Architecture, Artifacts, and Arts in the Harmony Society of George Rapp. The Material Culture of a Nineteenth Century American Utopian Community

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While much has been written about the relationship between Shaker furniture and Shaker beliefs, little has been written about other communal groups whose philosophy differed from that of the Shakers. The Harmony Society’s evolving interactions with the outside world in both economic and artistic areas were reflected in its material culture. This study shows that the Harmonists adapted to changing conditions and created villages that met the social, cultural, educational and religious needs if its members. This book contains thirty black and white photographs and eleven color photographs.


“Paul Douglas’s book addresses this material culture vacuum left by such previous works. His research, begun in the 1960s, is presented here as the first effort designed exclusively to explain the nature and significance of Harmonist town planning, architecture, furniture, and cultural interest in the arts. It puts the Harmony Society story in the context of cultural and communal history. It gives readers a graphic, illustrated description of the architectural styles and features that influenced Harmonist leaders. It also provides a comparative analysis with the material culture of other major historic communal groups. In addition to the Shakers, these groups include the Seventh-day Baptists of Ephrata, Pennsylvania; Separatists of Zoar, Ohio; Perfectionists of Oneida, New York; Inspirationists of Amana, Iowa; Janssonists of Bishop Hill, Illinois; and the communities of the secular Owenites and Fourierists.
Douglas convincingly argues that Harmonist leaders had to keep their communal villages progressive and experimental to insure that members not be lured away by the worldly attractions of American society. One way was to shed gradually the medieval architectural influence of their German past and to embrace the Renaissance style with its Classical elements as well as certain Georgian designs. This placed the Harmony Society architecturally midway between the medieval structures of the Ephrata Cloister and the futuristic towns planned by Robert Owen and Charles Fourier.” - Prof. Donald Pitzer, University of Southern Indiana

"The Harmonist story is so well documented, and Douglas has opened a new vista on the complexity of their culture, a lifelstyle that has encouraged the arts, education, and other educational opportunities." - Patrick Harris, Curator, Old Aurora Colony Museum


Table of Contents

List of Illustrations
Foreword by Donald Pitzer
1. The Harmony Society: An Historical Survey
2. The Town Planning of the Harmony Society
3. Harmonist Buildings Illustrations
4. Harmonist Furniture
5. Arts and Artifacts
6. Reflections on the Material Culture
Appendix – Periodicals Subscribed to by the Harmonists

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