The Communistic Societies of the United States
Part 1 out of 8
E-text prepared by Eric Eldred, Marvin A. Hodges, Charles Franks, and the
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THE COMMUNISTIC SOCIETIES OF THE UNITED STATES
_FROM PERSONAL VISIT AND OBSERVATION_
BY CHARLES NORDHOFF
TO MY FRIENDS, DOCTOR AND MRS. JOHN DAVIS, OF CINCINNATI.
[Illustration: VIEWS IN ZOAR.]
TABLE OF CONTENTS
SUBJECTS OF THE INQUIRY
THE CONDITION AND NECESSITIES OF LABOR
MISTAKE OF THE TRADES-UNIONS
REASONS FOR IT
LABOR SOCIETIES, AS AT PRESENT MANAGED, MISCHIEVOUS
THE AMANA SOCIETY
ITS HISTORY AND ORIGIN
AMANA IN 1874
SOCIAL HABITS AND CUSTOMS
RELIGION AND LITERATURE
THE HARMONISTS AT ECONOMY
ECONOMY IN 1874
HISTORY OF THE HARMONY SOCIETY
ITS RELIGIOUS CREED
SOME PARTICULARS OF "FATHER RAPP"
THE SEPARATISTS OF ZOAR
ORIGIN AND HISTORY
THEIR RELIGIOUS FAITH
PRACTICAL LIFE AND PRESENT CONDITION
THE ORDER OF LIFE AMONG THE SHAKERS
A VISIT TO MOUNT LEBANON
DETAILS OF ALL THE SHAKER SOCIETIES
THE ONEIDA AND WALLINGFORD PERFECTIONISTS
ORIGIN AND HISTORY
THEIR RELIGIOUS BELIEF
DAILY LIFE AND BUSINESS ADMINISTRATION
SUNDAY AT ONEIDA
"CRITICISM" AND "PRAYER-CURES"
THE AURORA AND BETHEL COMMUNES
AURORA IN OREGON
BETHEL IN MISSOURI
THEIR HISTORY AND RELIGIOUS FAITH
THE BISHOP HILL COLONY
ITS ORIGIN AND HISTORY
CAUSES OF ITS FAILURE
THE CEDAR VALE COMMUNE
THE SOCIAL FREEDOM COMMUNITY
THREE COLONIES--NOT COMMUNISTIC
ANAHEIM, IN CALIFORNIA
VINELAND, IN NEW JERSEY
SILKVILLE PRAIRIE HOME, IN KANSAS
COMPARATIVE VIEW AND REVIEW
COMMUNAL POLITICS AND POLITICAL ECONOMY
CHARACTER OF THE PEOPLE
INFLUENCES OF COMMUNISTIC LIFE
CONDITIONS AND POSSIBILITIES OF COMMUNISTIC LIVING
LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS
VIEWS IN ZOAR
MAP SHOWING LOCATION OF COMMUNISTIC SOCIETIES
GRACE BEFORE MEAT--AMANA
AMANA, A GENERAL VIEW
CHURCH AT AMANA
INTERIOR VIEW OF CHURCH
PLAN OF THE INSPIRATIONIST VILLAGES
CHURCH AT ECONOMY
A STREET VIEW IN ECONOMY
FATHER RAPP'S HOUSE--ECONOMY
CHURCH AT ZOAR SCHOOL-HOUSE AT ZOAR
A GROUP OF SHAKERS
THE FIRST SHAKER CHURCH, AT MOUNT LEBANON
SHAKER ARCHITECTURE--MOUNT LEBANON
SHAKER ARCHITECTURE--ENFIELD, N. H.
SHAKER WOMEN AT WORK
SHAKER WORSHIP.--THE DANCE
SISTERS IN EVERY-DAY COSTUME
ELDER FREDERICK W. EVANS
VIEW OF A SHAKER VILLAGE
THE HERB-HOUSE--MOUNT LEBANON
MEETING-HOUSE AT MOUNT LEBANON
INTERIOR OF MEETING-HOUSE AT MOUNT LEBANON
SHAKER TANNERY--MOUNT LEBANON
SHAKER OFFICE AND STORE AT MOUNT LEBANON
A SHAKER ELDER
A GROUP OF SHAKER CHILDREN
A SHAKER SCHOOL
J. H. NOYES, FOUNDER OF THE PERFECTIONISTS
COSTUMES AT ONEIDA
THE BETHEL COMMUNE, MISSOURI
CHURCH AT BETHEL, MISSOURI
[Illustration: MAP SHOWING LOCATION OF COMMUNISTIC SOCIETIES.]
Though it is probable that for a long time to come the mass of mankind
in civilized countries will find it both necessary and advantageous to
labor for wages, and to accept the condition of hired laborers (or, as
it has absurdly become the fashion to say, employees), every thoughtful
and kind-hearted person must regard with interest any device or plan
which promises to enable at least the more intelligent, enterprising,
and determined part of those who are not capitalists to become such, and
to cease to labor for hire.
Nor can any one doubt the great importance, both to the security of the
capitalists, and to the intelligence and happiness of the
non-capitalists (if I may use so awkward a word), of increasing the
number of avenues to independence for the latter. For the character and
conduct of our own population in the United States show conclusively
that nothing so stimulates intelligence in the poor, and at the same
time nothing so well enables them to bear the inconveniences of their
lot, as a reasonable prospect that with industry and economy they may
raise themselves out of the condition of hired laborers into that of
independent employers of their own labor. Take away entirely the grounds
of such a hope, and a great mass of our poorer people would gradually
sink into stupidity, and a blind discontent which education would only
increase, until they became a danger to the state; for the greater their
intelligence, the greater would be the dissatisfaction with their
situation--just as we see that the dissemination of education among the
English agricultural laborers (by whom, of all classes in Christendom,
independence is least to be hoped for), has lately aroused these
sluggish beings to strikes and a struggle for a change in their
Hitherto, in the United States, our cheap and fertile lands have acted
as an important safety-valve for the enterprise and discontent of our
non-capitalist population. Every hired workman knows that if he chooses
to use economy and industry in his calling, he may without great or
insurmountable difficulty establish himself in independence on the
public lands; and, in fact, a large proportion of our most energetic and
intelligent mechanics do constantly seek these lands, where with patient
toil they master nature and adverse circumstances, often make fortunate
and honorable careers, and at the worst leave their children in an
improved condition of life. I do not doubt that the eagerness of some of
our wisest public men for the acquisition of new territory has arisen
from their conviction that this opening for the independence of laboring
men was essential to the security of our future as a free and peaceful
state. For, though not one in a hundred, or even one in a thousand of
our poorer and so-called laboring class may choose to actually achieve
independence by taking up and tilling a portion of the public lands, it
is plain that the knowledge that any one may do so makes those who do
not more contented with their lot, which they thus feel to be one of
choice and not of compulsion.
Any circumstance, as the exhaustion of these lands, which should
materially impair this opportunity for independence, would be, I
believe, a serious calamity to our country; and the spirit of the
Trades-Unions and International Societies appears to me peculiarly
mischievous and hateful, because they seek to eliminate from the
thoughts of their adherents the hope or expectation of independence. The
member of a Trades-Union is taught to regard himself, and to act toward
society, as a hireling for life; and these societies are united, not as
men seeking a way to exchange dependence for independence, but as
hirelings, determined to remain such, and only demanding better
conditions of their masters. If it were possible to infuse with this
spirit all or the greater part of the non-capitalist class in the United
States, this would, I believe, be one of the gravest calamities which
could befall us as a nation; for it would degrade the mass of our
voters, and make free government here very difficult, if it did not
entirely change the form of our government, and expose us to lasting
disorders and attacks upon property.
We see already that in whatever part of our country the Trades-Union
leaders have succeeded in imposing themselves upon mining or
manufacturing operatives, the results are the corruption of our
politics, a lowering of the standard of intelligence and independence
among the laborers, and an unreasoning and unreasonable discontent,
which, in its extreme development, despises right, and seeks only
changes degrading to its own class, at the cost of injury and loss to
the general public.
The Trades-Unions and International Clubs have become a formidable power
in the United States and Great Britain, but so far it is a power almost
entirely for evil. They have been able to disorganize labor, and to
alarm capital. They have succeeded, in a comparatively few cases, in
temporarily increasing the wages and in diminishing the hours of labor
in certain branches of industry--a benefit so limited, both as to
duration and amount, that it cannot justly be said to have inured to the
general advantage of the non-capitalist class. On the other hand, they
have debased the character and lowered the moral tone of their
membership by the narrow and cold-blooded selfishness of their spirit
and doctrines, and have thus done an incalculable harm to society; and,
moreover, they have, by alarming capital, lessened the wages fund,
seriously checked enterprise, and thus decreased the general prosperity
of their own class. For it is plain that to no one in society is the
abundance of capital and its free and secure use in all kinds of
enterprises so vitally important as to the laborer for wages--to the
To assert necessary and eternal enmity between labor and capital would
seem to be the extreme of folly in men who have predetermined to remain
laborers for wages all their lives, and who therefore mean to be
peculiarly dependent on capital. Nor are the Unions wiser or more
reasonable toward their fellow-laborers; for each Union aims, by
limiting the number of apprentices a master may take, and by other
equally selfish regulations, to protect its own members against
competition, forgetting apparently that if you prevent men from becoming
bricklayers, a greater number must seek to become carpenters; and that
thus, by its exclusive policy, a Union only plays what Western gamblers
call a "cut-throat game" with the general laboring population. For if
the system of Unions were perfect, and each were able to enforce its
policy of exclusion, a great mass of poor creatures, driven from every
desirable employment, would be forced to crowd into the lowest and least
paid. I do not know where one could find so much ignorance, contempt for
established principles, and cold-blooded selfishness, as among the
Trades-Unions and International Societies of the United States and Great
Britain--unless one should go to France. While they retain their present
spirit, they might well take as their motto the brutal and stupid saying
of a French writer, that "Mankind are engaged in a war for bread, in
which every man's hand is at his brother's throat." Directly, they offer
a prize to incapacity and robbery, compelling their ablest members to do
no more than the least able, and spoiling the aggregate wealth of
society by burdensome regulations restricting labor. Logically, to the
Trades-Union leaders the Chicago or Boston fire seemed a more beneficial
event than the invention of the steam-engine; for plenty seems to them a
curse, and scarcity the greatest blessing. [Transcriber's Note: Lengthy
footnote relocated to chapter end.]
