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Displaying items by tag: Harmony Society

Thursday, 16 June 2011 02:10

The Harmony Society and their Furniture

Guided by spiritual leader George Rapp (1757–1847), a community of German Lutheran separatists, numbering some five hundred emigrants, gathered in Philadelphia and Baltimore in 1804 to trek westward. Their destination was land they had purchased about thirty-five miles north of Pittsburgh, where they intended to settle and pursue their religious lifestyle. Early the following year they contracted among themselves to form the Harmony Society headed by Rapp and “his associates,” to whom they transferred all their worldly assets and pledged obedience. In return, they were promised “all the necessaries of life…as well in sick as healthful days,”1 along with Rapp’s spiritual guidance and apocalyptic teachings. Surviving near financial ruin at the outset, the society built Harmonie (Fig. 1), the first of three settlements, and prospered. Within ten years, rising prices of land around Harmonie undermined expansion. More important, the site lacked navigable waters and adequate fall to power mills. In 1814, the Harmonists relocated to New Harmony along the Wabash River in Indiana Territory. Once more they built a thriving settlement, following their creed to provide essentials for themselves and to sell surpluses to outsiders. They manufactured textiles, produced alcoholic beverages, and made iron and tin wares, shoes and leather goods, soap, candles, and a variety of other goods for sale locally, as well as to distant stores they owned and operated, and, in the case of flour and textiles, to Nashville and New Orleans.
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