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Utopia along the Wabash

Why create a perfect society from scratch when you can buy one for $125,000? (A little over $3 million in modern dollars.) It is Heaven on Earth if by "Heaven" you mean "living under the thumb of a control freak with no sense of obligation to an authority higher than himself." In 1814, the Reverend George Rapp and his followers settled in Indiana along the Wabash to establish the Harmony Society, but southwest Indiana is on the backside of nowhere. After 10 years they are missing civilization, so they invite the Scottish industrialist (read as rich guy) Robert Owen to visit Harmony with the hope of selling the property to him. Almost immediately, he is inspired to buy the town. Society has failed to improve itself because of outside influences that mislead people. Owen reasons that by building a walled, isolated compound, he can control the societal environment. He will create a new man and a Utopian community. This is New Harmony. The rules of living are based on logical principles. (Religion is presumed to be illogical.) Colonists will share equally regardless of the effort or skills they bring to the community. Drunkenness is fined. Homes are inspected for neatness. (How is this different from the Pilgrims?) Owen wants to separate the children from their parents. It is a benevolent dictatorship with Owen and his sons as self-appointed molders of men's souls.... uh... I mean character. Eventually, New Harmony will lose direction and become a normal frontier town. [1] [2] [3] [4] [5]

My Take by Alex Shrugged
Utopia is Sir Robert More's fictional island where society lives in perfect harmony, but depends on servants and slaves to make it all work. The word Eutopia in Latin translates to "Good Place" but "Utopia" in Greek translates to "NO-PLACE" so the word is actually a pun. There is no perfect society.... not even Utopia. While New Harmony was a dictatorship. both religious and secular groups tend to dictate to their followers. That is OK with me as long as I am volunteering for it. If I don't like it, I can walk. If I don't like how my state is doing things, I can move. I will join the community that seems best for me. Your mileage may vary. While government can act as an arbitrator of the social contract, society standards change over time. What seemed obvious 50 years ago (like one's sexuality) is no longer obvious. When we cannot agree as a society then government has lost its moral authority to arbitrate on our behalf, so we must take our power back on those subjects. I don't need the state to get married. I don't need the state for a lot of things. I can volunteer to associate myself with a group than will arbitrate these controversies for me and as long as everyone agrees to abide by the rules that is really all it takes. [6]

The Erie Canal Opens for Business

The Mohawk and Hudson Rivers are natural gateways to the West from New York to Lake Ontario and Lake Erie. Merchants want to ship food and goods through this natural gap between the mountain ranges but the costs are still prohibitive. Shipping by river boat is less expensive but the rivers are not 100% navigable and it would be nice to connect the Hudson River to Lake Erie, but the elevation from the River to the Lake rises about 600 feet. To connect these two bodies of water takes a lot of digging, an army of German stone masons and building a series of 50 locks. Even in the modern day, building such a canal would be a formidable task. The Erie Canal begins in Albany and ends at Little Buffalo Creek near Buffalo, New York, the Queen City of the Lakes. Parts of the Erie Canal have been open for some time, but now the full length is complete. It doesn't take long before the canal reaches its design limit for cargo. The speed of the barges is reduced to 4 miles per hour to preserve the clay bottom. By 1837 the Erie Canal will have paid for itself, but it is clear that a larger canal is already needed. [7] [8] [9]

My Take by Alex Shrugged
To increase barge traffic, they juggled the schedules to give priority to larger barges which are harder to stop and harder to get to speed again. This is similar to how multiple trains will share a single track even if they are going in the same direction. Making a long train wait for a short train to pass makes no sense if the long train is already up to speed. In the long run, the over all flow of traffic increases. Also, most of the revenue of the canal was for local shipping. Very few barges made the trip from one end to the other. Later, a railroad was built parallel to the Erie Canal. At first, they took mostly passenger traffic, because trains go faster than 4 miles per hour. By the 1850s, 75% of New York's cargo was shipped by barge. By the 1890s, barge shipping was down to 5% as New York eased up on the toll charges for railroads. Shipping by rail became cheaper. I assume this was because, like the Erie Canal, the government charged tolls to pay back loans for laying the track. Once the loans were paid off, the tolls were reduced, which is an amazing concept. [10]

In Other News

  • British subjects can unionize again. Fear of an overthrow of the government has passed although WORKERS STILL OBJECT TO BEING REPLACED BY MACHINES. [7]
  • Portland Cement is patented in England. It looks like the limestone of the Isle of Portland, but the modern formula for Portland cement will not be established until 1859 [7] [11]
  • Beethoven's 9th Symphony makes its debut. The "Ode to Joy" in the 2nd movement is easily recognizable. ([Click Here]) [12] [7]

This Year in Wikipedia

Year 1824, Wikipedia.