Any organization which teaches its adherents to accept as inevitable for
themselves and for the mass of a nation the condition of hirelings, and
to conduct their lives on that premise, is not only wrong, but an injury
to the community. Mr. Mill wisely says on this point, in his chapter on
"The Future of the Laboring Classes": "There can be little doubt that
the _status_ of hired laborers will gradually tend to confine itself
to the description of work-people whose low moral qualities render them
unfit for any thing more independent; and that the relation of masters
and work-people will be gradually superseded by partnership in one of
two forms: in some cases, association of the laborers with the
capitalist; in others, and perhaps finally in all, association of
laborers among themselves." I imagine that the change he speaks of will
be very slow and gradual; but it is important that all doors shall be
left open for it, and Trades-Unions would close every door.
Professor Cairnes, in his recent contribution to Political Economy, goes
further even than Mr. Mill, and argues that a change of this nature is
inevitable. He remarks: "The modifications which occur in the
distribution of capital among its several departments, as nations
advance, are by no means fortuitous, but follow on the whole a
well-defined course, and move toward a determinate goal. In effect, what
we find is a constant growth of the national capital, accompanied with a
nearly equally constant decline in the proportion of this capital which
goes to support productive labor.... Though the fund for the
remuneration of mere labor, whether skilled or unskilled, must, so long
as industry is progressive, ever bear a constantly diminishing
proportion alike to the growing wealth and growing capital, there is
nothing in the nature of things which restricts the laboring population
to this fund for their support. In return, indeed, for their mere labor,
it is to this that they must look for their sole reward; but _they may
help production otherwise than by their labor: they may save, and thus
become themselves the owners of capital;_ and profits may thus be
brought to aid the wages-fund." [Footnote: "Some Leading Principles of
Political Economy Newly Expounded." By J. E. Cairnes, M.A. New York,
Harper & Brothers.]
Aside from systematized emigration to unsettled or thinly peopled
regions, which the Trades-Unions of Europe ought to organize on a great
scale, but which they have entirely neglected, the other outlets for the
mass of dissatisfied hand-laborers lie through co-operative or
communistic efforts. Co-operative societies flourish in England and
Germany. We have had a number of them in this country also, but their
success has not been marked; and I have found it impossible to get
statistical returns even of their numbers. If the Trades-Unions had used
a tenth of the money they have wasted in futile efforts to shorten hours
of labor and excite their members to hatred, indolence, and waste, in
making public the statistics and the possibilities of co-operation, they
would have achieved some positive good.
But while co-operative efforts have generally failed in the United
States, we have here a number of successful Communistic Societies,
pursuing agriculture and different branches of manufacturing, and I have
thought it useful to examine these, to see if their experience offers
any useful hints toward the solution of the labor question. Hitherto
very little, indeed almost nothing definite and precise, has been made
known concerning these societies; and Communism remains loudly but very
vaguely spoken of, by friends as well as enemies, and is commonly a word
either of terror or of contempt in the public prints.
In the following pages will be found, accordingly, an account of the
COMMUNISTIC SOCIETIES now existing in the United States, made from
personal visit and careful examination; and including for each its
social customs and expedients; its practical and business methods; its
system of government; the industries it pursues; its religious creed and
practices; as well as its present numbers and condition, and its
It appears to me an important fact that these societies, composed for
the most part of men originally farmers or mechanics--people of very
limited means and education--have yet succeeded in accumulating
considerable wealth, and at any rate a satisfactory provision for their
own old age and disability, and for the education of their children or
successors. In every case they have developed among their membership
very remarkable business ability, considering their original station in
life; they have found among themselves leaders wise enough to rule, and
skill sufficient to enable them to establish and carry on, not merely
agricultural operations, but also manufactures, and to conduct
successfully complicated business affairs.
Some of these societies have existed fifty, some twenty-five, and some
for nearly eighty years. All began with small means; and some are now
very wealthy. Moreover, while some of these communes are still living
under the guidance of their founders, others, equally successful, have
continued to prosper for many years after the death of their original
leaders. Some are celibate; but others inculcate, or at least permit
marriage. Some gather their members into a common or "unitary" dwelling;
but others, with no less success, maintain the family relation and the
It seemed to me that the conditions of success vary sufficiently among
these societies to make their histories at least interesting, and
perhaps important. I was curious, too, to ascertain if their success
depended upon obscure conditions, not generally attainable, as
extraordinary ability in a leader; or undesirable, as religious
fanaticism or an unnatural relation of the sexes; or whether it might
not appear that the conditions absolutely necessary to success were only
such as any company of carefully selected and reasonably determined men
and women might hope to command.
I desired also to discover how the successful Communists had met and
overcome the difficulties of idleness, selfishness, and unthrift in
individuals, which are commonly believed to make Communism impossible,
and which are well summed up in the following passage in Mr. Mill's
chapter on Communism:
"The objection ordinarily made to a system of community of property and
equal distribution of the produce, that each person would be incessantly
occupied in evading his fair share of the work, points, undoubtedly, to
a real difficulty. But those who urge this objection forget to how great
an extent the same difficulty exists under the system on which nine
tenths of the business of society is now conducted. The objection
supposes that honest and efficient labor is only to be had from those
who are themselves individually to reap the benefit of their own
exertions. But how small a part of all the labor performed in England,
from the lowest paid to the highest, is done by persons working for
their own benefit. From the Irish reaper or hodman to the chief justice
or the minister of state, nearly all the work of society is remunerated
by day wages or fixed salaries. A factory operative has less personal
interest in his work than a member of a Communist association, since he
is not, like him, working for a partnership of which he is himself a
member. It will no doubt be said that, though the laborers themselves
have not, in most cases, a personal interest in their work, they are
watched and superintended, and their labor directed, and the mental part
of the labor performed, by persons who have. Even this, however, is far
from being universally the fact. In all public, and many of the largest
and most successful private undertakings, not only the labors of detail,
but the control and superintendence are entrusted to salaried officers.
And though the 'master's eye,' when the master is vigilant and
intelligent, is of proverbial value, it must be remembered that in a
Socialist farm or manufactory, each laborer would be under the eye, not
of one master, but of the whole community. In the extreme case of
obstinate perseverance in not performing the due share of work, the
community would have the same resources which society now has for
compelling conformity to the necessary conditions of the association.
Dismissal, the only remedy at present, is no remedy when any other
laborer who may be engaged does no better than his predecessor: the
power of dismissal only enables an employer to obtain from his workmen
the customary amount of labor, but that customary labor may be of any
degree of inefficiency. Even the laborer who loses his employment by
idleness or negligence has nothing worse to suffer, in the most
unfavorable case, than the discipline of a workhouse, and if the desire
to avoid this be a sufficient motive in the one system, it would be
sufficient in the other. I am not undervaluing the strength of the
incitement given to labor when the whole or a large share of the benefit
of extra exertion belongs to the laborer. But under the present system
of industry this incitement, in the great majority of cases, does not
exist. If communistic labor might be less vigorous than that of a
peasant proprietor, or a workman laboring on his own account, it would
probably be more energetic than that of a laborer for hire, who has no
personal interest in the matter at all. The neglect by the uneducated
classes of laborers for hire of the duties which they engage to perform
is in the present state of society most flagrant. Now it is an admitted
condition of the communist scheme that all shall be educated; and this
being supposed, the duties of the members of the association would
doubtless be as diligently performed as those of the generality of
salaried officers in the middle or higher classes; who are not supposed
to be necessarily unfaithful to their trust, because so long as they are
not dismissed their pay is the same in however lax a manner their duty
is fulfilled. Undoubtedly, as a general rule, remuneration by fixed
salaries does not in any class of functionaries produce the maximum of
zeal; and this is as much as can be reasonably alleged against
"That even this inferiority would necessarily exist is by no means so
certain as is assumed by those who are little used to carry their minds
beyond the state of things with which they are familiar....
"Another of the objections to Communism is similar to that so often
urged against poor-laws: that if every member of the community were
assured of subsistence for himself and any number of children, on the
sole condition of willingness to work, prudential restraint on the
multiplication of mankind would be at an end, and population would start
forward at a rate which would reduce the community through successive
stages of increasing discomfort to actual starvation. There would
certainly be much ground for this apprehension if Communism provided no
motives to restraint, equivalent to those which it would take away. But
Communism is precisely the state of things in which opinion might be
expected to declare itself with greatest intensity against this kind of
selfish intemperance. Any augmentation of numbers which diminished the
comfort or increased the toil of the mass would then cause (which now it
does not) immediate and unmistakable inconvenience to every individual
in the association--inconvenience which could not then be imputed to the
avarice of employers or the unjust privileges of the rich. In such
altered circumstances opinion could not fail to reprobate, and if
reprobation did not suffice, to repress by penalties of some
description, this or any other culpable self-indulgence at the expense
of the community. The communistic scheme, instead of being peculiarly
open to the objection drawn from danger of over-population, has the
recommendation of tending in an especial degree to the prevention of
It will be seen in the following pages that means have been found to
meet these and other difficulties; in one society even the prudential
restraint upon marriage has been adopted.
Finally, I wished to see what the successful Communists had made of
their lives; what was the effect of communal living upon the character
of the individual man and woman; whether the life had broadened or
narrowed them; and whether assured fortune and pecuniary independence
had brought to them a desire for beauty of surroundings and broader
intelligence: whether, in brief, the Communist had any where become
something more than a comfortable and independent day-laborer, and
aspired to something higher than a mere bread-and-butter existence.
To make my observations I was obliged to travel from Maine in the
northeast to Kentucky in the south, and Oregon in the west. I have
thought it best to give at first an impartial and not unfriendly account
of each commune, or organized system of communes; and in several
concluding chapters I have analyzed and compared their different customs
and practices, and attempted to state what, upon the facts presented,
seem to be the conditions absolutely requisite to the successful conduct
of a communistic society, and also what appear to be the influences, for
good and evil, of such bodies upon their members and upon their
I have added some particulars of the Swedish Commune which lately
existed at Bishop Hill, in Illinois, but which, after a flourishing
career of seven years, has now become extinct; and I did this to show,
in a single example, what are the causes which work against harmony and
success in such a society.
Also I have given some particulars concerning three examples of
colonization, which, though they do not properly belong to my subject,
are yet important, as showing what may be accomplished by co-operative
efforts in agriculture, under prudent management.
It is, I suppose, hardly necessary to say that, while I have given an
impartial and respectful account of the religious faith of each commune,
I am not therefore to be supposed to hold with any of them. For
instance, I thought it interesting to give some space to the very
singular phenomena called "spiritual manifestations" among the Shakers;
but I am not what is commonly called a "Spiritualist."
