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The Communistic Societies of the United States, by Charles Nordhoff, [1875], at

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THE Oneida and Wallingford Communists are of American origin, and their membership is almost entirely American.

Their founder, who is still their head, John Humphrey Noyes, was born in Brattleboro, Vermont, in 1811, of respectable parentage. He graduated from Dartmouth College, began the study of the law, but turned shortly to theology; and studied first at Andover, with the intention of fitting himself to become a foreign missionary, and later in the Yale theological school. At New Haven he came under the influence of a zealous revival preacher, and during his residence there he "landed in a new experience and new views of the way of salvation, which took the name of Perfectionism."

This was in 1834. He soon returned to Putney, in Vermont, where his father's family then lived, and where his father was a banker. There he preached and printed; and in 1838 married Harriet A. Holton, the granddaughter of a member of Congress, and a convert to his doctrines.

He slowly gathered about him a small company of believers, drawn from different parts of the country, and with their help made known his new faith in various publications, with such effect that though in 1847 he had only about forty persons in his own congregation, there appear to have been small gatherings of "Perfectionists" in other states, in correspondence with Noyes, and inclined to take him as their leader.

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Originally Noyes was not a Communist, but when his thoughts turned in that direction he began to prepare his followers for communal life; in 1845 he made known to them his peculiar views of the relations of the sexes, and in 1846 the society at Putney began cautiously an experiment in communal living.

Their views, which they never concealed, excited the hostility of the people to such a degree that they were mobbed and driven out of the place; and in the spring of 1848 they joined some persons of like faith and practice at Oneida, in Madison County, New York. Here they began community life anew, on forty acres of land, on which stood an unpainted frame dwelling-house, an abandoned Indian hut, and an old Indian saw-mill. They owed for this property two thousand dollars. The place was neglected, without cultivation, and the people were so poor that for some time they had to sleep on the floor in the garret which was their principal sleeping-chamber.

The gathering at Oneida appears to have been the signal for several attempts by followers of Noyes to establish themselves in communes. In 1849 a small society was formed in Brooklyn, N.Y., to which later the printing for all the societies was entrusted. In 1850 another community was begun at Wallingford, in Connecticut. There were others, of which I find no account; but all regarded Oneida as their centre and leader; and in the course of time, and after various struggles, all were drawn into the common centre, except that at Wallingford, which still exists in a flourishing condition, having its property and other interests in common with Oneida.

The early followers of Noyes were chiefly New England farmers, the greater part of whom brought with them some means, though not in any single case a large amount. Noyes himself and several other members contributed several thousand dollars each, and a "Property Register" kept from the beginning of the community experiment showed that up to the first of January, 1857, the members of all the associated

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communes had brought in the considerable amount of one hundred and seven thousand seven hundred and six dollars. I understand, however, that this sum was not at any one time in hand, and that much of it came in several years after the settlement at Oneida in 1848; and it is certain that in the early days, while they were still seeking for some business which should be at the same time agreeable to them and profitable, they had sometimes short commons. They showed great courage and perseverance, for through all their early difficulties they maintained a printing-office and circulated a free paper.

At first they looked toward agriculture and horticulture as their main-stays for income; but they began soon to unite other trades with these. Their saw-mill sawed lumber for the neighboring farmers; they set up a blacksmith shop, and here, besides other work, they began to make traps by hand, having at first no means to buy machinery, and indeed having to invent most of that which they now use in their extensive trap shop.

Like the Shakers with their garden seeds, and all other successful communities with their products, the Perfectionists got their start by the excellence of their workmanship. Their traps attracted attention because they were more uniformly well made than others; and thus they built up a trade which has become very large. They raised small fruits, made rustic furniture, raised farm crops, sold cattle, had at one time a sloop on the Hudson; and Noyes himself labored as a blacksmith, farmer, and in many other employments.

Working thus under difficulties, they had sunk, by January, 1857, over forty thousand dollars of their capital, but had gained valuable experience in the mean time. They had concentrated all their people at Oneida and Wallingford; and had set up some machinery at the former place. In January, 1857, they took their first annual inventory, and found themselves worth a little over sixty-seven thousand dollars. Their perseverance

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had conquered fortune, for in the next ten years the net profit of the two societies amounted to one hundred and eighty thousand five hundred and eighty dollars, according to this statement:


earnings in












earnings in


$9,859 78









During this time they made traps, traveling-bags and satchels, mop-holders, and various other small articles, and put up preserved fruits in glass and tin. They began at Wallingford, in 1851, making match-boxes, and the manufacture of traveling-bags was begun in Brooklyn, and later transferred to Oneida. Trap-making was begun at Oneida in 1855; fruit-preserving in 1858, and in 1866 the silk manufacture was established.

