info about brook farm

               Brook Farm, the best-known utopian experimental
               community in America, was founded by George and
               Sophia Ripley in the spring of 1841.  A former Unitarian
               minister, Ripley was editor of The Dial, the principle
               journal of Transcendentalism, and his ideas for Brook
               Farm combined the theories of individual self-reliance
               from New England Transcendentalism with more radical
               social reforms of the time.  He envisioned the community
               as one in which manual and intellectual labors would be
               united.  In a letter to Ralph Waldo Emerson, the leading
               light of the Transcendental movement, Ripley explained
               his goals:

                   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 . . . [where]
                   thought would preside over the operations of labor, and
                   labor would contribute to the expansion of thought.

               The practical application of these objectives came in the
               form of an agricultural community, located on 170 acres
               of poor-quality farmland at West Roxbury, near Boston.

               To pay for the farm and supplies, shares were sold at
               $500 each, and stockholders could withdraw their initial
               investment with interest due by giving one year's notice
              to the trustees.  Nathaniel Hawthorne, a fellow
               Transcendentalist, was one of the original subscribers to
               the community but later withdrew .  A number of other
               leading Transcendentalists, including Emerson and
               Margaret Fuller, were frequent visitors to Brook Farm
               but never became members.

               Membership in the community was granted by the vote
               of established members after the purchase of shares, in
               return for which individuals received free tuition in the
               community's school or five percent annual interest and
               one year's board in return for 300 days of labor.  The
               work of members was centered around the six major
               activities of teaching, farming, working in the
               manufacturing shops, domestic endeavors, work on the
               buildings and grounds, and the planning of cooperative
               recreation projects.  Social activities included picnics,
               lectures, boating parties, music, and dancing.

               Throughout 1842 and 1843, the community thrived and
               in one year was visited by as many as 4000 guests, many
               simply curious Boston residents.  The most successful
               ventures of Brook Farm were the school and the
               recreational aspect.  The school attracted students from
               the south, Cuba, and the Philippines and was respected
               as a preparatory school by Harvard and even by the
               Unitarians against whom many of the Transcendentalists
               had rebelled.

               At the end of 1842 and throughout 1843, the community
               at Brook Farm underwent some significant changes.
               Ripley had become extremely interested in the writings
               and theories of François Marie Charles Fourier which
               had been translated and introduced in America in 1840
               by Albert Brisbane, who would soon join the Brook
               Farm circle.  Ripley felt that the farm needed to be a part
               of the larger movement of Fourierism, a model which
               seemed congruent with the community's social and
               organizational structure and present goals.  Work should
               be done in organized groups rather than isolated labor
               and members would live together in one unitary dwelling
               called a "phalanstery."  Although some in the community
               objected, it was renamed the "Brook Farm Phalanx,"
               Fourier's term for a Utopian community, in January of
               1844, a new constitution was drawn up to encompass
               Fourierist principles, and construction began on the
               phalanstery that spring.

               Since the farm's beginning it had continually suffered
               financial strain.  The proceeds from the crops were
               simply not enough to support the costs.  Ripley took out
               a third mortgage in 1843 and a fourth in 1845, making the
               total debt $17,445 in 1847.  In October of 1844,
               Secretary and Treasurer Charles A. Dana reported the
               first real profit of $1160.84, however it was swallowed
               up by the deficits of the previous years.  After the
               community's reorganization in 1845, Albert Brisbane and
               the Fourierists had also promised financial support but as
               late as the fall of 1846, nothing had been sent.  The
               greatest blow came on March 2, 1845, when the yet
               unfinished phalanstery caught fire and burned to the
               ground, causing a loss of over $7000.  The community
               continued for some time amidst the financial troubles but
               finally disbanded in 1847.

               The Historical Society holds the extant records of Brook
               Farm which include letters written primarily by Marianne
               Dwight and Anna Q. T. Parsons; the constitution and
               minutes (1843-1847); a ledger containing the daily
               purchases and sales for the community (1845-1847); and
               another ledger containing daily statements of profit and
               loss (November 1844-October 1846).

