History of the Weird Utopia Roadtown Part 2

About the history of the weird utopia Roadtown designed by Edgar Chambless a strange train-like community.


The two-story houses would be built of fire-proof, verminproof poured concrete, by means of a process invented by Edison and donated to Roadtown. Living quarters on the second floor would have: a buzzer which, when "on," would announce approaching trains; thermostats (then "in general use in thousands of first-class hotels") to control centrally supplied hot-water heat; cool-water or brine air-conditioning; pure drinking water piped separately from that used for bathing; a shower in each bedroom; a vacuum cleaner hookup to central suction; disinfecting gas; electric lights and power; a telephone; a Dictograph and/or telegraphone (ideas foreshadowing radio) to bring music, sermons, and lectures into the home; and bedding that aired in a closet during the day, and swung out and onto the bed at night. All this would free women, who, Chambless felt, were being brainwashed into becoming household servants by society's reverence for the "homely virtues," by the association of the "scouring of a brass kettle with the instinct of motherhood," and by the "enshrining of the dishrag and broom."

Cooking would be done in cooperative kitchens and shipped into the home on order through the ever-ready transportation system below; at the end of the meal, dishes and linen could be put into a paraffined carrier and dropped down a chute for delivery to a large, machine-equipped dishwashing establishment.

The street-level workroom (convertible to sun parlor, "palm garden," playroom, or living room) could serve as a place for renters to ply their trades--the making of clothing, artificial flowers, and other light manufactures. Raw materials could be bought and the finished product sold through cooperatives, though each individual would have the option of selling his products on his own. Machinery would be rented from the Roadtown corporation at a cost just high enough to cover maintenance and eventual replacement. Finished products might be dropped through a trapdoor onto a slow pickup car on a track below. This system would enable people to switch jobs (the husband could work while the wife gardened, then the wife work while the husband gardened) and to schedule their own working hours.

Work that could not conveniently be done in these small workrooms might be performed in cooperative factories, also located in Roadtown, under a system whereby everything would be organized and decided by the workers--election of foremen, division of profits among individuals, and buying and selling (probably through a central agency). Said Chambless: "... it will sift out the indolent and place them at the bottom of the scale of life's good things ... it will abolish machine-men, factory and sweat shops, and child labor and woman's economic dependence on man that makes her a sexual slave...." (Chambless often sounds to the modern ear like an improbable mix of right-winger and radical.)

If they wanted to, nearby farmers could live in Roadtown. Fields and farm buildings would border Roadtown in a narrow strip only a couple of miles wide--with vegetable gardens close in, orchards and dairy barns further out, and forests on the outer edge. Farm tools might be cooperatively owned. Produce would move directly into the Roadtown transportation-distribution line, eliminating many middlemen. (For example, milk could go directly to the Roadtown creamery, then to the cooperative kitchens, then to the consumer.)

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