Meantime they bought land, until they have in 1874, near Oneida, six hundred and fifty-four acres, laid out in orchards, vineyards, meadows, pasture and wood land, and including several valuable water-powers; and at Wallingford two hundred and forty acres, mainly devoted to grazing and the production of small fruits. They have erected in both places commodious and substantial dwellings and shops, and carry on at this time a number of industries, of which some account will be found further on.

The two communities, whose members are interchangeable at will and whenever necessity arises, must be counted as one. At Oneida they have founded a third, on a part of their land, called Willow Place, but this too is but an offshoot of the central family. In February, 1874, they numbered two hundred and eighty-three persons, of whom two hundred and thirty-eight were at Oneida and Willow Place, and forty-five at Wallingford. Of these one hundred and thirty-one were males,

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and one hundred and fifty-two females. Of the whole number, sixty-four were children and youth under twenty-one—thirty-three males and thirty-one females. Of the two hundred and nineteen adults, one hundred and five were over forty-five years of age—forty-four men and sixty-one women.

They employ in both places from twenty to thirty-five farm laborers, according to the season, and a number of fruit-pickers in the time of small fruits. Besides, at Oneida they employ constantly two hundred and one hired laborers, of whom one hundred and three are women, seventy-five of whom work in the silk factory; sixty-seven of the men being engaged in the trap works, foundry, and machine shops. At Wallingford the silk works give employment to thirty-five hired women and girls.

Originally, and for many years, these Communists employed no outside labor in their houses; but with increasing prosperity they have begun to hire servants and helpers in many branches. Thus at Oneida there are in the laundry two men and five women; in the kitchen three men and seven women; in the heating or furnace room two men; in the shoemaker's shop two; and in the tailor's shop two—all hired people. At Wallingford they hire three women and one man for their laundry.

These hired people are the country neighbors of the commune; and, as with the Shakers and the Harmonists, they like their employers. These pay good wages, and treat their servants kindly; looking after their physical and intellectual well-being, building houses for such of them as have families and need to be near at hand, and in many ways showing interest in their welfare.

The members of the two societies are for the most part Americans, though there are a few English and Canadians. There are among them lawyers, clergymen, merchants, physicians, teachers; but the greater part were New England farmers and mechanics. Former Congregationalists and Presbyterians

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[paragraph continues] Episcopalians, Methodists, and Baptists are among them—but no Catholics.

They have a great number of applications from persons desirous to become members. During 1873 they received over one hundred such by letter, besides a nearly equal number made in person. They are not willing now to accept new members; but I believe they are looking about for a place suitable for a new settlement, and would not be unwilling, if a number of persons with sufficient means for another colony should present themselves, to help them with teachers and guides.

In the year 1873 the Oneida Community produced and sold preserved fruits to the value of $27,417; machine and sewing silk and woven goods worth $203,784; hardware, including traps, chucks, silk-measuring machines and silk-strength testers (the last two of their own invention), gate-hinges and foundry castings, $90,447. They raised twenty-five acres of sweet corn, six acres of tomatoes, two acres of strawberries, two of raspberries; half an acre of currants, half an acre of grapes, twenty-two acres of apples, and three and a half acres of pears.

Silk-weaving has been abandoned, as not suitable to them.

At the beginning of 1874 they were worth over half a million of dollars.

From the beginning, Noyes and his followers have made great use of the press. Up to the time of their settlement at Oneida they had published "Paul not Carnal;" two series of Perfectionist; The Way of Holiness, the Berean, and The Witness. From Oneida they began at once to issue the Spiritual Magazine, and, later, the Free Church Circular, which was the beginning of their present journal, the Oneida Circular. "Bible Communism" also was published at Oneida during the first year of their settlement there. They did not aim to make money by their publications, and the Circular was from the first published on terms probably unlike

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those of any other newspaper in the world. I take from an old number, of the year 1853, the following announcement, standing at the head of the first column:

"The Circular is published by Communists, and for Communists. Its main object is to help the education of several confederated associations, who are practically devoted to the Pentecost principle of community of property. Nearly all of its readers outside of those associations are Communists in principle. It is supported almost entirely by the free contributions of this Communist constituency. A paper with such objects and such resources cannot properly be offered for sale. Freely we receive, and we freely give. Whoever wishes to read the Circular can have it WITHOUT PAYING, OR PROMISING TO PAY, by applying through the mail, or at 43 Willow Place, Brooklyn. If any one chooses to pay, he may send TWO DOLLARS for the yearly volume; but he must not require us to keep his accounts. We rely on the free gifts of the family circle for which we labor."

