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The Oneida Utopia

2011-04-04 | 🔗

In 1848, a preacher named John Humphrey Noyse founded the Oneida community. In this episode, Deblina and Sarah recount the rise and fall of the Oneida community -- including its focus on shared labor, gender equality and free love.

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This is an unofficial transcript meant for reference. Accuracy is not guaranteed.
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listen and subscribe. Annie. I aren't radio out Apple pie cast or ever you listen to your favorite pie, guests. Welcome to stuff you missed in history class from has suffered, Stockholm welcome to the pan, carts, unfair dowdy, and I'm going to talk about it, and today we are going to talk a little bit more about free love, and hopefully that makes you keep on listening right away. But I was thinking about it as we did. A pie cast a couple weeks ago on Victoria would hall who was the first female presidential Canada, and I don't know if you want to give a quick recap of her beliefs on free love Yes, she basically didn't believe free in free, Levin, and that everyone
Should be having sex with each other, but she did believe that people should have the choice whether or not to be together so that a little bit about it. You didn't have to be stuck in a marriage. If you didn't want to be necessary, we we had her on our minds and then also I collect an article recently that Molly Edmunds wrote one of the hosts of stuff mom, never told you on Pollyanna Murray, and so it came up again and she actually than mentioned the owner community in her article, so both of those examples I'm thinking about this community, which is probably the most famous example of unites free love in american history, and it is of course we are neither com you nor Oneida. in New York state. Yet when I started researching us with you, it seemed almost too crazy to be real. I don't know- maybe I just love to sheltered a life- maybe I'm alone in this- that I don't know,
I, was a little bit about some of these things. It I found you crazy to be real and that's partly because people that made up this large victorian community shared, not only property and labour, but of course sexual partners, and they surprisingly earned boatloads of money through these really successful marketing scheme. I think that for the first lupin this in this episode, they were actually quite that's financially another essentially strange fact about them: they regarded the genders equally and they share labour, though pretty surprising, the Ladys, even war pantaloons, you can look at pictures of they have short skirts and we'll in and then maybe the strangest thing of all their eventual undoing came about when this eugenics inspired breeding Graham left the younger members, yearning for good old fat, currently love and and manner this marriage and further
You who own some fine, Oneida Silver, you might know, goes from there. The commune doesnt last forever. Much like a lot of other communes even though that are often considered to be the most successful in american history like a night. So who is behind this night, a community in the first place this guy John Humphrey Noise in it doesn't look like noises, and why he asked and if you want to look up the sky a little more, but the other the commune and the ideas behind it came from his ideas and preaching and here born and eighteen eleven environments. He was a wealthy kid. He went to Dartmouth and then to law school. seem to be on the right track to being a well off New England lawyer until tens, a revival of evangelist Charles Vinnie in eighteen, thirty one and at that point he decides to become a minister instead. So Then career change.
but even then he seems like he was possibly on the track to becoming just a well off New England Minister. Instead of a lawyer, he went and ever theological seminary from there he transferred to Yale. But after that, his ideas started. To get credit, out there indefinitely to out there Yale he believed in something called perfectionism, which was the idea that, after conversion, we are free from fear which obviously that idea didn't think very well with the Calvinists faculty at Yale and they denied his. nation? Yes, to give you a little back on the police that he had. They extend from the central idea of protectionism and there controversial he for one thing: thanks can coming, has come and gone already. In fact eating to be one with God? You could do it here on earth as well, but to do so, you had to leave that man didn't have to wait for Heaven to be one with God. You could do it here on earth as well, but today
so you had to leave the world and live according to the laws of Heaven, like maybe an economy and run by noise cells likely he gets kicked out of veal and he starts meaning with other perfection ass, learning the drill talking to people going on the circuit and he decides well, I'm gonna start my one group, Pierre any organizes the Bible communists in putting in eighteen, thirty, six and preachers love. army to the man. It's interesting to thirty get a look at what type of bored joining this group, the Bible communist. They were mostly small town folks. They came from all sorts of occupation, something that proved useful down the line You know, maybe if it had stayed at this level, it would have been pretty under the raid argue, a religious group to radical for gale, but not the radical,
