie. Streets ­were laid out in a perfect grid and ­ were named for their utilitarian purposes—Church, Granary , Steammill, and Brewery, as well as East, West, North, and South streets (see the town map). The Harmonists efficiently constructed their­ single-­ family ­ houses in a pro­ cess we would today call prefabrication, as pieces ­were cut and numbered ­off-­site at their mill and assembled on each town lot. Gardens for vegetables, herbs, and flowers ­ were incorporated into the plan, and two thousand acres immediately surrounding the town­ were used for the Harmonists’ agricultural endeavors and formed the basis for their substantial commercial success. In keeping with their providential path as God’s chosen people, the Harmonie Society placed New Harmony for sale in 1824 in order to relocate to western Pennsylvania . Considering New Harmony’s remote location on the frontier, the Harmonists’ dwellings and public buildings ­ were quite remarkable. The American Planning Association recognized their exemplary community Historical Note Connie A. Weinzapfel xxx Historical Note design in 1998 when it designated New Harmony as a National Planning Landmark. During the years of the Harmonie Society’s ventures in America, a parallel utopian movement was taking shape in Eu­rope and Great Britain. In New Lanark, Scotland, Robert Owen (1771–1858) was instituting systems for the improvement of the lives of his cotton mill workers. In response to the degradations to laborers brought on by the Industrial Revolution, Owen promulgated theories that promoted education as the great equalizer for the inequities of social classes. This included planned housing and schools for all of his New Lanark employees. Owen also created an Institute for the Formation of Character in New Lanark, which, in essence, was a community education center. Owen tried unsuccessfully for years to influence the British Parliament to enact social reforms. Likewise, he was rebuffed by other industrialists , who saw in Owen’s plans only depletion of profits. When word came that the Harmonists had placed for sale their town in the wilderness of Indiana, Owen became interested; he was already acquainted with the community, for he had corresponded with the Rapps since 1818. In 1825 Robert Owen spent much of his fortune to buy New Harmony. Soon after purchasing the town of New Harmony, Robert Owen found a ­ like-­ minded Scotsman, social reformer, and scientist William Maclure (1763–1840), who believed that the basis for the improvement of society was education. Maclure was a found­ er and president of the Academy of Natural Sciences in Philadelphia. While there, Robert Owen was reintroduced to the Pestalozzian educator Marie Duclos Fretageot. Under the patronage of Maclure, Fretageot headed a school and was well acquainted with the local intellectual community. Through her introduction, Owen met the group of people who would add substance and longevity to his utopian dream. Some went straightaway to New Harmony, like Dr.­ Gerard Troost—a geologist, mineralogist, zoologist, and chemist, and the first president of the Academy of Natural Sciences. Others waited for transport on the keelboat Philantropist with Robert Owen and William Maclure via the Ohio River to New Harmony during the winter of 1825–26.1 Not surprisingly, it was dubbed “The Boatload of Knowledge” for the many ­ world-­ renowned scientists, educators, and professionals aboard, including Charles-Alexandre Lesueur, paleontologist, archaeologist, ichthyologist , and zoologist, together with three of his students; Thomas Historical Note xxxi Say, entomologist, conchologist, and artist; Thomas Stedman Whitwell, an En­ glish architect who designed Owen’s quadrangular community design , a structure intended to be built just south of New Harmony where the ultimate realization of Owen’s millennial dream would take place; Dr. William Price, physician; Robert Dale Owen, eldest son of Robert Owen; thePestalozzianeducatorsMarieDuclosFretageotandWilliamS.Phiquepal , with ten students; and Lucy Sistare...

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Additional Information

ISBN
9780253016638
Related ISBN
9780253016249
MARC Record
OCLC
903357020
Pages
400
Launched on MUSE
2015-03-20
Language
English
Open Access
No
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