                  Although not the first Utopian community of its kind,
               Brook Farm was one of the most famous in the United
               States, due to its many well-known participants.  It never
               achieved financial success, but it did fulfill Ripley's
               dreams for a social application of the Transcendentalist

                Massachusetts Historical Society
                1154 Boylston Street, Boston, MA
                Telephone: (617)536-1608
                Last Updated: 02 December 1998

               Brisbane, the leader of the Fourierist movement in
               America.  He joined the group after he translated the fouriers book into english

painting of brook farm by wolcott

pic is brook_fa.gif

osiah Wolcott's rendition of Brook Farm, the only
               contemporary view, captures the entrance to the
               community, along with the various buildings -- the Hive,
               Shop, Eyrie, Cottage, and Pilgrim House -- and the
               foundations for the new building, the phalanstery, which
               was begun in 1844 and burned to the ground in March
               1846, prior to its completion.  The setting for the
               community was bordered by a brook on one side and a
               pine forest on the other and was accessed by a private
               drive from the road.  On the back of the painting panel is a
               pencil sketch detailing the specific buildings, primarily the
               Hive.  The Hive, home of the previous owner Charles
               Ellis, was the center of Brook Farm from its inception,
               housing George Ripley's office, the dining room, kitchen,
               meeting rooms, and a number of sleeping quarters.  Early
               in 1842, due to a housing shortage, the Eyrie was built to
               house the Ripleys and a number of new members and their
               families.  When more accommodations were needed later
               that year, the Cottage and Pilgrim House were built, the
               latter also housing the laundry and the printing presses.
               Construction on the phalanstery began in 1844 upon the
               community's change in philosophy to Fourierism.

A few months before the April 1841 founding of the Brook
                Farm Institute of Agriculture and Education, George Ripley
                described the purposes of the utopian experiment in West
                Roxbury, Massachusetts, in a letter to Ralph Waldo Emerson:

                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 pressure of our
                more competitive institutions.

Between September 1841, when the ten charter members established Brook Farm, and the end of
1847, when the community disbanded, the Brook Farmers sought to make Ripley's ideals a
reality by instituting a series of social and economic practices.74 They made agriculture their
chief occupation, emphasized the voluntary and communal aspects of labor, and sought to
reestablish gender and class relations on a more equitable basis.75 Over time, interpersonal
reform began to give way to far-reaching social reform as members became involved in such
national movements as Fourierism (a scientific approach to social reform that was generally
hostile to capitalism and slavery). The tension could not long be sustained; Brook Farmers found
that they could not split their time between a utopian project that defined itself in almost passive
opposition to society and those movements which actively sought to change society. Their
retirement to the spiritual solace of the country kept them from what they increasingly regarded
as their duty, structural social change.

A more radical and less successful attempt at creating a holy community was Bronson Alcott's
Fruitlands. This utopian experiment was to be, even more so than Brook Farm, a withdrawal
from a world of commerce into one of pure spirituality. "The entrance to paradise," Alcott
wrote, "is still through the strait and narrow gate of self-denial ... Eden's avenue is yet guarded
by the fiery-sworded cherubim, and humility and charity are the credentials for admission."76 In
conceiving of the project, Alcott had already arrived at the conclusion that private property of
any sort was the root of evil in modern society. As he wrote in the Dial in 1841, "to property
man has no moral claim whatsoever; use, not ownership of the planet and parts thereof,
constitutes his sole inheritance..."77 The practical result of this absolutist position was an effort
at Fruitlands to eliminate as far as possible any conventional economic activity in favor of strict
asceticism and a subsistence livelihood. As with Brook Farm, however, Fruitlands could not
long withstand the march of history. It was simply too small and economically weak a
community to slow or alter significantly the accelerating industrialization, expansion and
modernization of American society. Instead, the significance of both lay in their representative
quality -- representative of the efforts of many other people to create a new kind of community
that would not reject their culture but serve as an example to that culture.

Apple Tree at Fruitlands

    Alcott expected his family and followers to share his purism, and his family responded
    gamely. Accompanying him from Concord to Harvard, was his wife Abigail May
    Alcott and their four daughters, Anna Bronson Alcott, Louisa May Alcott, Elizabeth
    Sewall Alcott, and Abby May Alcott. The family moved on June 1, the date that
    Abigail wrote this in her diary:

        If we can collect about us the true men and women I know not why we may
        not live the true life, putting away the evil customs of society ... Our pursuits
        are innocent and true selfish purpose actuates us--we are living for the
        good of others, and tho we may fail, it will be some consolation that we
        have ventured what none others have dared.

    Knowing what we do of human nature, it is safe to assume that a wave of
    transcendalist jokes made the rounds in Harvard after Alcott's arrival. Emerson noted
    that "Lane and Alcott were always feeling of their shoulders to see if their wings were

George and Sophia Ripley moved to Brook Farm at West
    Roxbury. In a letter to Ralph Waldo Emerson, Ripley explained the purpose of the
    Brook Farm Institute of Agriculture and Education:

        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
        relationships with each other would permit a more wholesome and simple
        life than can be led aynidst the pressure of our competitive institutions.
        In Mendon, Adin Ballou and his followers launched the Hopedale

 critics have accused it of devious recruitment tactics, brainwashing members and duping
    them out of money.