[Relocated Footnote: Lest I should to some readers appear to use too
strong language, I append here a few passages from a recent English
work, Mr. Thornton's book "On Labor," where he gives an account of some
of the regulations of English Trades-Unions:
"A journeyman is not permitted to teach his own son his own trade, nor,
if the lad managed to learn the trade by stealth, would he be permitted
to practice it. A master, desiring out of charity to take as apprentice
one of the eight destitute orphans of a widowed mother, has been told by
his men that if he did they would strike. A bricklayer's assistant who
by looking on has learned to lay bricks as well as his principal, is
generally doomed, nevertheless, to continue a laborer for life. He will
never rise to the rank of a bricklayer, if those who have already
attained that dignity can help it."
"Some Unions divide the country round them into districts, and will not
permit the products of the trades controlled by them to be used except
within the district in which they have been fabricated.... At Manchester
this combination is particularly effective, preventing any bricks made
beyond a radius of four miles from entering the city. To enforce the
exclusion, paid agents are employed; every cart of bricks coming toward
Manchester is watched, and if the contents be found to have come from
without the prescribed boundary the bricklayers at once refuse to
work.... The vagaries of the Lancashire brick makers are fairly
paralleled by the masons of the same county. Stone, when freshly
quarried, is softer, and can be more easily cut than later: men
habitually employed about any particular quarry better understand the
working of its particular stone than men from a distance; there is great
economy, too, in transporting stone dressed instead of in rough blocks.
The Yorkshire masons, however, will not allow Yorkshire stone to be
brought into their district if worked on more than one side. All the
rest of the working, the edging and jointing, they insist on doing
themselves, though they thereby add thirty-five per cent, to its
price.... A Bradford contractor, requiring for a staircase some steps of
hard delf-stone, a material which Bradford masons so much dislike that
they often refuse employment rather than undertake it, got the steps
worked at the quarry. But when they arrived ready for setting, his
masons insisted on their being worked over again, at an expense of from
5s. to 10s. per step. A master-mason at Ashton obtained some stone ready
polished from a quarry near Macclesfield. His men, however, in obedience
to the rules of their club, refused to fix it until the polished part
had been defaced and they had polished it again by hand, though not so
well as at first.... In one or two of the northern counties, the
associated plasterers and associated plasterers' laborers have come to
an understanding, according to which the latter are to abstain from all
plasterers' work except simple whitewashing; and the plasterers in
return are to do nothing except pure plasterers' work, that the laborers
would like to do for them, insomuch that if a plasterer wants laths or
plaster to go on with, he must not go and fetch them himself, but must
send a laborer for them. In consequence of this agreement, a Mr. Booth,
of Bolton, having sent one of his plasterers to bed and point a dozen
windows, had to place a laborer with him during the whole of the four
days he was engaged on the job, though any body could have brought him
all he required in half a day.... At Liverpool, a bricklayer's laborer
may legally carry as many as twelve bricks at a time. Elsewhere ten is
the greatest number allowed. But at Leeds 'any brother in the Union
professing to carry more than the common number, which is eight bricks,
shall be fined 1s.'; and any brother 'knowing the same without giving
the earliest information thereof to the committee of management shall be
fined the same.'... During the building of the Manchester Law Courts,
the bricklayers' laborers struck because they were desired to wheel
bricks instead of carrying them on their shoulders."]
THE AMANA COMMUNITY.
The "True Inspiration Congregations," as they call themselves ("_Wahre
Inspiration's Gemeinden_"), form a communistic society in Iowa,
seventy-four miles west of Davenport.
The society has at this time 1450 members; owns about 25,000 acres of
land; lives on this land in seven different small towns; carries on
agriculture and manufactures of several kinds, and is highly prosperous.
Its members are all Germans.
The base of its organization is religion; they are pietists; and their
religious head, at present a woman, is supposed by them to speak by
direct inspiration of God. Hence they call themselves "Inspirationists."
They came from Germany in the year 1842, and settled at first near
Buffalo, on a large tract of land which they called Eben-Ezer. Here they
prospered greatly; but feeling the need of more land, in 1855 they began
to remove to their present home in Iowa.
They have printed a great number of books--more than one hundred
volumes; and in some of these the history of their peculiar religious
belief is carried back to the beginning of the last century. They
continue to receive from Germany accessions to their numbers, and often
pay out of their common treasury the expenses of poor families who
recommend themselves to the society by letters, and whom their inspired
leader declares to be worthy.
They seem to have conducted their pecuniary affairs with eminent
prudence and success.
The "Work of Inspiration" is said to have begun far back in the
eighteenth century. I have a volume, printed in 1785, which is called
the "Thirty-sixth Collection of the Inspirational Records," and gives an
account of "Brother John Frederick Rock's journeys and visits in the
year 1719, wherein are recorded numerous utterances of the Spirit by his
word of mouth to the faithful in Constance, Schaffhausen, Zurich, and
They admit, I believe, that the "Inspiration" died out from time to
time, but was revived as the congregations became more godly. In 1749,
in 1772, and in 1776 there were especial demonstrations. Finally, in the
year 1816, Michael Krausert, a tailor of Strasburg, became what they
call an "instrument" (_werkzeug_), and to him were added several
Philip Moschel, a stocking-weaver, and a German; Christian Metz, a
carpenter; and finally, in 1818, Barbara Heynemann, a "poor and
illiterate servant-maid," an Alsatian ("_eine arme ganz ungdehrte
Metz, who was for many years, and until his death in 1867, the spiritual
head of the society, wrote an account of the society from the time he
became an "instrument" until the removal to Iowa. From this, and from a
volume of Barbara Heynemann's inspired utterances, I gather that the
congregations did not hesitate to criticize, and very sharply, the
conduct of their spiritual leaders; and to depose them, and even expel
them for cause. Moreover, they recount in their books, without disguise,
all their misunderstandings. Thus it is recorded of Barbara Heynemann
that in 1820 she was condemned to expulsion from the society, and her
earnest entreaties only sufficed to obtain consent that she should serve
as a maid in the family of one of the congregation; but even then it was
forbidden her to come to the meetings. Her exclusion seems, however, to
have lasted but a few months. Metz, in his "Historical Description,"
relates that this trouble fell upon Barbara because she had too friendly
an eye upon the young men; and there are several notices of her desire
to marry, as, for instance, under date of August, 1822, where it is
related that "the Enemy" tempted her again with a desire to marry George
Landmann; but "the Lord showed through Brother Rath, and also to her own
conscience, that this step was against his holy will, and accordingly
they did not marry, but did repent concerning it, and the Lord's grace
was once more given her." But, like Jacob, she seems to have wrestled
with the Lord, for later she did marry George Landmann, and, though they
were for a while under censure, she regained her old standing as an
"inspired instrument," came over to the United States with her husband,
was for many years the assistant of Metz, and since his death has been
the inspired oracle of Amana.
In the year 1822 the congregations appear to have attracted the
attention of the English Quakers, for I find a notice that in December
of that year they were visited by William Allen, a Quaker minister from
London, who seems to have been a man of wealth. He inquired concerning
their religious faith, and told them that he and his brethren at home
were also subject to inspiration. He persuaded them to hold a meeting,
at which by his desire they read the 14th chapter of John; and he told
them that it was probable he would be moved of the Lord to speak to
them. But when they had read the chapter, and while they waited for the
Quaker's inspiration, Barbara Heynemann was moved to speak. At this
Allen became impatient and left the meeting; and in the evening he told
The brethren that the Quaker inspiration was as real as their own,
but that they did not write down what was spoken by their preachers;
whereto he received for reply that it was not necessary, for it was
evident that the Quakers had not the real inspiration, nor the proper
and consecrated "instruments" to declare the will of the Lord; and so the
Quaker went away on his journey home, apparently not much edified.
The congregations were much scattered in Germany, and it appears to have
been the habit of the "inspired instruments" to travel from one to the
other, deliver messages from on high, and inquire into the spiritual
condition of the faithful. Under the leadership of Christian Metz and
several others, between 1825 and 1839 a considerable number of their
followers were brought together at a place called Armenburg, where
manufactures gave them employment, and here they prospered, but fell
into trouble with the government because they refused to take oaths
and to send their children to the public schools, which were under
the rule of the clergy.
In 1842 it was revealed to Christian Metz that all the congregations
should be gathered together, and be led far away out of their own country.
Later, America was pointed out as their future home. To a meeting of the
elders it was revealed who should go to seek out a place for settlement;
and Metz relates in his brief history that one Peter Mook wanted to be
among these pioneers, and was dissatisfied because he was not among those
named; and as Mook insisted on going, a message came the next day from
God, in which he told them they might go or stay as they pleased, but
if they remained in Germany it would be "at their own risk;" and as Mook
was not even named in this message, he concluded to remain at home.
Metz and four others sailed in September, 1842, for New York. They found
their way to Buffalo; and there, on the advice of the late Mr. Dorsheimer,
from whom they received much kindness, bought five thousand acres of the
old Seneca Indian reservation at ten dollars per acre. To this they added
later nearly as much more. Parts of this estate now lie within the
corporate limits of Buffalo; and though they sold out and removed to the
West before the land attained its present value, the purchase was a most
fortunate one for them. Metz records that they had much trouble at first
with the Indians; but they overcame this and other difficulties, and by
industry and ingenuity soon built up comfortable homes. Three hundred and
fifty persons were brought out in the first year, two hundred and
seventeen in 1844; and their numbers were increased rapidly, until they
had over one thousand people in their different villages.
[Illustration: Amana, a general view.]
Between 1843 and 1855, when they began to remove to Iowa, they turned
their purchase at Eben-Ezer (as they called the place) into a garden. I
visited the locality last year, and found there still the large,
substantial houses, the factories, churches, and shops which they built.
Street cars now run where they found only a dense forest; and the eight
thousand acres which they cleared are now fertile fields and
market-gardens. Another population of Germans has succeeded the Amana
Society; their churches now have steeples, and there is an occasional
dram-shop; but the present residents speak of their predecessors with
esteem and even affection, and in one of the large stores I found the
products of the Iowa society regularly sold. A few of the former members
still live on the old purchase.
They appear to have had considerable means from the first. Among the
members were several persons of wealth, who contributed large sums to
the common stock. I was told that one person gave between fifty and
sixty thousand dollars; and others gave sums of from two to twenty
They were not Communists in Germany; and did not, I was told, when they
first emigrated, intend to live in community. Among those who came over
in the first year were some families who had been accustomed to labor in
factories. To these the agricultural life was unpleasant, and it was
thought advisable to set up a woolen factory to give them employment.
This was the first difficulty which stared them in the face. They had
intended to live simply as a Christian congregation or church, but the
necessity which lay upon them of looking to the temporal welfare of all
the members forced them presently to think of putting all their means
into a common stock.