This paper was published on these terms, at one time semi-weekly, and at another three times a week. For some years past it has appeared weekly, printed on extremely good paper, and an admirable specimen of typography; and it has now at the head of its columns the following notice:

"The Circular is sent to all applicants, whether they pay or not. It costs and is worth at least two dollars per volume. Those who want it and ought to have it are divisible into three classes, viz.: 1, those who can not afford to pay two dollars; 2, those who can afford to pay only two dollars; and, 3, those who can afford to pay more than two dollars. The first ought to have it free; the second ought to pay the cost of it; and the third ought to pay enough more than the cost to make up the deficiencies of the first. This is the law of Communism. We have no means of enforcing it, and no wish to do so, except by stating it and leaving it to the good sense of those concerned. We take the risk of offering the Circular to all without price; but free subscriptions will be received only from persons making application for themselves, either directly or by giving express authority to those who apply for them.

"Foreign subscribers, except those residing in Canada, must remit with their subscriptions money to prepay the postage."

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They print now about two thousand copies per week, and lost last year six hundred dollars in the enterprise, without reckoning what would have had to be paid in any other work of the kind for literary labor.

A list of the works they have issued will be found, with the titles of works issued by other communistic societies, at the end of the volume.

Aside from its religious and communistic teachings, the Circular has a general interest, by reason of articles it often contains relating to natural history and natural scenery, which, from different pens, show that there are in the society some close observers of nature, who have also the ability to relate their observations and experiences in excellent English. In general, the style of the paper is uncommonly good, and shows that there is a degree of culture among the Oneida people which preserves them from the too common newspaper vice of fine English.

Their publications deal with the utmost frankness with their own religious and social theories and practices, and I suppose it may be said that they aim to keep themselves and their doctrines before the public. In this respect they differ from all the other Communistic societies now existing in this country. That they are not without a sense of humor in these efforts, the following, printed as advertisements in the Circular, will show:



TO JEWELERS.—A SINGLE PEARL OF GREAT PRICE! This inestimable Jewel may be obtained by application to Jesus Christ, at the extremely low price of "all that a man hath!"



WANTED.—Any amount of SHARES OF SECOND-COMING STOCK, bearing date A.D. 70, or thereabouts, will find a ready market and command a high premium at this office.

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SOLDIERS who claim to have "fought the fight of faith" will find it for their advantage to have their claims investigated. All who can establish said claim are entitled to a bounty land-warrant in the kingdom of Heaven, and a pension for eternity.


ROOMS TO LET in the "Many Mansions" that Christ has prepared for those that love him.


DIRECTIONS for cultivating the fruits of the Spirit may be obtained gratis, at MEEK & LOWLY'S, No. 1 Grace Court.

Practical Reflections on CHRIST'S SERMON ON THE MOUNT may be had also as above.


LEGAL NOTICE.—Notice is hereby given that all claims issued by the old firm of Moses and Law were canceled 1800 years ago. Any requirement, therefore, to observe as a means of righteousness legal enactments bearing date prior to A.D. 70, is pronounced by us, on the authority of the New Testament, a fraud and imposition.


THE EYES! THE EYES!!—It is known that many persons with two eyes habitually "see double." To prevent stumbling and worse liabilities in such circumstances, an ingenious contrivance has been invented by which the WHOLE BODY is filled with light. It is called the "SINGLE EYE," and may be obtained by applying to Jesus Christ.


WATER-CURE ESTABLISHMENT.—I will sprinkle clean water upon you, and ye shall be clean: from all your filthiness and from all your idols, will I cleanse you. A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you a heart of flesh.—Ezekiel xxxvi., 25, 26.


PATENT SIEVES.—The series of sieves for CRITICISM having been thoroughly tested, are now offered to the public for general use. They are warranted to sift the tares from the wheat, and in all cases to discriminate between good and evil. A person, after having passed through this series, comes out free from the encumbrances of egotism, pride, etc., etc. All persons are invited to test them gratuitously.


MAGNIFICENT RESTAURANT!—In Mount Zion will the Lord of hosts make unto all people a feast of fat things, a feast of wines on the lees; of fat things full of marrow, of wines on the lees well refined. And he will destroy in this mountain the face of the covering cast over all people, and the veil that is spread over all nations. He will swallow up death in victory; and the Lord God will wipe away tears from off all faces; and the rebuke of his people shall be taken away from off all the earth: for the Lord hath spoken it.—Isaiah xxv., 6-8.

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PATENT SALAMANDER SAFES.—Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal.—Matt, vi., 19, 20. This safe, having been submitted for 1800 years to the hottest fire of judgment, and having been through that time subject to constant attacks from the fiery shafts of the devil, is now offered to the public, with full confidence that it will meet with general approbation. Articles enclosed in this safe are warranted free from danger under any circumstances.


TO THE AFFLICTED!—WINE and MILK for the hungry, REST for the weary and heavy-laden, CONSOLATION and BALM for the wounded and invalids of every description—may be had gratis, on application to the storehouse of the Son of God.


The Circular contains each week extracts from journals kept in the two communities, and "Talks" by Noyes and others, with a variety of other matter relating to their belief and daily lives.

Next: II.—Religious Belief And Faith-Cures.