Brook Farm

During the 1800s, various reforms were taking place in the United States. Ideas such as transcendentalism and utopian communities came to express themselves. One of these utopian communities was known as Brook Farm. Established in 1841, it lasted until 1846. It was located in Roxbury, Massachusetts on a 175 acre area of land. Founded by a Unitarian minister, George Ripley, the community was comprised of those who doubted the Unitarian Church, and those who came to be known as transcendentalist intellectuals. Their society was centered upon the creation of "a more natural union between intellectual and manual labor." It was a great success intellectually, however, they suffered from financial difficulties after losing their main building to a fire. After their central building was destroyed, the community was forced to disband. To this day, it remains a model of mid-19th century utopianism.

The Hive was the central building from community gatherings. It burned down only a few years after the community's establishment--which ultimately led to Brook Farm's demise.

Margaret Fuller, a feminist writer, was the model for Nathaniel Hawthorne's book based on the Brook Farm experiment.

Primary Source:
George Ripley explains his objectives in a letter written to Emerson. He states that he aims to establish a society in which cooperative communal living is practiced and where the intellectual is able to flourish. Ripley hopes to ensure education and practice transcendentalism.

“Our objects, as you know, are to insure a more natural union between intellectual and manual labor than now exists; to combine the thinker and the worker, as far as possible, in the same individual: to guarantee the highest mental freedom, by providing all with labor, adapted to their tastes and talents, and securing to them the fruits of their industry; to do away with the necessity of menial services, by opening the benefits of education and the profits of labor to all; and thus to prepare a society of liberal, intelligent, and cultivated persons, whose relations with each other would permit a more simple and wholesome life, than can be led amidst the pressures of our competitive institutions.”

-George Ripley

Discussion:
Brook Farm was founded as a joint stock company that promised its participants a portion of the profits from the farm in exchange for performing an equal share of work. Those who lived in this community believed that by sharing the workload, they would be allowing more time to be available for intellectual endeavors. They aimed to balance labor and leisure. A unique factor of this community, was that everyone was paid equally for their labor--including women. Their main source of income came from the school. Over the period of time in which this community lasted, they faced a multitude of economic setbacks and constantly faced difficulty in making ends meet by agricultural pursuits. The Brook Farm's founder, George Ripley, believed that this experiment would stand as a model society for the rest of the world. This idea of setting the standard as a model society was previously seen before with John Winthrop's "City on a Hill" from 1630.

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