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The Communistic Societies of the United States

by Charles Nordhoff


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One of the persistent themes of US history is an urge to return to the land and create the 'perfect' society. However, few besides specialist historians are today aware that there was a huge communal living movement in the mid-19th century. This resulted in a number of functional utopian communities, some more experimental than others. On the whole, though, these 19th century pioneers exceeded the wildest imagination of the hippies, with a whole string of prosperous agricultural colonies from New England to the Pacific.

This book is a itself pioneering work on the sociology of communes. Nordhoff studied and toured all of the major settlements, including the Shakers, the Amana Colony, the Perfectionists, the Icarians, and other long-forgotten roadside utopias. He includes extensive information on their religious beliefs, poetry, architecture, internal politics, living arrangements and sexual practices.

Title Page
Table of Contents
List of Illustrations

The Inspirationists, at The Amana Community

I. Introduction
IV.—Religion and Literature.

The Harmony Society

I.—Economy In 1874
III.—Doctrines and Practical Life In Economy; With Some Particulars of “Father Rapp.”

The Society Of Separatists, at Zoar, Ohio

II.—Religious Faith and Practical Life.

The Shakers.

I. Introduction
II.—“Mother Ann.”
III.—The Order of Life Among the Shakers
IV.—A Visit To Mount Lebanon.
Details of the Shaker Societies
Shaker Literature, Spiritualism, etc.

The Perfectionists of Oneida and Wallingford.

II.—Religious Belief And Faith-Cures.
III.—Daily Life And Business Administration.
IV.—Sunday At The Oneida Community, With Some Account Of “Criticism.”

The Aurora And Bethel Communes.

I.—Aurora in Oregon


The Icarians
The Bishop Hill Commune.
The Cedar Vale Community.
The Social Freedom Community.
Colonies Which Are Not Communistic.

A Comparative View of the Customs and Practices of the American Communes

II.—Communal Politics And Political Economy.
III.—Character of the People; Influences of Communistic Life.
IV.—Conditions and Possibilities of Communistic Living.