Seeing that some of the brethren did not take kindly to agricultural
labor, and that if they insisted upon a purely agricultural settlement
they would lose many of their people, they determined that each should,
as far as possible, have employment at the work to which he was
accustomed. They began to build workshops, but, to carry these on
successfully, they had business tact enough to see that it was necessary
to do so by a general contribution of means.
"We were commanded at this time, by inspiration, to put all our means
together and live in community," said one to me; "and we soon saw that
we could not have got on or kept together on any other plan."
Eben-Ezer is a wide plain; and there, as now in Iowa, they settled their
people in villages, which they called "Upper," "Lower," and "Middle"
Eben-Ezer. From the large size of many of the houses, I imagine they had
there, commonly, several families in one dwelling. At Amana each family
has its own house; otherwise their customs were similar to those still
retained in Iowa, which I shall describe in their proper place.
In 1854 they were "commanded by inspiration" to remove to the West. They
selected Iowa as their new home, because land was cheap there; and in
1855, having made a purchase, they sent out a detachment to prepare the
It is a remarkable evidence of the prudence and ability with which they
conduct their business affairs, that they were able to sell out the
whole of their eight-thousand-acre tract near Buffalo, with all their
improvements, without loss. Usually such a sale is extremely difficult,
because the buildings of a communistic society have peculiarities which
detract from their value for individual uses. The Rappists, who sold out
twice, were forced to submit to heavy loss each time. I do not doubt
that several of the northern Shaker societies would have removed before
this to a better soil and climate but for the difficulty of selling
their possessions at a fair price.
The removal from Eben-Ezer to Amana, however, required ten years. As
they found purchasers in one place they sent families to the other;
meantime they do not appear to have found it difficult to maintain their
organization in both.
"The name we took out of the Bible," said one of the officers of the
society to me. They put the accent on the first syllable. The name
occurs in the Song of Solomon, the fourth chapter and eighth verse:
"Come with me from Lebanon, my spouse, with me from Lebanon: look from
the top of Amana, from the top of Shenir and Hermon, from the lions'
dens, from the mountains of the leopards."
Amana in Iowa, however, is not a mountain, but an extensive plain, upon
which they have built seven villages, conveniently placed so as to
command the cultivated land, and to form an irregular circle within
their possessions. In these villages all the people live, and they are
Name Population Business
Amana 450 Woolen-mill, saw and grist mill,
East Amana 125 Farming.
Middle Amana 350 Woolen-mill and farming.
Amana near the Hill 125 Farming, saw-mill, and tannery.
West Amana 150 Grist-mill and farming.
South Amana 150 Saw-mill and farming
Homestead 135 Railroad station, a saw-mill, farming,
and general depot.
The villages lie about a mile and a half apart, and each has a store at
which the neighboring farmers trade, and a tavern or inn for the
accommodation of the general public. Each village has also its
shoemakers', carpenters', tailors', and other shops, for they aim to
produce and make, as far as possible, all that they use. In Middle Amana
there is a printing-office, where their books are made.
The villages consist usually of one straggling street, outside of which
lie the barns, and the mills, factories, and workshops. The houses are
well built, of brick, stone, or wood, very plain; each with a sufficient
garden, but mostly standing immediately on the street. They use no
paint, believing that the wood lasts as well without. There is usually a
narrow sidewalk of boards or brick; and the school-house and church are
notable buildings only because of their greater size. Like the Quakers,
they abhor "steeple-houses"; and their church architecture is of the
plainest. The barns and other farm buildings are roomy and convenient.
On the boundaries of a village are usually a few houses inhabited by
Each family has a house for itself; though when a young couple marry,
they commonly go to live with the parents of one or the other for some
As you walk through a village, you notice that at irregular intervals
are houses somewhat larger than the rest. These are either cook-houses
or prayer-houses. The people eat in common, but for convenience' sake
they are divided, so that a certain number eat together. For Amana,
which has 450 people, there are fifteen such cooking and eating houses.
In these the young women are employed to work under the supervision of
matrons; and hither when the bell rings come those who are appointed to
eat at each--the sexes sitting at separate tables, and the children
also by themselves.
"Why do you separate men from women at table?" I asked.
"To prevent silly conversation and trifling conduct," was the answer.
Food is distributed to the houses according to the number of persons
eating in each. Meal and milk are brought to the doors; and each
cooking-house is required to make its own butter and cheese. For those
whom illness or the care of small children keeps at home, the food is
placed in neat baskets; and it was a curious sight to see, when the
dinner-bell rang, a number of women walking rapidly about the streets
with these baskets, each nicely packed with food.
When the bell ceases ringing and all are assembled, they stand up in
their places in silence for half a minute, then one says grace, and when
he ends, all say, "God bless and keep us safely," and then sit down.
There is but little conversation at table; the meal is eaten rapidly,
but with decorum; and at its close, all stand up again, some one gives
thanks, and thereupon they file out with quiet order and precision.
They live well, after the hearty German fashion, and bake excellent
bread. The table is clean, but it has no cloth. The dishes are coarse
but neat; and the houses, while well built, and possessing all that is
absolutely essential to comfort according to the German peasants' idea,
have not always carpets, and have often a bed in what New-Englanders
would call the parlor; and in general are for use and not ornament.
They breakfast between six and half-past six, according to the season,
have supper between six and seven, and dinner at half-past eleven. They
have besides an afternoon lunch of bread and butter and coffee, and in
summer a forenoon lunch of bread, to which they add beer or wine, both
They do not forbid tobacco.
Each business has its foreman; and these leaders in each village meet
together every evening, to concert and arrange the labors of the
following day. Thus if any department needs for an emergency an extra
force, it is known, and the proper persons are warned. The trustees
select the temporal foremen, and give to each from time to time his
proper charge, appointing him also his helpers. Thus a member showed me
his "ticket," by which he was appointed to the care of the cows, with
the names of those who were to assist him. In the summer, and when the
work requires it, a large force is turned into the fields; and the women
labor with the men in the harvest. The workmen in the factories are, of
course, not often changed.
The children are kept at school between the ages of six and thirteen;
the sexes do not sit in separate rooms. The school opens at seven
o'clock, and the children study and recite until half-past nine. From
that hour until eleven, when they are dismissed for dinner, they knit
gloves, wristlets, or stockings. At one o'clock school reopens, and they
once more attend to lessons until three, from which hour till half-past
four they knit again. The teachers are men, but they are relieved by
women when the labor-school begins. Boys as well as girls are required
to knit. One of the teachers said to me that this work kept them quiet,
gave them habits of industry, and kept them off the streets and from
They instruct the children in musical notation, but do not allow musical
instruments. They give only the most elementary instruction, the "three
Rs," but give also constant drill in the Bible and in the Catechism.
"Why should we let our youth study? We need no lawyers or preachers; we
have already three doctors. What they need is to live holy lives, to
learn God's commandments out of the Bible, to learn submission to his
will, and to love him."
The dress of the people is plain. The men wear in the winter a vest
which buttons close up to the throat, coat and trousers being of the
The women and young girls wear dingy colored stuffs, mostly of the
society's own make, cut in the plainest style, and often short gowns, in
the German peasant way. All, even to the very small girls, wear their
hair in a kind of black cowl or cap, which covers only the back of the
head, and is tied under the chin by a black ribbon. Also all, young as
well as old, wear a small dark-colored shawl or handkerchief over the
shoulders, and pinned very plainly across the breast. This peculiar
uniform adroitly conceals the marks of sex, and gives a singularly
monotonous appearance to the women.
The sex, I believe, is not highly esteemed by these people, who think it
dangerous to the Christian's peace of mind. One of their most esteemed
writers advises men to "fly from intercourse with women, as a very
highly dangerous magnet and magical fire." Their women work hard and
dress soberly; all ornaments are forbidden. To wear the hair loose is
prohibited. Great care is used to keep the sexes apart. In their evening
and other meetings, women not only sit apart from men, but they leave
the room before the men break ranks. Boys are allowed to play only with
boys, and girls with girls. There are no places or occasions for evening
amusements, where the sexes might meet. On Sunday afternoons the boys
are permitted to walk in the fields; and so are the girls, but these
must go in another direction. "Perhaps they meet in the course of the
walk," said a member to me, "but it is not allowed." At meals and in
their labors they are also separated. With all this care to hide the
charms of the young women, to make them, as far as dress can do so, look
old and ugly, and to keep the young men away from them, love, courtship,
and marriage go on at Amana as elsewhere in the world. The young man
"falls in love," and finds ways to make his passion known to its object;
he no doubt enjoys all the delights of courtship, intensified by the
difficulties which his prudent brethren put in his way; and he marries
the object of his affection, in spite of her black hood and her
sad-colored little shawl, whenever he has reached the age of twenty-four.
For before that age he may not marry, even if his parents consent. This
is a merely prudential rule. "They have few cares in life, and would
marry too early for their own good--food and lodging being secured
them--if there were not a rule upon the subject;" so said one of their
wise men to me. Therefore, no matter how early the young people agree to
marry, the wedding is deferred until the man reaches the proper age.
And when at last the wedding-day comes, it is treated with a degree of
solemnity which is calculated to make it a day of terror rather than of
unmitigated delight. The parents of the bride and groom meet, with two
or three of the elders, at the house of the bride's father. Here, after
singing and prayer, that chapter of Paul's writings is read wherein,
with great plainness of speech, he describes to the Ephesians and the
Christian world in general the duties of husband and wife. On this
chapter the elders comment "with great thoroughness" to the young
people, and "for a long time," as I was told; and after this lecture,
and more singing and prayer, there is a modest supper, whereupon all
retire quietly to their homes.
The strictly pious hold that marriages should be made only by consent of
God, signified through the "inspired instrument."
While the married state has thus the countenance and sanction of the
society and its elders, matrimony is not regarded as a meritorious act.
It has in it, they say, a certain large degree of worldliness; it is not
calculated to make them more, but rather less spiritually minded--so
think they at Amana--and accordingly the religious standing of the young
couple suffers and is lowered. In the Amana church there are three
"classes," orders or grades, the highest consisting of those members who
have manifested in their lives the greatest spirituality and piety. Now,
if the new-married couple should have belonged for years to this highest
class, their wedding would put them down into the lowest, or the
"children's order," for a year or two, until they had won their slow way
back by deepening piety.
The civil or temporal government of the Amana communists consists of
thirteen trustees, chosen annually by the male members of the society.
The president of the society is chosen by the trustees.
