New Harmony proved to be a failed millenarian utopia for German Harmonists and a failed secular utopia for the Scottish-led Owenites, but it helped spread reform and socialist ideals.
Architect’s rendering of Robert Owen’s vision for New Harmony.
Owen had made his fortune from textile mills in his native Scotland, but his great concern for his workers led him to favor reform. He purchased New Harmony in 1825 as a utopian experiment to prove the viability of socialism. About eight hundred reformers and educators at New Harmony shared their property communally and favored gender equality. Unlike the Harmonists’ commune, Owen’s was purely secular on the assumption that rationality could create a more moral society.
Owen’s experiment soon failed. The town drained his finances, and the freethinking reformers turned out not to be as manageable as Scottish laborers. The utopia disbanded in 1827, but its ideas later influenced other American reform communities.
Taylor, Anne. Visions of Harmony: A Study in Nineteenth-Century Millenarianism. New York: Oxford University Press, 1987. Thompson, Brian. Devastating Eden: The Search for Utopia in America. New York: HarperCollins, 2004. Wilson, William E. The Angel and the Serpent: The Story of New Harmony. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1964.
History of immigration, 1783-1891
Religion as a push-pull factor