Attempted Utopias Harmony Society Part 1

About the attempted utopia Harmony Society founded by George Rapp, history, population, economic and social structure.

Attempted Utopias


Founder: George Rapp (1757-1847). Rapp was a Lutheran minister who, after a split with church authorities in his native Germany, brought his followers to America to prepare for the 2nd coming of Christ, an event that Rapp believed to be imminent.

Where and When: Though Rapp's split with the church occurred in 1787, he did not bring his followers to America until 1804. The 1st settlement, called Harmony, was established in Butler County, Pa., and was such a success that Rapp feared his followers might grow idle. To prevent this, in 1814 he moved the settlement farther west to 24,000 acres of land near the Wabash River in Indiana.

Ten years later, Rapp decided to take his followers back to Pennsylvania. He sold Harmony to the English social reformer Robert Owen, who renamed the site "New Harmony" and used it to continue communal experiments he had begun in England. Rapp returned to Pennsylvania and began the town of Economy (now Ambridge), northwest of Pittsburgh, which flourished until the end of the century. New Harmony attracted about 900 settlers, but conflicts of class and culture quickly arose. The community, which ran through 5 constitutions within a year, split into 4 separate communities and disbanded after 2 years.

Population: 839 men, women, and children came with Rapp from the city of Wurtemberg, Germany.

Political and Social Structure: In the Harmony Society, George Rapp was thought to be the representative of God, and all power in the Society was held by Rapp, who was called Father by his followers. There remain photographs of footprints in limestone rock that Rapp claimed were the footprints of the angel Gabriel, from whom he received instructions.

Property and Distribution of Goods: Before joining the Society, members were expected to sign the Articles of Association. This charter, and the 9 subsequent, similar ones, asked all joining members to relinquish their property, real and personal, to "Father Rapp and associates" for the benefit of the community. In return, the agreement promised, Father Rapp and associates would take new members into the community and allow them to attend all religious instruction. Father Rapp also promised that he would provide all the necessities of life, "meat, drink, clothing, etc., and indeed not only during their healthful days, but also if any of them got sick or otherwise infirm and unable to work." Because Father Rapp and his followers believed the 2nd coming imminent they worked laboriously to prepare a fortune to give the Lord upon his return so that they might rule with him.

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