This body manages the finances, and carries on the temporalities
generally, but it acts only with the unanimous consent of its members.
The trustees live in different villages, but exercise no special
authority, as I understand, as individuals. The foremen and elders in
each village carry on the work and keep the accounts. Each village keeps
its own books and manages its own affairs; but all accounts are finally
sent to the head-quarters at Amana, where they are inspected, and the
balance of profit or loss is discovered. It is supposed that the labor
of each village produces a profit; but whether it does or not makes no
difference in the supplies of the people, who receive every thing alike,
as all property is held in common. All accounts are balanced once a
year, and thus the productiveness of every industry is ascertained.
The elders are a numerous body, not necessarily old men, but presumably
men of deep piety and spirituality. They are named or appointed by
inspiration, and preside at religious assemblies.
In every village four or five of the older and more experienced elders
meet each morning to advise together on business. This council acts, as
I understand, upon reports of those younger elders who are foremen and
have charge of different affairs. These in turn meet for a few minutes
every evening, and arrange for the next day's work.
Women are never members of these councils, nor do they hold, as far as I
could discover, any temporal or spiritual authority, with the single
exception of their present spiritual head, who is a woman of eighty
years. Moreover, if a young man should marry out of the society, and his
wife should desire to become a member, the husband is expelled for a
year--at the end of which time both may make application to come in, if
They have contrived a very simple and ingenious plan for supplying their
members with clothing and other articles aside from food. To each adult
male an annual allowance is made of from forty to one hundred dollars,
according as his position and labor necessitates more or less clothing.
For each adult female the allowance is from twenty-five to thirty
dollars, and from five to ten dollars for each child.
All that they need is kept in store in each village, and is sold to the
members at cost and expenses. When any one requires an article of
clothing, he goes to the store and selects the cloth, for which he is
charged in a book he brings with him; he then goes to the tailor, who
makes the garment, and charges him on the book an established price. If
he needs shoes, or a hat, or tobacco, or a watch, every thing is in the
same way charged. As I sat in one of the shops, I noticed women coming
in to make purchases, often bringing children with them, and each had
her little book in which due entry was made. "Whatever we do not use, is
so much saved against next year; or we may give it away if we like," one
explained to me; and added that during the war, when the society
contributed between eighteen and twenty thousand dollars to various
benevolent purposes, much of this was given by individual members out of
the savings on their year's account.
Almost every man has a watch, but they keep a strict rule over vanities
of apparel, and do not allow the young girls to buy or wear ear-rings or
The young and unmarried people, if they have no parents, are divided
around among the families.
They have not many labor-saving contrivances; though of course the
eating in common is both economical and labor-saving. There is in each
village a general wash-house, where the clothing of the unmarried people
is washed, but each family does its own washing.
They have no libraries; and most of their reading is in the Bible and in
their own "inspired" records, which, as I shall show further on, are
quite voluminous. A few newspapers are taken, and each calling among
them receives the journal which treats of its own specialty. In general
they aim to withdraw themselves as much as possible from the world, and
take little interest in public affairs. During the war they voted; "but
we do not now, for we do not like the turn politics have taken"--which
seemed to me a curious reason for refusing to vote.
Their members came originally from many parts of Germany and
Switzerland; they have also a few "Pennsylvania Dutch." They have much
trouble with applicants who desire to join the society; and receive, the
secretary told me, sometimes dozens of letters in a month from persons
of whom they know nothing; and not a few of whom, it seems, write, not
to ask permission to join, but to say that they are coming on at once.
There have been cases where a man wrote to say that he had sold all his
possessions, and was then on the way, with his family, to join the
association. As they claim to be not an industrial, but a religious
community, they receive new members with great care, and only after
thorough investigation of motives and religious faith; and these random
applications are very annoying to them. Most of their new members they
receive from Germany, accepting them after proper correspondence, and
under the instructions of "inspiration." Where they believe them worthy
they do not inquire about their means; and a fund is annually set apart
by the trustees to pay the passage of poor families whom they have
determined to take in. Usually a neophyte enters on probation for two
years, signing an obligation to labor faithfully, to conduct himself
according to the society's regulations, and to demand no wages.
If at the close of his probation he appears to be a proper person, he is
admitted to full membership; and if he has property, he is then expected
to put this into the common stock; signing also the constitution, which
provides that on leaving he shall have his contribution returned, but
There are cases, however, where a new-comer is at once admitted to full
membership. This is where "inspiration" directs such breach of the
general rule, on the ground that the applicant is already a fit person.
Most of their members came from the Lutheran Church; but they have also
Catholics, and I believe several Jews.
They employ about two hundred hired hands, mostly in agricultural
labors; and these are all Germans, many of whom have families. For these
they supply houses, and give them sometimes the privilege of raising a
few cattle on their land.
They are excellent farmers, and keep fine stock, which they care for
with German thoroughness; stall-feeding in the winter.
The members do not work hard. One of the foremen told me that three
hired hands would do as much as five or six of the members. Partly this
comes no doubt from the interruption to steady labor caused by their
frequent religious meetings; but I have found it generally true that the
members of communistic societies take life easy.
The people are of varying degrees of intelligence; but most of them
belong to the peasant class of Germany, and were originally farmers,
weavers, or mechanics. They are quiet, a little stolid, and very well
satisfied with their life. Here, as in other communistic societies, the
brains seem to come easily to the top. The leading men with whom I
conversed appeared to me to be thoroughly trained business men in the
German fashion; men of education, too, and a good deal of intelligence.
The present secretary told me that he had been during all his early life
a merchant in Germany; and he had the grave and somewhat precise air of
an honest German merchant of the old style--prudent, with a heavy sense
of responsibility, a little rigid, and yet kindly.
At the little inn I talked with a number of the rank and file, and
noticed in them great satisfaction with their method of life. They were,
on the surface, the commoner kind of German laborers; but they had
evidently thought pretty thoroughly upon the subject of communal living;
and knew how to display to me what appeared to them its advantages in
their society: the absolute equality of all men--"as God made us;" the
security for their families; the abundance of food; and the independence
of a master.
It seems to me that these advantages are dearer to the Germans than to
almost any other nation, and hence they work more harmoniously in
communistic experiments. I think I noticed at Amana, and elsewhere among
the German communistic societies, a satisfaction in their lives, a pride
in the equality which the communal system secures, and also in the
conscious surrender of the individual will to the general good, which is
not so clearly and satisfactorily felt among other nationalities.
Moreover, the German peasant is fortunate in his tastes, which are
frugal and well fitted for community living. He has not a great sense of
or desire for beauty of surroundings; he likes substantial living, but
cares nothing for elegance. His comforts are not, like the American's,
of a costly kind.
I think, too, that his lower passions are more easily regulated or
controlled, and certainly he is more easily contented to remain in one
place. The innkeeper, a little to my surprise, when by chance I told him
that I had spent a winter on the Sandwich Islands, asked me with the
keenest delight and curiosity about the trees, the climate, and the life
there; and wanted to know if I had seen the place where Captain Cook,
"the great circumnavigator of the world," was slain. He returned to the
subject again and again, and evidently looked upon me as a prodigiously
interesting person, because I had been fortunate enough to see what to
him was classic ground. An American would not have felt one half this
man's interest; but he would probably have dreamed of making the same
journey some day. My kindly host sat serenely in his place, and was not
moved by a single wandering thought.
They forbid all amusements--all cards and games whatever, and all
musical instruments; "one might have a flute, but nothing more." Also
they regard photographs and pictures of all kinds as tending to
idol-worship, and therefore not to be allowed.
They have made very substantial improvements upon their property; among
other things, in order to secure a sufficient water-power, they dug a
canal six miles long, and from five to ten feet deep, leading a large
body of water through Amana. On this canal they keep a steam-scow to
dredge it out annually.
As a precaution against fire, in Amana there is a little tower upon a
house in the middle of the village, where two men keep watch all night.
They buy much wool from the neighboring farmers; and have a high
reputation for integrity and simple plain-dealing among their neighbors.
A farmer told me that it was not easy to cheat them; and that they never
dealt the second time with a man who had in any way wronged them; but
that they paid a fair price for all they bought, and always paid cash.
In their woolen factories they make cloth enough for their own wants and
to supply the demand of the country about them. Flannels and yarn, as
well as woolen gloves and stockings, they export, sending some of these
products as far as New York. The gloves and stockings are made not only
by the children, but by the women during the winter months, when they
are otherwise unemployed.
At present they own about 3000 sheep, 1500 head of cattle, 200 horses,
and 2500 hogs.
The society has no debt, and has a considerable fund at interest.
They lose very few of their young people. Some who leave them return
after a few years in the world. Plain and dull as the life is, it
appears to satisfy the youth they train up; and no doubt it has its
rewards in its regularity, peacefulness, security against want, and
freedom from dependence on a master.
It struck me as odd that in cases of illness they use chiefly
homeopathic treatment. The people live to a hale old age. They had among
the members, in March, 1874, a woman aged ninety-seven, and a number of
persons over eighty.
They are non-resistants; but during the late war paid for substitutes in
the army. "But we did wrongly there," said one to me; "it is not right
to take part in wars even in this way."
To sum up: the people of Amana appeared to me a remarkably quiet,
industrious, and contented population; honest, of good repute among
their neighbors, very kindly, and with religion so thoroughly and
largely made a part of their lives that they may be called a religious
IV.--RELIGION AND LITERATURE.
"If one gives himself entirely, and in all his life, to the will of God,
he will presently be possessed by the Spirit of God."
"The Bible is the Word of God; each prophet or sacred writer wrote only
what he received from God."
"In the New Testament we read that the disciples were 'filled with the
Holy Ghost.' But the same God lives now, and it is reasonable to believe
that he inspires his followers now as then; and that he will lead his
people, in these days as in those, by the words of his inspiration."
"He leads us in spiritual matters, and in those temporal concerns which
affect our spiritual life; but we do not look to him for inspired
directions in all the minute affairs of our daily lives. Inspiration
directed us to come to America, and to leave Eben-Ezer for Iowa.
Inspiration sometimes directs us to admit a new-comer to full
membership, and sometimes to expel an unworthy member. Inspiration
discovers hidden sins in the congregation."
"We have no creed except the Bible."
"We ought to live retired and spiritual lives; to keep ourselves
separate from the world; to cultivate humility, obedience to God's will,
faithfulness, and love to Christ."
"Christ is our head."
Such are some of the expressions of their religious belief which the
pious and well-instructed at Amana gave me.