it doesn't fit in some way with all of the revival of sweeping the United States. At this time, then, noise shake things up a little better. Yeah, he doesn't just keep it at that level. Just a year after starting that group noise rights, the so called old Battleax letter letter it really gets the public riled up. It stirs up a lot of controversy because it advocates free love specifically, it says when the will of God is done on earth as it is in Heaven, there will be no marriage and his rational came from scripture came from Matthew twenty to thirty, which says for in the resurrection they neither Mary nor are given in marriage, but our as the angels of God and Heaven so noise this to mean that marriage should not be exclusive. All men should be married to all women and it's something called complex marriage fill. This is definitely an example of free love. That's different from the one we talked about in the Victoria would hall at the third, quite different in fact
the idea, just like Victor Hugo, maiden noise and his followers incredibly notorious and when they actually start practising complex marriage by eighteen, forty six, which is a little bit after that that they're gonna share all their property and all their belongings. It does not fit well with them. Everything Putney, Burma, not at all in noise, is arrested for adultery cause. He is married legally and he jumps bail and by eighteen, forty, eight. He and most of his followers decamped for a night in York, and there are a few other satellite communities, but the main Oneida community. Is it there are New York and at last for another thirty years, so we're gonna talk more about freely in that aspect of the community later, but first its interest to figure out how these perfectionists biblical com, actually made.
Thing yellow. First, they don't write the two hundred people that live in a community. They try farming and logging situation where men and women are sharing the same rights labour. But the community isn't doing well enough to support it, sell for the long term, so things start picking up. Eventually, though, when they start menu actually in things again in a manufacturing work, although more reliable, be so what sort of things really manufacturing, they were canning, enjoying badges and fruits, also processing, silk and printing they were milling, grist smells and saw mills both and making small goods like travelling bags here and there. But that was pretty successful. but the day when the thing that really made them sustainable was the invent of one of the community's member. If a guy named fool new House- and he came up with, What kind of lightweight animal trap for our fur animals and the the trap mark.
at the time was not so crowded You couldn't have a new, a new trap, birth, thrill and so by the MID eighteen. Fifty they were making so many of these chops and they are selling them so well that they the higher on wage workers, which was kind of at odds with their belief They were not only against slavery, they were also against wage labour and especially seasonal wage labour, because at this point people would work they have done during the summer than they'd get laid off in the winter, especially in a play. Flake New York, where There were pretty heavy winters thumb here they were doing it themselves. You know hiring vehemently to make these trap, but they did, create many things I mean. I think we all know some of the results of their inventiveness for it pull the Victor Mouse trap and the least
Susan, I was so excited to learn that they are responsible for this. It's made such a difference in my life. Actually pensive trivia thing will end the interesting thing about the lazy season, one of the important things in the community with that mediocrity with key. You were never ceases to be lazy, but you weren't supposed to try to strive above, the other than I think it's really a little funny that the lazy season is the result of that a convenience prodigy earlier, but even though some inventions did stand out in some adventures did stand out in this community community. That word was still definitely the key, even but with social. They would hold these bees to complete tax in a timely manner and maybe and talk about the bees, little more Sarah Mean Pelee. Most super may be familiar with. Quilting means that kind of thing where everybody gets other and you make all the quell in our you have the time
he's together already, but you go ahead and do the more boring work which is is attaching to the bottom in putting the parting and everything, but they wouldn't do this just for quoth. They would do for any kind of task that needed to be accomplished quickly. So, for instance, like in the hay, something you better do before it rains heavily or making these bag Zena they'd all get together and the interest thing about it is like you mentioned earlier. They really did emphasise the community aspect it with something that was supposed to be fine not just boring work, you're doing it yourself, and there is even a quote from their second annual report where They wrote that the tat could be done quote at a single stroke all the enthusiastic sportive feeling of a game of ball sound rather exciting. But it does beg the question. Also, if a hayin B is this fund is again
ball than what is downtime like in this community and again we see that it's really communal the adults live in what is called the mansion House, which was a three story: modern home, complete with shared dining and living spaces. The pretty handsome home actually still stands. Yeah it's interesting. One of the perks of living in Oneida meant that, because of scale, the community could afford some things that other people couldn't they could afford luxuries lake says and heated drawing rooms things that only wealthy people can afford. At the time, because it is a mansion half they just has a lot of people living in. It were going to take you on a little tour of the home, starting in the dining room which pit hold the entire community, and I think this is the really interesting thing. They did too to ensure that Click Sweden up in the dining room and they always do area the typical librarian. I fear you will take your seat by your place in the serving line figures.
