John Humphrey Noyes (September 4, 1811- April 13, 1886) founded the Perfectionist community, The Oneida Community (1848-1881) in the Oneida Community Mansion in Oneida, NY. I have been a big fan of Noyes and the sheer American-ness of this community which was part of the marvel of NY State's burned out zone. Wikipedia briefly sums up the overview of their views:
"The Oneida community’s utopian philosophy focused on the individual relationship to God; it was intended to be a sort of “kingdom of God on earth.” The second focus of the community was sexual morality."
This community was peopled by individuals who gave up all possessions and wealth to the community (included the treasures found in the cases around the mansion)--and gave in to the community in it's entirety. From this shared wealth came shared pleasures including their lovely house, their work in creating carpet bags (as in "Carpet baggers"), seeds, animal traps, silk thread and the most lasting, the Oneida Silversmiths. I could quote a bunch of stuff that I have read, but will leave that to you--but to mention several interesting observations. The Oneida Community did things right. They had designers on the team, and hired some of the biggest talent of the time for Community Plate Silverware (another name they marketed under). They hired Maxfield Parrish and Coles Phillips for illustration for their earlier ads. They were heavily engaged in the war effort--which also manifested itself in some great illustration work for their ads....Who would have guessed.
The Community Mansion still stands in gorgeous condition--with a few rooms available as a bed and breakfast as well as over 50 people rent apartments in their 93,000 square foot building (some being descendants of the original community members). This massive, beautifully maintained building sits perched on a huge piece of property that adjoined the former factory. Smart planning by the Community business people, set up the town of Sherrill and guaranteeing it's life independent of the group. It is a testament to a moment in time, a moment of interesting thought made real, and a group that had impact on upstate New York and truly, American culture. So worth a visit and a tour.
Without Sin: The Life and Death of the Oneida Community
From Kirkus Reviews:
"Disturbing tale of a 19th-century utopian community. Klaw (The Great American Medicine Show, 1975, etc.) wrote this with the cooperation of descendants of the Oneida Community, who granted him access to unpublished memoirs and letters. The result is a thorough if somewhat blinkered look at a daring experiment in social and biological engineering, a sort of Victorian brave new world. Oneida was the brainchild of John Humphrey Noyes, a preacher and writer who believed himself to be God's chosen instrument. Like other utopians, Noyes taught the perfectibility of the human being; more controversially, he also condemned monogamy in favor of sexual libertinism. After some false starts--including an arrest on morals charges--Noyes put his theories to the test in 1848 by establishing his own Eden in Oneida, New York. At first, the community flourished. Inventions poured out, including the stainless-steel cutlery still manufactured today; members enjoyed courses in languages and science, as well as equality in food, clothing, and shelter. But too often Noyes's activities seemed a forerunner of China's cultural revolution. Romantic love and celibacy were banned; at 13 or 14, girls lost their virginity, usually to Noyes himself in sessions known as ``interviews.'' Privacy was nonexistent, and members were subjected to scathing public criticism of their every fault. Noyes ruled as absolute dictator, wielding power by manipulating sexual privileges. His social experiments reached their nadir with ``stirpiculture,'' an attempt to produce superior human beings (with Noyes blood involved, if possible) through breeding experiments. Predictably, the community's idealism faded rapidly, and, by the 1880's, Oneida was more or less defunct.