Brook Farm

A Utopian Experiment

The above picture is a picture of the farmhouse where everyone lived. It's evident that it's communal as everyone lived together, which goes to show the strong sense of community formed by the residents.

The Brook Farm was a social experiment in the 1840s. It was an attempt at creating a utopian society in West Roxbury, Massachusetts. Founded by George and Sophia Ripley, it was a joint stock company that promised its participants a share of the profits for equal work.  It was part of the broader transcendentalist movement, a religious and cultural movement that encouraged the creation of utopian societies. Brook Farm was very historically significant because of its excellent school and attracted literary minds such as Nathaniel Hawthorne, who wrote about his experience in the "Blithedale Romance." The Brook farm was also significant because it helped further the transcendentalist movement, and show its flaws and eventually, its failures.  

This is George Ripley, the founder of the Brook Farm.

Historian's Analysis

In a letter to Emerson, who wrote an essay that kicked off the transcendentalist movement, George Ripley outlines the main goals of the establishment. He says,

"Our objects, as you know, are to ensure 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 person, whose relations with each other would permit a more simple and wholesome life, than can now be led amidst the pressures of our competitive institutions."

In this letter, Ripley outlines his goal of combining the thinker and the worker. This was imperative in how the farm ran, because it attempted to combine the thinker and worker by letting people take up whatever profession they felt inclined to, and by offering a school for adults. He wanted to create a truly utopian society where everyone has what they need, where everyone is mentally enlightened, and where everyone takes up labor for the good of the community.

The farm practiced communal living. This means everyone lived together. The farm made money by selling handmade goods, but the main source of income was the acclaimed school. The school attracted students from around the world. Furthermore, the farm was very egalitarian. As such, women and men were treated more or less the same, and no matter what profession someone took, they made the same amount of money. In fact, women were autonomous from their husbands, were allowed to become stockholders, and played an important role in the community. Most people on the farm spent their time studying or working, but in their down time, people would play games, sing and dance.

It was officially established in 1841, but was very short lived, closing down only six years later. Overall, the farm had trouble staying financially stable and wasn't considered a success.

The cause of the Brook Farm was an 1836 essay written by Emerson. The essay encourages humans to use idealist philosophy. This started trancendentalism. The trancendentalist ideology was a counter to industrialism. Trancendentalists were fed up with the mistreatment of  workers and wanted to create utopian societies, such as the Brook Farm.

The Brook Farm had several long term effects. It was an early utopian society and set the precedents for what later societies would try to do. It also drew criticism from other Trancendentalists, who used it as an example of what not to do. The failure of the Brook Farm was also significant because it foreshadowed the eventual failure of the movement.

The Brook Farm had long range significance because it attracted many people from the area, as well as students from places such as Cuba and even the phillipines. Overall, it affected a great number of people.

Important people to remember are: George Ripley (founder), Nathaniel Hawthorne (an illustrious author who fictionalized his experience in a novel), Charles Fourier ( an inspiration to Ripley who started a socialist movement known as "Associationism ") , and Sophia Peabody, one of the initial founders.

The Brook Farm was another attempt at creating a perfect society. This is much like the shining "city upon a hill" which John Winthrope tried to create in the 17th century. Like Winthrope, Ripley wanted to create a perfect society that could be used a shining example for how communities should be.

The above picture is the cover of a book criticizing the Brook farm. This is important because it shows that while the farm had many believers, it had many critics as well. This goes to show how much the utopian movement was criticized by the general public.

Citations (including images)

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