Brook Farm

A Utopian Society gone Wrong

Origins of Brook Farm

Brook Farm began in the April of 1841 of whom George Ripley had found along with, his wife, Sophia Ripley, and approximately 15 other members of the society. The establishment began just as an experiment in Christian living and became a center of reform activity to help spread the practices and beliefs of Fourierism. Ripley had stated his general goals for creating Brook Farm in a letter to Emerson in 1840. His intentions were to give transcendentalists what they had always wanted, and that was individual freedom and humane relationships. The farm was supposed to be the perfect settlement, letting the members find harmony and recreate their ideas and values through physical events, the union of the mind and body, and manual labor. Brook Farm contributed to the "Second Great Awakening." (Gordon 1-2).

Important Leaders of Brook Farm/Transcendentalism

  • George and Sophia Ripley - Founders of the purchase, organized, planned out, and accordingly ran the farm. Both believed in transcendentalist ideas and wanted to offer people with the perfect living with individual freedom and positive relationships.
  • Ralph Waldo Emerson - Contributed to the transcendentalist movement with his beliefs and ideas of freedom, rights, and individualism, and often wrote many pieces of literature expressing his views. He supported the establishment and idea of Brook Farm.
  • Henry David Thoreau - A transcendentalist as well, believed in individualism, abolition of slavery, naturalist, and a tax resister; views were not fond of the government.
  • Margaret Fuller - Transcendentalist leader and advocate for women's rights. She frequently visited Brook Farm and didn't oppose the establishment.

The History Report - George Ripley

Major Beliefs and Practices

Brook Farm was the essential utopia for transcendentalists when it first began. Everyone who was a resident of Brook Farm believed in individualism, freedom, and expression of one's self. People were so individualistic, that private property was essential for one's integrity. Everyone perceived hard work and manual labor to be enjoyable and education was one of the highest priorities for children in Brook Farm. The major religion that was associated with Brook Farm was of course, Christianity. The normal day lifestyle of a member of Brook Farm consisted of waking up at 6 a.m. to eat breakfast and then they were off to work for anywhere from 8-10 hours on the Farm, excluding leisure activities and past time hobbies.

The End to Brook Farm

Decline of interest of Brook Farm occurred after the settlement's reconstruction. Ever since sometime in 1844, farmers had slowly began to adopt a societal model and began publishing The Harbinger to promote Fourierism. Members began building an ambitious structure called the Phalanstery. In 1846, the building was destroyed from it catching fire, and the members of Brook Farm had never recovered from the loss, as it sparked the beginning of debt causing Brook Farm to descend. Several months later, debt began to rise and the leaders of Brook Farm could not keep up with the rising costs to keep it alive, and so George Ripley had given up on the project.