Local resident Sylvia Mills will present a program on the impact of the 18th century New Harmony utopian communities on early Indiana at 6:30 pm on Thursday, June 19th at Huntington City-Township Public Library, 255 West Park Drive, Huntington. This event is free and open to the public, and no registration is required to attend. For more information, contact the Main Library at 356-0824, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
New Harmony, Indiana has a unique history, a place where two separate Utopian Societies were attempted in the early days of the state’s existence. Established by George Rapp’s Harmony Society in 1814 in what was then still the Indiana Territory, the town was originally known as Harmonie. Here, the Harmonists built a prosperous settlement in the wilderness, a communal society where everything was shared equally and where the “fruits of their labor” were shared equally as well. However, the Harmonists realized that trade was difficult at such a long distance from eastern markets, and sold the town to Robert Owen, a Welsh industrialist and social reformer, who created a new utopian community and renamed it New Harmony.
New Harmony’s Owenite residents established the first free library, a civic drama club, and a public school system open to men and women. Its prominent citizens included Owen’s sons, Indiana congressman and social reformer Robert Dale Owen, who sponsored legislation to create the Smithsonian Institution; David Dale Owen, a noted state and federal geologist; William Owen; and Richard Owen, state geologist, Indiana University professor, and first president of Purdue University. The town served as the second headquarters of the U.S. Geological Survey , and numerous scientists and educators contributed to New Harmony’s intellectual community, including William Maclure, Marie Louise Duclos Fretageot, Thomas Say, Charles-Alexandre Lesueur, Joseph Neef, Frances Wright, and others. While the Owenite social experiment was an economic failure just two years after it began, the community came to have an immense impact on our country’s art and architecture, public education system, women’s suffrage movement, Midwestern industrial development , and on the early development of the state of Indiana.