This collection contains the papers and diaries of Albert Brisbane, a leading propagandist for Fourierist Socialism in the United States during the 19th century. The bulk of the collection consists of Brisbane's family correspondence and personal papers, but it also include photographs, newspaper clippings, and drafts of publications written by Brisbane and his family.
Albert Brisbane was born on August 22, 1809 in Batavia, New York. In 1828, after some study of French and philosophy in New York City, Brisbane left the United States, spending six years abroad in Paris, Berlin, Greece, and Turkey. While he was abroad, he discovered the work of Charles Fourier, a French philosopher and one of the founders of utopian socialism. In the winter of 1831-1832, Brisbane spent six weeks studying privately under Fourier himself, and then spent two more years continuing his study of the philosophy. He returned to the United States in 1834 in the hopes of starting a utopian socialist community, but economic hardship forced him to abandon this idea and turn to publishing Fourierist propaganda for an American audience. He assisted in forming several utopian communities in the United States, but these ultimately failed. Brisbane spent much of the late 1840s traveling between the United States and Europe to examine revolutionary movements occurring in France, Germany, and Italy.
Brisbane possibly married four times between 1833 and 1877, with some of these marriages potentially overlapping, and had a total of ten children, including Arthur Brisbane, who became a widely successful newspaper editor and real estate investor. After his final marriage to Redelia Bates in 1877, Brisbane and his family again returned to Europe, settling in Paris where Albert began to try his hand at invention. The family again returned to the United States in 1889, and Albert Brisbane died in Richmond, Virginia on May 1, 1890.
The collection consists primarily of correspondence, especially between Albert Brisbane, his wife Redelia, and his son Arthur. Albert's letters relate to Fourierist social reform, industrial democracy, religion, scientific theories, and his inventions and patents. The collection also includes papers relating to a legal case brought against Albert by his common-law wife, Lodoiska Durand; drafts of books and articles by Albert Brisbane on Fourierism; transcriptions of his column on Fourierism in the New York Tribune from 1842 to 1843; manuscript writings of Redelia Brisbane; and clippings of Arthur Brisbane's newspaper work. There are also microfilm copies of Albert Brisbane's travel diaries and of Redelia Brisbane's notebook of reminiscences of Albert Brisbane.
Through the assistance of Arthur E. Bestor, Jr., the physical collection was donated to the Illinois History Survey, the predecessor of the Illinois History and Lincoln Collections, in 1950, by Seward Brisbane, grandson of Albert Brisbane. Bestor also donated some materials, including correspondence. The microfilms of Albert Brisbane's original travel diaries, which are located in the Brisbane Family Papers at Syracuse University, were created for the Survey as part of an exchange of materials in 1963-1964. The microfilm of Redelia Brisbane's notebook was created for the Survey in 1995.