See Also


  1. Robert Owen - Wikipedia (2016). Retrieved on 21 April 2016. “In 1824, Owen travelled to America to invest the bulk of his fortune in an experimental 1,000-member colony on the banks of Indiana's Wabash River, called New Harmony. New Harmony was intended to be a Utopian society. Before travelling to America, he was an industrialist in Scotland.”
  2. Carmony, Donald F.; Elliott, Josephine M. (1980). "New Harmony, Indiana: Robert Owen's Seedbed for Utopia". Indiana Magazine of History 76 (3): 161-261. https://scholarworks.iu.edu/journals/index.php/imh/article/view/10250/14211. Retrieved 8 July 2016. "On January 1 Owen told William that he had decided to purchase New Harmony, but the terms were not mutually agreed to until two days later. Some details of the purchase are not altogether certain, but Owen apparently bought the town and approximately twenty thousand acres of land for about $125,000. Historian Arthur E. Bestor, Jr., estimates that the town had approximately 180 log, frame, and brick structures, embracing public buildings, manufacturing establishments, shops, and housing for about seven hundred individuals. Apparently, however, only about two thousand acres of the vast amount of land purchased by Owen had been adapted to farms and pastures.5 For a better understanding of the subsequent history of the Owenite community, it is important to emphasize that Owen invested his own money in its purchase. This fact, plus his willingness to forego comfortable and prosperous circumstances in Scotland, is convincing evidence of the philanthropist's commitment to his efforts to usher in a new society.". 
  3. Measuring Worth - Results. measuringworth.com (2016). Retrieved on 8 July 2016.
  4. America and the Utopian Dream - Utopian Communities. brbl-archive.library.yale.edu (2016). Retrieved on 8 July 2016. “Owen rebelled against the 'trinity of evils:' private property, irrational systems of religion, and marriage founded on property and religion. He developed a plan of progressive paternalism in his commune at 'New' Harmony– curfews, house inspections, and fines for drunkenness and illegitimate children. He equated happiness with docility, and as a result was criticized for condescending to the working class.”
  5. New Harmony, a utopian experiment in the American wilderness. examiner.com (2016). Retrieved on 8 July 2016. “In 1825 Robert Owen purchased Harmony and 30,000 acres of land from the Harmony Society and renamed the village, New Harmony. An architect employed by Owen, prepared plans for a town of 3,000 people, who would live in a four-sided megastructure that resembled a cross between a textile factory and a monastery. All of the apartments, shops, factories, meeting spaces, hospital and warehouses were to contained in a continuous structure. Its symmetry and massive scale is typical of architecture sponsored by authoritarian leaders, who were in reality, 'control freaks.'”
  6. Utopia (book) - Wikipedia (2016). Retrieved on 11 July 2016. “The book is a frame narrative primarily depicting a fictional island society and its religious, social and political customs. Many aspects of More's description of Utopia are reminiscent of life in monasteries.”
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 7.3 Grun, Bernard. The Timetables of History: A Horizontal Linkage of People and Events. Simon and Schuster, 388-389. 
  8. Filante, Ronald W. (Spring 1974). "Note on the Economic Viability of the Erie Canal, 1825-1860, A". The Business History Review (The President and Fellows of Harvard College) 48 (1): 95-102. http://www.jstor.org/stable/3113199. Retrieved 8 July 2016. 
  9. Erie Canal - Wikipedia (2016). Retrieved on 11 July 2016. “The Erie Canal was an immediate success. Tolls collected on freight had already exceeded the state's construction debt in its first year of official operation. New York state's initial loan for the original canal had been paid by 1837.”
  10. Ellis, David Maldwyn (July 1948). "Rivalry Between the New York Central and the Erie Canal". New York History (New York State Historical Association) 29 (3): 268-300. http://www.jstor.org/stable/43460288. Retrieved 8 July 2016. "The first (1825-1851) is one of canal domination. The Erie Canal was a phenomenal success both as a transportation artery and a source of revenue. The followers of De Witt Clinton launched an ambitious program of lateral canals. The railroads paralleling the canal did not carry much freight until the very end of this period. The passenger traffic, however, did desert the canal boats for the railroad cars.". 
  11. Portland cement - Wikipedia (2016). Retrieved on 8 July 2016. “Portland cement was used by Joseph Aspdin in his cement patent in 1824[1] because of the cements' resemblance to Portland stone. The name 'Portland cement' is also recorded in a directory published in 1823 being associated with a William Lockwood, Dave Stewart, and possibly others.[5] However, Aspdins' cement was nothing like modern Portland cement, but was a first step in the development of modern Portland cement, called a 'proto-Portland cement'.”
  12. Beethoven: Symphony 9, Op. 125 (Clockwork Orange) - YouTube. youtube.com (2016). Retrieved on 8 July 2016.

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