New World Utopia:
TWIG - The 19th century was awash with groups creating new visions of community, but few were as well-rounded and successful in the New World as the Old Economy Village, founded by followers of German Christian separatist Georg Rapp. In 1804, the members of the Harmony Society followed him from the town of Iptingen, near Stuttgart, to Pennsylvania, eventually settling a town they called Harmony.
The main building at Old Economy Village.
Coutesy of OEV.
The community they built on the banks of the Ohio River just north of Pittsburgh became known the world round for its rare combination of strict religious devotion and widespread economic prosperity.
Basing their lifestyle on the early teachings of the Christian Church, members of the community turned everything over to the Harmony Society upon adulthood. They worked together for the common good and lived simply and comfortably as they waited for Christ’s Second Coming.
Beyond their pietistic way of life, they embraced what would become known as the German work ethic, successfully developing a society based on both agriculture and manufacturing. President Thomas Jefferson himself modeled his ideal plan for America’s economic and political independence from abroad on what he saw happening at Old Economy Village.
The Harmonists were equally skilled at adapting and adopting 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.
Although the commune foundered by the turn of the 20th
century – many of the Harmonists had devoted themselves to celibacy – Old
Economy Village became a historical landmark site that still welcomes
thousands each year.
Links:Old Economy Village
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