It may be jump a line to be with your friend, but you essentially seated at random own, so no favourites after dinner after dinner, with with em of your random community members you and move on to the Big Hall and have a meeting and the hallways sort of the centre the religious aspect of this community too. But it doesn't look at all like a church had paintings of justice than me can astronomy and history allegorical painting and is also where members would discuss their spiritual concerns and talk about community confirmed. Then then be relaxed a little too and enjoy a concert. I think the community kept a band among its members or some other. of entertainment. I don't quite the programming that programme on any given night was promising enough. Maybe some tourists would start by pay about twenty five for an evening of grand and attainments further build it yeah, but
evidence in the big Holly weren't, always that fun. So, for instance, you wouldn't want to show up on a night where they doing quote mutual criticism and on those needs, when everyone could basically air their grievances with everyone else. Her minds, we kind of a fast of us not to make a comparison with the fake religion, but the mutual criticism part is one of the strangest aspects of this to me that you would go face to face with these people who you live with and worked. every day and What was wrong, which could be not only you're, not working hard enough to support the community but you're working too hard you're going above and beyond, and it's it's not you don't fit in Yeah goes back to that goal of mediocrity that you mentioned before. We're so you're. Getting some of these neighbourly criticisms off your chest. He might gone up to the upper sitting, room, which was a well appointed salon where
could page through some books, like Charles Dickens, the mystery of Edwin Drood, which I think you read recently. I read this than I: U reticent, I'm sorry, my mistake: they whenever this probably not quite, but they might have also read some bound copies magazines like Atlantic Monthly anyway, just your basic chill out space in time down alone off after the hanging, yeah and then it's off to bed in your private room with a twin dad yeah and here's the kicker there you would definitely be by yourself when you were gone, too bad, and this brings to be complex, marriage which he knew we're gonna have to talk about eventually its wet and made. The United Community, though infamous and noise, believed that the community to live without, then they would need to quote nail marriage to the cross, though he was against
August marriage, but he wasn't against facts. He was actually quite in favour of it as long as it took place between multiple partner. but he knew that there was a potential problem with thy, and that was that complex marriage would soon produce a whole lot of kids, more kids than the community could support though he instituted this practice that he himself had began after his wife had suffered from four premature birth and gas than it was. He called it continents and it was basically male birth control he he decided to do at himself after her after her premature birth, she was quite understandably distraught over the death of this work heads and he decided that he shouldn't have to go through it again, but he actually turns it into part of his philosophy. After that, it's not just something to happen personally to him. He takes it and makes it part of the community. So he separate Saxon too, to compose
the that pleasurable aspect of it and the reproductive aspect and treats them in two entirely different ways. So since Adam and Eve Sin, the reproductive part had been dominant, but by taking the reproductive aspect out of the picture, people would be for to indulge in the more pleasurable part. So this is how he saw it in this. The male continents idea that he comes up with really does work pretty well for the community. As far as limiting the number of children born because between eighteen, forty, eight and eighty sixty nine only thirty one kid there born and we're gonna talk a little bit more about kids in the community later, but after they were weaned. They were raised community in this chamber and house by guardian, but there aren't just rule about how people were supposed to have facts and reproduce. There were also rules about how the TAT even or maybe it yet.