They have published two Catechisms--one for the instruction of children,
the other for the use of older persons. From these it appears that they
are Trinitarians, believe in "justification by faith," hold to the
resurrection of the dead, the final judgment, but not to eternal
punishment, believing rather that fire will purify the wicked in the
course of time, longer or shorter according to their wickedness.
They do not practice baptism, either infant or adult, holding it to be a
useless ceremony not commanded in the New Testament. They celebrate the
Lord's Supper, not at regular periods, but only when by the words of
"inspiration" God orders them to do so; and then with peculiar
ceremonies, which I shall describe further on.
As to this word "Inspiration," I quote here from the Catechism their
definition of it:
"_Question_. Is it therefore the Spirit or the witness of Jesus
which speaks and bears witness through the truly inspired persons?
"_Answer_. Yes; the Holy Ghost is the Spirit of Jesus, which brings
to light the hidden secrets of the heart, and gives witness to our
spirits that it is the Spirit of truth.
"_Q_. When did the work of inspiration begin in the later times?
"_A_. About the end of the seventeenth and beginning of the
eighteenth century. About this time the Lord began the gracious work of
inspiration in several countries (France, England, and, at last, in
Germany), gathered a people by these new messengers of peace, and
declared a divine sentence of punishment against the fallen Christian
"_Q_. How were these 'instruments' or messengers called?
"_A_. Inspired or new prophets. They were living trumpets of God,
which shook the whole of Christendom, and awakened many out of their
sleep of security."
* * * * *
"_Q_. What is the word of inspiration?
"_A_. It is the prophetic word of the New Testament, or the Spirit
of prophecy in the new dispensation.
"_Q_. What properties and marks of divine origin has this
"_A_. It is accompanied by a divine power, and reveals the secrets
of the heart and conscience in a way which only the all-knowing and
soul-penetrating Spirit of Jesus has power to do; it opens the ways of
love and grace, of the holiness and justice of God; and these
revelations and declarations are in their proper time accurately
"_Q_. Through whom is the Spirit thus poured out?
"_A_. Through the vessels of grace, or 'instruments' chosen and
fitted by the Lord.
"_Q_. How must these 'instruments' be constituted?
"_A_. They must conform themselves in humility and child-like
obedience to all the motions and directions of God within them; without
care for self or fear of men, they must walk in the fear of God, and with
attentive watchfulness for the inner signs of his leading; and they must
subject themselves in every way to the discipline of the Spirit."
Concerning the Constitution of the Inspiration Congregations or
communities, the same Catechism asserts that it "is founded upon the
divine revelation in the Old and New Testament, connected with the
divine directions, instructions, and determinations, general and
special, given through the words of the true inspiration."
"_Question_. Through or by whom are the divine ordinances carried
out in the congregations?
"_Answer_. By the elders and leaders, who have been chosen and
nominated to this purpose by God.
"_Q_. What are their duties?
"_A_. Every leader or elder of the congregation is in duty bound, by
reason of his divine call, to advance, in the measure of the grace and
power given him, the spiritual and temporal welfare of the congregation;
but in important and difficult circumstances the Spirit of prophecy will
give the right and correct decision.
"_Q_. Is the divine authority to bind and loose, entrusted,
according to Matt, xvi., 19, to the apostle Peter, also given to the
elders of the Inspiration Congregations?
"_A_. It belongs to all elders and teachers of the congregation of
the faithful, who were called by the Lord Jesus through the power of his
Holy Spirit, and who, by the authority of their divine call, and of the
divine power within them, rule without abuse the congregations or flocks
entrusted to them.
"_Q_. What are the duties of the members of the Inspiration
"_A_. A pure and upright walk in the fear of God; heartfelt love and
devotion toward their brethren, and childlike obedience toward God and
These are the chief articles of faith of the Amana Community.
They regard the utterances, while in the trance state, of their
spiritual head as given from God; and believe--as is asserted in the
Catechism--that evils and wrongs in the congregation will be thus
revealed by the influence, or, as they say, the inspiration or breath of
God; that in important affairs they will thus receive the divine
direction; and that it is their duty to obey the commands thus delivered
There were "inspired instruments" before Christian Metz. Indeed, the
present "instrument," Barbara Landmann, was accepted before him, but by
reason of her marriage fell from grace for a while. It would seem that
Metz also was married; for I was told at Amana that at his death in
1867, at the age of sixty-seven, he left a daughter in the community.
The words of "inspiration" are usually delivered in the public meetings,
and at funerals and other solemn occasions. They have always been
carefully written down by persons specially appointed to that office;
and this appears to have been done so long ago as 1719, when "Brother
John Frederick Rock" made his journey through Constance, Schaffhausen,
Zurich, etc., with "Brother J. J. Schulthes as writer, who wrote down
every thing correctly, from day to day, and in weal or woe."
When the "instrument" "falls into inspiration," he is often severely
shaken--Metz, they say, sometimes shook for an hour--and thereupon follow
the utterances which are believed to proceed from God. The "instrument"
sits or kneels, or walks about among the congregation. "Brother Metz
used to walk about in the meeting with his eyes closed; but he always
knew to whom he was speaking, or where to turn with words of reproof,
admonition, or encouragement"--so I was told.
The "inspired" words are not always addressed to the general
congregation, but often to individual members; and their feelings are
not spared. Thus in one case Barbara Landmann, being "inspired," turned
upon a sister with the words, "But you, wretched creature, follow the
true counsel of obedience;" and to another: "And you, contrary spirit,
how much pain do you give to our hearts. You will fall into everlasting
pain, torture, and unrest if you do not break your will and repent, so
that you may be accepted and forgiven by those you have offended, and
who have done so much for you."
The warnings, prophecies, reproofs, and admonitions, thus delivered by
the "inspired instrument," are all, as I have said, carefully written
down, and in convenient time printed in yearly volumes, entitled
"Year-Books of the True Inspiration Congregations: Witnesses of the
Spirit of God, which happened and were spoken in the Meetings of the
Society, through the Instruments, Brother Christian Metz and Sister B.
Landmann," with the year in which they were delivered. In this country
they early established a printing-press at Eben-Ezer, and after their
removal also in Iowa, and have issued a considerable number of volumes
of these records. They are read as of equal authority and almost equal
importance with the Bible. Every family possesses some volumes; and in
their meetings extracts are read aloud after the reading of the
There is commonly a brief preface to each revelation, recounting the
circumstances under which it was delivered; as for instance:
"No. 10. _Lower Eben-Ezer_, November 7, 1853.--Monday morning the
examination of the congregation was made here according to the command
of the Lord. For the opening service five verses were sung of the hymn,
'Lord, give thyself to me;' the remainder of the hymn was read. After
the prayer, and a brief silence, Sister Barbara Landmann fell into
inspiration, and was forced to bear witness in the following gracious
and impressive revival words of love."
The phrase varies with the contents of the message, as, on another
occasion, it is written that "both 'instruments' fell into inspiration,
and there followed this earnest admonition to repentance, and words of
warning;" or, again, the words are described as "important," or
"severe," or "gentle and gracious and hope inspiring."
During his wanderings in Germany among the congregations, Metz appears
to have fallen into inspiration almost daily, not only in meetings, but
during conversations, and even occasionally at dinner--whereupon the
dinner waited. Thus it is recorded that "at the Rehmuehle, near Hambach,
June 1, 1839--this afternoon the traveling brethren with Brother Peter
came hither and visited friend Matthias Bieber. After conversation, as
they were about to sit down to eat something, Brother Christian Metz
fell into inspiration, and delivered the following words to his friend,
and Brother Philip Peter."
The inspired utterances are for the most part admonitory to a holier
life; warnings, often in the severest language, against selfishness,
stubbornness, coldness of heart, pride, hatred toward God, grieving the
Spirit; with threats of the wrath of God, of punishment, etc. Humility
and obedience are continually inculcated. "Lukewarmness" appears to be
one of the prevailing sins of the community. It is needless to say that
to a stranger these homilies are dull reading. Concerning violations of
the Ten Commandments or of the moral law, I have not found any mention
here; and I do not doubt that the members of the society live, on the
whole, uncommonly blameless lives. I asked, for instance, what
punishment their rules provided for drunkenness, but was told that this
vice is not found among them; though, as at Economy and in other German
communities, they habitually use both wine and beer.
When any member offends against the rules or order of life of the
society, he is admonished (_ermahnt_) by the elders; and if he does
not amend his ways, expulsion follows; and here as elsewhere in the
communities I have visited, they seem vigilantly to purge the society of
The following twenty-one "Rules for Daily Life," printed in one of their
collections, and written by one of their older leaders, E. L. Gruber,
give, I think, a tolerably accurate notion of their views of the conduct
"I. To obey, without reasoning, God, and through God our superiors.
"II. To study quiet, or serenity, within and without.
"III. Within, to rule and master your thoughts.
"IV. Without, to avoid all unnecessary words, and still to study silence
"V. To abandon self, with all its desires, knowledge, and power.
"VI. Do not criticize others, either for good or evil, neither to judge
nor to imitate them; therefore contain yourself, remain at home, in the
house and in your heart.
"VII. Do not disturb your serenity or peace of mind--hence neither desire
"VIII. Live in love and pity toward your neighbor, and indulge neither
anger nor impatience in your spirit.
"IX. Be honest, sincere, and avoid all deceit and even secretiveness.
"X. Count every word, thought, and work as done in the immediate
presence of God, in sleeping and waking, eating, drinking, etc., and
give him at once an account of it, to see if all is done in his fear and
"XI. Be in all things sober, without levity or laughter; and without
vain and idle words, works, or thoughts; much less heedless or idle.
"XII. Never think or speak of God without the deepest reverence, fear,
and love, and therefore deal reverently with all spiritual things.
"XIII. Bear all inner and outward sufferings in silence, complaining
only to God; and accept all from him in deepest reverence and obedience.
"XIV. Notice carefully all that God permits to happen to you in your
inner and outward life, in order that you may not fail to comprehend his
will and to be led by it.
"XV. Have nothing to do with unholy, and particularly with needless
"XVI. Have no intercourse with worldly-minded men; never seek their
society; speak little with them, and never without need; and then not
without fear and trembling.
"XVII. Therefore, what you have to do with such men, do in haste; do not
waste time in public places and worldly society, that you be not tempted
and led away.
"XVIII. Fly from the society of women-kind as much as possible, as a
very highly dangerous magnet and magical fire.
"XIX. Avoid obeisance and the fear of men; these are dangerous ways.
"XX. Dinners, weddings, feasts, avoid entirely; at the best there is
"XXI. Constantly practice abstinence and temperance, so that you may be
as wakeful after eating as before."
