New Harmony Summary

  • Last updated on November 10, 2022

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.

In 1803,Rapp, GeorgeGeorge Rapp, a German who called himself a prophet and proclaimed that the millennium was near, led hundreds of his followers to Pennsylvania. There they formed the Harmony Society, giving up everything they owned to live communally and pledging themselves to celibacy. In 1814, the society moved to Indiana, where they founded the town of New Harmony. New Harmony prospered as new immigrants increased the population, and the inhabitants were successful at farming. While they awaited the millennium, they kept their German language and customs. Trouble with surrounding towns, however, led Rapp to move his flock back to Pennsylvania, selling the town to Owen, RobertRobert Owen.New HarmonyGerman immigrants;New HarmonyGerman immigrants;IndianaIndiana;New HarmonyScottish immigrants;New HarmonyNew HarmonyGerman immigrants;NewHarmonyGerman immigrants;IndianaIndiana;New HarmonyScottish immigrants;New Harmony[cat]EUROPEAN IMMIGRANTS;New Harmony[03830][cat]CITIES AND COMMUNITIES;New Harmony[03830][cat]RELIGION;New Harmony[03830]

Architect’s rendering of Robert Owen’s vision for New Harmony.

(Library of Congress)

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.New HarmonyGerman immigrants;New HarmonyGerman immigrants;IndianaIndiana;New HarmonyScottish immigrants;New Harmony

Further Reading
  • 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.

British immigrants

German immigrants

History of immigration, 1783-1891


Rapp, George

Religion as a push-pull factor

Westward expansion

Categories: History