A Utopian Society
It’s my first visit to this endearing, historic community located in the southwest corner of Indiana! Situated along the Wabash River, New Harmony was the site of two attempts to establish a Utopian society.
A Desire for Privacy and Utopia
The first community was established in 1814 by the Harmony Society. They broke off from the Lutheran Church in Germany, settled first in Pennsylvania and then, due primarily to the desire for isolation, sought land farther west.
This community thrived. By 1819 the town owned a horse-drawn and human-powered threshing machine, a steam-operated wool carding and spinning factory, a brewery, distillery, vineyards, and also a winery. They manufactured tin ware, cotton and wool, yarn goods, rope, various alcoholic spirits, plows, wagons, carts, flour, beef, pork, butter and leather products. Under strong religious rule and hard German work ethic, New Harmony’s success amazed visitors, who gave it the nickname “The Wonder of the West.” They also described it as “the most beautiful city of western America, because everything is built in the most perfect symmetry”.
Ten years after its establishment, its leadership decided to sell New Harmony and return to Pennsylvania, primarily to live closer to others who shared their German heritage and values, but also to locate closer to where their goods were sold. The town was purchased by Robert Owen in 1825. He wanted to form New Harmony into a perfect society through free education and abolition of social classes and personal wealth. He encouraged world-renowned scientists and educators to settle in this small Indiana town and introduced educational and social reforms to the country.
However, this second attempt at a Utopian society failed within two years. Though dreams for the town were lofty, some believed its failure was because there were too many “planners” and not enough “doers”.
Many of the original buildings are preserved and the Visitor’s Center offers an excellent tour (which I highly recommend), or you can explore the town on your own.
In the upcoming posts we will discover this town together, visiting the Roofless Church, Labyrinth, a unique cemetery, private homes and much more.
Start at the beginning of this New Harmony Series
Coming next: Homes in New Harmony
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After this we are leaving Indiana and heading to Europe on a Viking Grand European River Cruise!!
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