Thing about these rules is that there were no secrets right. That was the essential component here, for example, if you had sex with someone even happening in a private room, said you would go to these small interesting is how they were known. I think right offers the upper sitting room, and you could essentially book a room for a few hours, but everybody knew about it when you dead seem so awkward today, they are right off the room. I think one that is still in existence as a as a show peacefully, as is right off sitting around where everyone is hanging out. But really everyone already knew. Who is matched up any ways, because couples had to be approved by the Central Guidance Committee, which was made, of course, of noise and his family and other elders, and they not only approved the couples, but they kept an eye out for anyone that was getting to exclusive, because that was of course at odds with the king these ideals yet another
Planes were in force and created by the committee itself, which is a strange idea where it gets a little disturbing. Yeah noise would initiate teen girls, while his wife and sister would do the same for boys. So this is one type of arrangement that was made to sort of introduce these younger people into the system yeah in these these couples that were formed I, the committee, not because of some other attraction after the members, twenties. They were usually allowed to choose, have a little more choice in who their partners we're gonna, be. But, interestingly, it is this regulation surrounding not just sex, but eventually childbearing that eventually signalled the big in the end. For the community fleet, Noise decided that seem like kingdom of Heaven wasn't immediately on hand, and he started thinking that may production no longer using male continents, but there's a cat only the reproduction between partners. That theme
to approve natural reproduction, no longer using male continents, but there's a cat only their reproduction between partners. That seemed to be a good spiritual. with each other. Yet he calls it stupid. That's the name that he gave it and it basically said that only those with the highest spiritual development will be allowed to reproduce so couples would have to apply To the committee and either be accepted, rejected or re matched with another person, and it was pretty successful. Forty eight kids or fifty eight, depending on what you read, were born between eighteen, sixty, nine thousand eighteen. Seventy nine Nine of those were noise, kids, because of course he has the highest level of spiritual development in one of the strange things about this is, of course, it is. very much inspired by eugenics,
you're a shawl bad. It is eugenic than he had read quite a bit about it in and was trying to emulate that, but obviously it bread a lot of hard feelings. In addition to children, there were couples who were acted who felt jealous of the people who did get to have children. Some of the new parents were sad because, therefore, is to turn our kids ever you, this communal upbringing and so by eighteen? Seventy eight, some of the younger community members, were getting really tired of it. They were getting fed up with being rejected or match with the people they didn't want. or having to give up their kids and He wanted romance in Managua marriage and family, and so some of them started to couple up and leave the community
and when they were rejected by the committee and trouble was compounded by noise. Passing on administration more and more to his son Theodore, who was not very competent and in eighteen, seventy nine. He- had to Canada, because he was faced with this moral last year and it only took to mom for the community to end the practice of complex marriage and mutual criticism and maybe people are a little bit tired of that, but it is interesting to see how quickly it crumbles with without him it does. quickly, but it didn't ends there right, not exactly after a community dissolved and a couple months within a year they they became corporation, which is the term The problem, which was it is a total shock about anything. When you look at it, they already had the foundations for this. In this share all things group they got together. cited that, instead of property, partners. They would share stock in business. Yesterday,
be Oneida Community limited, which was a joint stock company that made silver plate because they were quite success well and good and their manufacturing realm, and probably they were also thinking. They'd invested their life's work to a community wanna get them panel turn on it, even if it in the form of stock that thirnagoas again like a checked other website to see where they were when they were offering these days in their motto is bring life to the table, which I'm Today, there motto interesting, looked like a checked other website to see where they were when they were offering these days near motto is bring life to the table, which Polly reading too much and that in the mansion House also still intact. You can talk
stay the night and some people even rent apartments there. Only one interesting room is still left for show, however, that when I mention that is really right off of the upper sitting room and I think, may we could close out with this from an Oneida expert. He the historian Robert Authority, when he wrote quote there, are some who think noise is just sure pure and simple. There are others who believe that he with a great forest thinking individual, who is the great religious figure. I think it's fifty fifty to be honest, I mean, I am sure that you guys are going to have an opinion on a noise and the United Community and but you have family members who were a part of it. I actually read many, a third, the people who go inside the mansion House today, in the hotel or or tour it did have ancestors who participated or if you just have to minute.
some o night silver new, which think about history, a big company you can email history pie cast at has to work. Stockholm were ass, though, on Twitter missed in history and we're on Facebook and definitely expecting something back on that
yeah. I can't imagine that people might have some strong opinions about that, but if you want to learn a little bit more about some of the ideas related to those that we ve talked about here, you can check out Molly Edmunds article on how Pollyanna Marie works by visiting our homepage, W W W doubt how stuff works outcome or more on this than that of other topics for the house to works. I come to learn more about the pond cast on the pot cast icon in the upper right corner of the House of Lords that IP has arrived Download it today and I do. The only way is through a new podcast in partnership with our under players: coaches,
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