This collection contains copies of papers and records pertaining to the community at New Harmony, Indiana.
The town of New Harmony was established in 1814 by a group of German Separatists. Ten years later, the settlement of New Harmony and the surrounding land was purchased by Robert Owen. Owen hoped to create a utopian community based on education, social reform, and communal living. The community established a government in the form of the Preliminary Society in May 1825, and the town adopted a constitution in February 1826. Due to complications from inequality of credits given to purchase goods, overcrowding, lack of self-sufficient production of goods, and the promotion of enlightenment ideals over religious beliefs by Owen, the utopian community dissolved in 1829.
The Working Men's Institute was founded in New Harmony in 1838 by William Maclure, who had embraced the importance of education that was promoted by the utopian community. The Institute provided a central location for laborers to come together and learn from each other. The Institute, which is still in existence as of 2017, includes the oldest library in continuous operation, a museum, and an archives.
The collection includes materials grouped into five series labeled A-E. Series A contains copies of letters, clippings, and other documents concerning the formation and activities of New Harmony. Series B includes copies of legal documents pertaining to Robert Owen's purchase of New Harmony and the litigation following its disintegration. Series C contains copies of proceedings of the Preliminary Society, minutes of the convention established to form a constitution, other accounts of the New Harmony Community, and journals of the Education Society founded in the community by William Maclure in 1826. Series D contains copies of correspondence of New Harmony Community members. Series E includes copies of maps of New Harmony and the surrounding area. Also included in the collection is a copy of a catalog by Arthur Bestor, Jr., which describes the items in the collection that are contained on microfilm.
Arthur E. Bestor, Jr. donated the copies and microfilm to the Illinois Historical Survey, the predecessor of the Illinois History and Lincoln Collections, from 1950-1951. He also directed the photocopying and microfilming of the originals, which are currently in the possession of the New Harmony Working Men's Institute.