Robert Owen built his own commune only to learn that transcendental ideals and prayer and sometimes group sex, are not in itself sufficient to weld a community together. Owen, a cotton mill owner in Scotland of progressive ideals dreamed of better things: a paradise where private property and greed would be abolished, where nobody would work more than three hours per day, and where everyone would be healthy, well-educated and blissfully happy. Since Owen was an agnostic and socialist it was hard getting financing so he did it himself, buying a property from George Rapp in Harmonie, Indiana; a communal village of German separatists. Rapp felt his people were getting too fat and prosperous and needed to move back to the wilds of Pennsylvania in order to revive the pioneer hardihood.
Owen renamed it “New harmony” and thought the existing town, a bargain at $135K was a decent “half-way house”. They arrived in large numbers, about a thousand of them, well educated, refined and elegant for the most part, but with no idea how to plough, mend, fix or repair. He then took off to Europe and brought back a collection of savants so brilliant they were called “the boatload of knowledge”. Between the radicals and the sharpers and the honest and the dissenters, the New World Order soon split apart. Owen , to his crdit closed the project and soldiered on, eventually dying at eighty-seven in the midst of a lecture, ” The Human race Governed Without Punishment.”
Notwithstanding the failure of New Harmony, the venture excited enormous interest among America’s idealists. Brook Farm with George Ripley was an example and Nathaniel Hawthorne enthusiastically joined the transcendental experience only to leave after six months of pitching hay and hoeing potatoes . ” labor is the curse of the world and nobody can meddle with it without becoming proportionately brutified,” he remarked….