These rules may, I suppose, be regarded as the ideal standard toward
which a pious Inspirationist looks and works. Is it not remarkable that
they should have originated and found their chief adherents among
peasants and poor weavers?
Their usual religious meetings are held on Wednesday, Saturday, and
Sunday mornings, and every evening. On Saturday, all the people of a
village assemble together in the church or meeting-house; on other days
they meet in smaller rooms, and by classes or orders.
The society consists of three of these orders--the highest, the middle,
and the lower, or children's order. In the latter fall naturally the
youth of both sexes, but also those older and married persons whose
religions life and experience are not deep enough to make them worthy of
membership in the higher orders.
The evening meeting opens a little after seven o'clock. It is held in a
large room specially maintained for this purpose. I accompanied one of
the brethren, by permission, to these meetings during my stay at Amana.
I found a large, low-ceiled room, dimly lighted by a single lamp placed
on a small table at the head of the room, and comfortably warmed with
stoves. Benches without backs were placed on each side of this chamber;
the floor was bare, but clean; and hither entered, singly, or by twos or
threes, the members, male and female, each going to the proper place
without noise. The men sat on one side, the women on the other. At the
table sat an elderly man, of intelligent face and a look of some
authority. Near him were two or three others.
When all had entered and were seated, the old man at the table gave out
a hymn, reading out one line at a time; and after two verses were sung
in this way, he read the remaining ones. Then, after a moment of
decorous and not unimpressive silent meditation, all at a signal rose
and kneeled down at their places. Hereupon the presiding officer uttered
a short prayer in verse, and after him each man in his turn, beginning
with the elders, uttered a similar verse of prayer, usually four, and
sometimes six lines long. When all the men and boys had thus prayed--and
their little verses were very pleasant to listen to, the effect being of
childlike simplicity--the presiding elder closed with a brief extemporary
prayer, whereupon all arose.
Then he read some verses from one of their inspired books, admonishing
to a good life; and also a brief homily from one of Christian Metz's
inspired utterances. Thereupon all arose, and stood in their places in
silence for a moment; and then, in perfect order and silence, and with a
kind of military precision, benchful after benchful of people walked
softly out of the room. The women departed first; and each went home, I
judge, without delay or tarrying in the hall, for when I got out the
hall was already empty.
The next night the women prayed instead of the men, the presiding
officer conducting the meeting as before. I noticed that the boys and
younger men had their places on the front seats; and the whole meeting
was conducted with the utmost reverence and decorum.
On Wednesday and Sunday mornings the different orders meet at the same
hour, each in its proper assembly-room. These are larger than those
devoted to the evening meetings. The Wednesday-morning meeting began at
half-past seven, and lasted until nine. There was, as in the evening
meetings, a very plain deal table at the head, and benches, this time
with backs, were ranged in order, the sexes sitting by themselves as
before; each person coming in with a ponderous hymn-book, and a Bible in
a case. The meeting opened with the singing of six verses of a hymn, the
leader reading the remaining verses. Many of their hymns have from ten
to fourteen verses. Next he read some passages from one of the
inspirational utterances of Metz; after which followed prayer, each man,
as in the evening meetings, repeating a little supplicatory verse. The
women did not join in this exercise.
Then the congregation got out their Bibles, the leader gave out the
fifth chapter of Ephesians, and each man read a verse in his turn; then
followed a psalm; and the women read those verses which remained after
all the men had read. After this the leader read some further passages
from Metz. After the reading of the New Testament chapter and the psalm,
three of the leaders, who sat near the table at the head of the room,
briefly spoke upon the necessity of living according to the words of
God, doing good works and avoiding evil. Their exhortations were very
simple, and without any attempt at eloquence, in a conversational tone.
Finally another hymn was sung; the leader pronounced a blessing, and we
all returned home, the men and women going about the duties of the day.
On Saturday morning the general meeting is held in the church. The
congregation being then more numerous, the brethren do not all pray, but
only the elders; as in the other meetings, a chapter from the New
Testament is read and commented upon by the elders; also passages are
read from the inspired utterances of Metz or some other of their
prophets; and at this time, too, the "instrument," if moved, falls into
a trance, and delivers the will of the Holy Spirit.
They keep New-Year's as a holiday, and Christmas, Easter, and the
Holy-week are their great religions festivals. Christmas is a three
days' celebration, when they make a feast in the church; there are no
Christmas-trees for the children, but they receive small gifts. Most of
the feast days are kept double--that is to say, during two days. During
the Passion-week they have a general meeting in the church every day at
noon, and on each day the chapter appropriate to it is read, and
followed by prayer and appropriate hymns. The week ends, of course, on
Sunday with the ascension; but on Easter Monday, which is also kept, the
children receive colored eggs.
At least once in every year there is a general and minute
"Untersuchung," or inquisition of the whole community, including even
the children--an examination of its spiritual condition. This is done by
classes or orders, beginning with the elders themselves: and I judge
from the relations of this ceremony in their printed books that it lasts
long, and is intended to be very thorough. Each member is expected to
make confession of his sins, faults, and shortcomings; and if any thing
is hidden, they believe that it will be brought to light by the inspired
person, who assumes on this occasion an important part, admonishing
individuals very freely, and denouncing the sins and evils which exist
in the congregation. At this time, too, any disputes which may have
occurred are brought up and healed, and an effort is made to revive
religious fervor in the hearts of all.
[Illustration: CHURCH AT AMANA]
[Illustration: INTERIOR VIEW OF CHURCH]
[Illustration: PLAN OF THE INSPIRATIONIST VILLAGES]
Not unfrequently the examination of a class is adjourned from day to
day, because they are found to be cold and unimpressible; and I notice
that on these occasions the young people in particular are a cause of
much grief and trouble on account of their perverse hardness of heart.
The celebration of the Lord's Supper is their greatest religious event.
It is held only when the "inspired instrument" directs it, which may not
happen once in two years; and it is thought so solemn and important an
occasion that a full account of it is sometimes printed in a book. I
have one such volume: "_Das Liebes- und Gedaechtniszmahl des Leidens und
Sterbens unsers Herrn und Heilandes Jesu Christi, wie solches von dem
Herrn durch Sein Wort und zeugnisz angekuendigt, angeordnet und gehalten
warden, in Vier Abtheilungen, zu Mittel und Nieder Eben-Ezer, im Jahr_
1855" ("The Supper of Love and Remembrance of the suffering and death of
our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ: How it was announced, ordered, and
held by his word and witness, in four parts, in Middle and Lower
Eben-Ezer, in the year 1855"). It is a neatly printed volume of 284
The account begins with the announcement of the Lord's command: "Middle
Eben-Ezer, April 21st, 1855, Saturday, in the general meeting, in the
beginning, when the congregation was assembled, came the following
gracious word and determination of the Lord, through Brother Chr. Metz."
Thereupon, after some words of preface, the "instrument" kneeled down,
the congregation also kneeling, and said: "I am commanded humbly to
reveal, according to the sacred and loving conclusion, that you are to
celebrate the supper of love and remembrance in the presence of your
God. The beginning and the course of it shall be as before. There will
be on this occasion humiliations and revelations, if in any the true
Worker of righteousness and repentance has not been allowed to do his
work. The Lord will make a representation of the lack of his
understanding in many of you; his great love will come to light, and
will light up every one." After more of this kind of address, the
"instrument" said: "You are to begin the Lord's Supper on Ascension-day,
make ready then all your hearts, clean out all filth, all that is rotten
and stinks, all sins and every thing idle and useless; and cherish pious
thoughts, so that you shall put down the flesh, as you are commanded
to," and so on.
On a following Sunday, the "instrument" recurred to the subject, and in
the course of his remarks reproved one of the elders for disobedience to
the Lord and resistance to grace, and displaced him in the assembly,
calling another by name to his place. At the close, he spoke thus,
evidently in the name and with the voice of God: "And I leave it to you,
my servants, to take out of the middle order here and there some into
the first, and out of the third into the second, but not according to
favor and prejudice, but according to their grace and conduct, of which
you are to take notice."
A day was given to admonitions and preparation; the "instrument"
speaking not only to the congregation in general, in the morning and
afternoon meetings, but to a great many in particular--admonishing,
exhorting, blaming, encouraging them by name. The next morning there was
a renewal of such hortatory remarks, with singing and prayer; and in the
afternoon, all being prepared, the elders washed the feet of the
brethren. This is done only in the higher orders.
Thereupon tables are brought in, and bread and wine are placed. After
singing, the "inspired" person blesses these, and they are then received
by the brethren and sisters from the hands of the elders, who pronounce
the customary words of Scripture.
This being accomplished, the assembly temporarily adjourns, and persons
previously appointed for this office spread on the tables a modest
supper of bread and cake, coffee, chocolate, and a few other articles of
food, and to this all sit down with solemn joy. At the conclusion of
this meal, a hymn is sung, and the assembly retire to their homes.
When the three regular orders have gone through this celebration, there
is a fourth, consisting of children under sixteen years, and of certain
adult members who for various reasons have been thought unworthy to
partake with the rest; and these also go through a thorough examination.
I asked one of their leading elders whether they believed in a
"prayer-cure," explaining what the Oneida communists understand by this
phrase. He replied, "No, we do not use prayer in this way, to cure
disease. But it is possible. But if God has determined death, ten
doctors cannot help a man."
The present inspired instrument being very aged, I asked whether another
was ready to take her place. They said No, no one had yet appeared; but
they had no doubt God would call some one to the necessary office. They
were willing to trust him, and gave themselves no trouble about it.
It remains to speak of their literature.
They have a somewhat ponderous hymnology, in two great volumes, one
called "The Voice from Zion: to the Praise of the Almighty," by "John
William Petersen (A.D. 1698)," printed at Eben-Ezer, N. Y., in 1851, and
containing 958 pages. The hymns are called Psalms, and are not in rhyme.
They are to be sung in a kind of chant, as I judge from the music
prefixed to them; and are a kind of commentary on the Scripture, one
part being taken up with the book of Revelation.
The other volume is the hymn-book in regular use. It contains 1285
pages, of which 111 are music--airs to which the different hymns may
be sung. The copy I have is of the third edition, and bears the
imprint, "Amana, Iowa, 1871." Its title is "Psalms after the manner of
David, for the children of Zion." It has one peculiarity which might
with advantage be introduced in other hymn-books. Occasional verses
are marked with a *, and it is recommended to the reader that these be
taught to the children as little prayers. In practice, I found that in
their evening meetings the grown persons as well as the children
recited these simple and devotional little verses as their prayers:
surely a more satisfactory delivery to them and the congregation than
rude and halting attempts at extemporary utterance.
