Utopian Movement

Charity, Brandon, Kate

What was the Utopian Movement?

More than 100,000 American men, women, and children in the mid 1800s searched for new lifestyles. They wanted to find a utopia, or an ideal society. Those people seeking a utopia had hoped to create their own perfect society by building and experimenting with communities. Most of these communities did not last very long, and utopians had their experiments away from the rest of society, yet they all expressed their longing for perfection.

Utopian Communities

Utopian Communities reflected social perfection instead of religious purity like a lot of places in the Antebellum period. Utopian Communities came to reflect social parfection rather than religious purity. Some utopian communities at this time were the Mormons in Utah, the Shakers in New Hampshire and the Oneida in New York.

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New Harmony Community

The New Harmony commune was established by Welsh industrialist Robert Owen in the mid 1820s based on the principles of the Enlightenment. The commune ultimately failed because they couldn’t support themselves. New Harmony is remembered for its advanced social ideas, including an eight hour work-day, cultural activities for workers, and equal educational opportunities for boys and girls. The community also openly criticized organized religion and favored women’s equal rights and birth control, ideas far ahead of their time.

The Oneida Community

The Oneida Community was founded by John Humphrey Noyes in 1848. The community founded Oneida in New York and numbered more than 200 by 1851. They practiced a “free love” theology in a doctrine of complex marriage, which meant that every man in the community was married to every woman and every woman to every man. In 1879 local law officials attempted to arrest Noyes for adultery and his practice of group marriage, and he fled to Canada to avoid prosecution. The community ended universal marriage and converted to a joint stock company.

The Mormon Community

Mormons was the most successful of the utopian communities of the 1800s. They were founded by Joseph Smith who claimed to have made a great discovery regarding religion and created The Book of Mormon. The community prospered but local Protestants despised them, especially after 1840 when Smith began practicing polygamy. The Mormons moved twice more before Smith was attacked and killed. Smith’s successor, Brigham Young, led the Mormons to their own Zion in Utah in 1846, founding Salt Lake City. Within a few years, the settlers had created an elaborate irrigation system and were prospering.

The Shaker Community

The Shakers, or the United Society of Believers in Christ's Second Appearance, represent one of the most successful utopian communities in American history. Although their last remaining community currently numbers less than ten members, the Shakers have maintained a utopian presence in the United States for over two hundred years. One of the secrets of their success seems to be the fact that while they have lived since the 18th century by a set of basic tenets, they have always believed in constant revelation from the spirit world, and they never operated under the elaborate sets of rules that some less successful utopian communities imposed upon their members.

The Amana Society

The Amana Society was founded by German emigrant Christian Metz. Over 800 followers (known as the Community of True Light) moved from Germany to New York. The group relocated to Iowa and founded the Amana Society in 1859, building seven villages over 25,000 acres. Families lived in individual houses but shared communal kitchens and dining halls. Amana existed until the 1930s when the villages officially abandoned communal property ownership, divided the land and holdings, and adopted capitalistic values and institutions.

Modern Day Comparisions

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Twin Oaks

Twin Oaks Community is in Virginia and has a population of about 100 people. The people’s basic values are non-violence, cooperation and sustainability. It was founded in 1967. Adults are required to work 42 hours a week and not allowed to own a firearm. This community is very similar to utopian communities in the Antebellum period like the Mormons and Shakers.

The Farm, Lewis County, Tennessee

The Farm is a group of about 300 flower children and free-thinkers who set out to create a perfect community in 1971. They left San Francisco to create a trail to the east and ended up settling in rural Tennessee. They are the people who founded America’s oldest hippie commune. The Farm can be found in the outskirts of Summertown, Tennessee to this day and it has been the subject of certain articles and documentaries like “American Commune”. The group has shrunk to roughly 200 members, however, those members remain faithful to the core values of nonviolence and respect for the environment.

Green Bank, West Virginia

Green Bank, West Virginia, is a National Radio Quiet Zone where electromagnetic radiation (cell phone reception, wifi signals, etc.) is banned so no one will be disturbed living in Green Bank. They have a population of about 150 and it’s purpose is to get away from radiation that they believe is bad for their health. They don’t have grocery stores, restaurants or hospitals nearby. They believe themselves to be isolated, but purified, and they like to keep to themsleves as to not disturb anyone else.

New Songdo City, Korea

New Songdo City, located on the South Korean coast, is new community project that is scheduled for completion in 2015. New Songdo is found on Incheon Bay and will have WiFi integration throughout the city. The city is environmentally friendly focused as everything will be run with clean energy and everything from the houses, cars, and buildings will be connected to save energy. They even said that you will not need to have a computer or smartphone while in the city because you have access to the network will be everywhere. There will still be similar transportation options like buses and trains but the main form will be by bike. These elements have made the city obtain the title of a “utopia”, able to transform itself into whatever it sees fit. This city can be viewed as an example for other modern day utopian communities striving for perfection such as New Harmony and Green Bank, West Virginia. It portrays itself as having a clean slate, with the society living by their own ideals whether it be simple or complex.
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MLA Citations

"Experiments with Utopia." Ushistory.org. Independence Hall Association, n.d. Web. 09 Nov. 2015.


"The Shakers." The Shakers. N.p., n.d. Web. 09 Nov. 2015.


ABC News. ABC News Network, n.d. Web. 10 Nov. 2015.

"Utopian Movement." Utopian Movement. Web. 9 Nov. 2015

"Utopias (Overview)." American History. ABC-CLIO, 2015. Web. 9 Nov. 2015.


"Want To Escape The Modern World? 9 'Utopias' That Really Exist (PHOTOS)." The Huffington Post. TheHuffingtonPost.com. Web. 10 Nov. 2015.

"Utopian Communities - Boundless Open Textbook." Boundless. N.p., n.d. Web. 10 Nov. 2015.

"Utopian Movement Magdaleno | Publish with Glogster!" Glogster. N.p., n.d. Web. 10 Nov. 2015.