Many of the hymns are very long, having from twelve to twenty-four
verses; and it is usual at their meetings to sing three or four verses
and then read the remainder. They do not sing well; and their
tunes--those at least which I heard--are slow, and apparently in a style
of music now disused in our churches. The hymns are printed as prose,
only the verses being separated. I was told that they were "all given by
the Spirit of God," and that Christian Metz had a great gift of
hymn-writing, very often, at home or elsewhere, writing down an entire
hymn at one sitting. They are all deeply devotional in spirit, and have
not infrequently the merit of great simplicity and a pleasing quaintness
of expression, of which I think the German language is more capable than
our ruder and more stubborn English.
Their writers are greatly given to rhyming. Even in the inspirational
utterances I find frequently short admonitory paragraphs where rude
rhymes are introduced. Among their books is one, very singular, called
"Innocent Amusement" ("_Unschuldiges Zeitvertreib_"), in a number of
volumes (I saw the fifth). It is a collection of verses, making pious
applications of many odd subjects. Among the headings I found Cooking,
Rain, Milk, The Ocean, Temperance, Salve, Dinner, A Mast, Fog, A Net,
Pitch, A Rainbow, A Kitchen, etc., etc. It is a mass of pious doggerel,
founded on Scripture and with fanciful additions.
Another is called "Jesus's ABC, for his scholars," and is also in rhyme.
Another is entitled "Rhymes on the sufferings, death, burial, and
resurrection of Christ." There are about twelve hundred pages of the ABC
They have printed also a miniature Thomas a Kempis, "for the edification
of children;" two catechisms; a little work entitled "Treasure for those
who desire God," and other works of similar character. A list, not
complete, but containing all the books I have been able to collect, will
be found in the Bibliography at the end of this volume.
At the end of the Catechism are some pages of rules for the conduct of
children, at home, in church, at school, during play hours, at meals,
and in all the relations of their lives. Many of these rules are
excellent, and the whole of them might well be added to the children's
catechisms in use in the churches. Piety, orderly habits, obedience,
politeness, cleanliness, kindness to others, truthfulness, cheerfulness,
etc., are all inculcated in considerable detail, with great plainness of
speech, and in sixty-six short paragraphs, easily comprehended by the
youngest children. The fifty-fourth rule shows the care with which they
guard the intercourse of the sexes: "Have no pleasure in violent games
or plays; do not wait on the road to look at quarrels or fights; do not
keep company with bad children, for there you will learn only
wickedness. Also, _do not play with children of the other sex_."
THE HARMONY SOCIETY,
THE HARMONY SOCIETY.
I.--ECONOMY IN 1874.
Traveling from Cleveland to Pittsburgh by rail, you strike the Ohio
River at Wellsville; and the railroad runs thence, for forty-eight
miles, to Pittsburgh, along the river bank, and through the edge of a
country rich in coal, oil, potters' clay, limestone, and iron, and
supporting a number of important manufactures.
To a traveler in search of the Rappist or Harmony settlement at Economy,
the names of the towns along here seem to tell of the overshadowing
influence of these communists; for, passing Liverpool, you come to
Freedom, Jethro (whose houses are both heated and lighted with gas from
a natural spring near by), Industry, and Beaver; you smile at the sign
of the "Golden Rule Distillery;" and you wonder at the broken fences,
unpainted houses, and tangled and weed-covered grounds, and that general
air of dilapidation which curses a country producing petroleum and
Presently, however, you strike into what is evidently a large and
well-kept estate: high and solid fences; fields without weeds, and with
clean culture or smooth and rich grass; and if you ask the conductor, he
will tell you that for some miles here the land is owned by the
"Economites;" and that the town or village of Economy lies among these
neatly kept fields, but out of sight of the railroad on the top of the
Economy has, in truth, one of the loveliest situations on the Ohio
River. It stands in the midst of a rich plain, with swelling hills
behind, protecting it from cold winds in winter; a magnificent reach of
the river in view below; and tall hills on the opposite shore to give a
picturesque outlook. The town begins on the edge of the bluff; and under
the shade-trees planted there benches are arranged, where doubtless the
Harmonists take their comfort on summer evenings, in view of the river
below them and of the village on the opposite shore. Streets proceed at
right-angles with the river's course; and each street is lined with neat
frame or brick houses, surrounding a square in such a manner that within
each household has a sufficient garden. The broad streets have neat
foot-pavements of brick; the houses, substantially built but
unpretentious, are beautified by a singular arrangement of grape-vines,
which are trained to espaliers fixed to cover the space between the top
of the lower and the bottom of the upper windows. This manner of
training vines gives the town quite a peculiar look, as though the
houses had been crowned with green.
As you walk through the silent streets, and pass the large Assembly
Hall, the church, and the hotel, it will occur to you that these people
had, when they founded their place, the advantage of a sensible
architect, for, while there is not the least pretense, all the building
is singularly solid and honest; and in the larger houses the roof-lines
have been broken and managed with considerable skill, so as to produce a
very pleasing and satisfactory effect. Moreover, the color of the bricks
used in building has chanced to be deep and good, which is no slight
advantage to the place.
Neatness and a Sunday quiet are the prevailing characteristics of
Economy. Once it was a busy place, for it had cotton, silk, and woolen
factories, a brewery, and other industries; but the most important of
these have now ceased; and as you walk along the quiet, shady streets,
you meet only occasionally some stout, little old man, in a short
light-blue jacket and a tall and very broad-brimmed hat, looking
amazingly like Hendrick Hudson's men in the play of Rip Van Winkle; or
some comfortable-looking dame, in Norman cap and stuff gown; whose
polite "good-day" to you, in German or English as it may happen, is not
unmixed with surprise at sight of a strange face; for, as you will
presently discover at the hotel, visitors are not nowadays frequent in
[Illustration: ASSEMBLY HALL--ECONOMY]
[Illustration: CHURCH AT ECONOMY]
The hotel is one of the largest houses in the place; it is of two
stories, with spacious bed-chambers, high ceilings, roomy fire-places,
large halls, and a really fine dining-room, all scrupulously clean. It
was once, before the days of railroads, a favorite stopping-place on one
of the main stage routes out of Pittsburgh; in the well-built stable and
barns opposite there was room for twenty or thirty horses; the
dining-room would seat a hundred people; and here during many years was
a favorite winter as well as summer resort for Pittsburghers, and an
important source of income to the Economists.
When I for the first time entered the sitting-room on a chilly December
morning, the venerable but active landlord was dusting chairs and
tables, and looked up in some amazement at the intrusion of a traveler.
"I can stay here, I suppose," said I, by way of introduction; and was
answered: "That depends upon how long you want to stay. We don't take
people to board here." My assurance that I meant to remain but two or
three days, and that I had been recommended by Mr. Henrici, the head of
the society, secured me a room; and the warning, as I went out for a
walk, that I must be in by half-past eleven, promptly, to dine; and by
half-past four for supper, because other people had to eat after me, and
ought not to be kept waiting by reason of my carelessness. "For which
reason," added the landlord, "it would be well for you to come in and be
at hand a quarter of an hour before the times I have mentioned." When I
had dined and supped and slept, I saw what a loss to Pittsburghers was
the closing of the Economy hotel; for the Harmonists live well, and are
substantial eaters in their German fashion. Nor was any ceremony omitted
because of the fewness of guests; and old Joseph, the butler and
head-waiter, who, as he told me, came to serve here fifty years ago, and
is now seventy-eight years old, attended upon my meals arrayed in a
scrupulously white apron, ordered the lass who was his subordinate, and
occasionally condescended to laugh at my jokes, as befitted his place,
with as much precision and dignity as when, thirty or forty years ago,
he used to serve a houseful of hungry travelers.
Later in the afternoon I discovered the meaning of my landlord's
warnings as to punctuality, as well as the real use of the "Economy
Hotel." As I sat before the fire in my own room after supper, I heard
the door-bell ring with a frequency as though an uncommon number of
travelers were applying for lodgings; and going down into the
sitting-room about seven o'clock, I discovered there an extraordinary
collection of persons ranged around the fire, and toasting their more or
less dilapidated boots. These were men in all degrees of raggedness; men
with one eye, or lame, or crippled--tramps, in fact, beggars for supper
and a night's lodging. They sat there to the number of twenty, half
naked many of them, and not a bit ashamed; with carpet-bags or without;
with clean or dirty faces and clothes as it might happen; but all
hungry, as I presently saw, when a table was drawn out, about which they
gathered, giving their names to be taken down on a register, while to
them came a Harmonist brother with a huge tray full of tins filled with
coffee, and another with a still bigger tray of bread.
Thereupon these wanderers fell to, and having eaten as much bread and
coffee as they could hold, they were consigned to a house a few doors
away, peeping in at whose windows by and by, I saw a large, cheerful
coal fire, and beds for the whole company. "You see, after you have
eaten, the table must be cleared, and then _we_ eat; and then come
these people, who have also to be fed, so that, unless we hurry, the
women are belated with their work," explained the landlord of this
curious inn to me.
"Is this, then, a constant occurrence?" I asked in some amazement; and
was told that they feed here daily from fifteen to twenty-five such
tramps, asking no questions, except that the person shall not have been
a regular beggar from the society. A constant provision of coffee and
bread is made for them, and the house set apart for their lodging has
bed accommodations for twenty men. They are expected to wash at the
stable next morning, and thereupon receive a breakfast of bread, meat,
and coffee, and are suffered to go on their way. Occasionally the very
destitute, if they seem to be deserving, receive also clothing.
"But are you not often imposed upon?" I asked.
"Yes, probably; but it is better to give to a dozen worthless ones than
to refuse one deserving man the cup and loaf which we give," was the
The tramps themselves took this benevolence apparently as a matter of
course. They were quiet enough; some of them looked like decent men out
of work, as indeed all professed to be going somewhere in search of
employment. But many of them had the air of confirmed loafers, and some
I should not have liked to meet alone on the road after dark.
Economy is the home of the "Harmony Society," better known to the
outside world as the followers of Rapp. It is a town of about one
hundred and twenty houses, very regularly built, well-drained, and
paved; it has water led from a reservoir in the hills, and flowing into
troughs conveniently placed in every street; abundant shade-trees; a
church, an assembly hall, a store which supplies also to some extent the
neighboring country; different factories, and a number of conveniences
which villages of its size are too often without. Moreover, it contains
a pleasant pleasure-garden, and is surrounded by fine, productive
orchards and by well-tilled fields.
At present Economy is inhabited by all that remain of the society which
was founded by George Rapp in 1805. These number one hundred and ten
persons, most of whom are aged, and none, I think, under forty. Besides
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