John Thomas Codman’s Brook Farm; Historic and Personal Memoirs was disappointing in that is seems to contain somewhat broad information regarding the Brook Farm, rather than a detailed experience. Admittedly, I haven’t read the entire book but from the chapters I chose, that most pertained to the culture of Brook Farm, I didn’t seem to glean very much new information. Codman restates much of what I have already read in other texts. However, this is not to say that this is necessarily a weak source, but one that is more secondary.
I did notice, however, that most every aspect of Brook Farm, reflected the communal ideals and the “back to nature” ideology. Throughout my research, I’ve noticed how deeply engrained community is in the Brook Farm culture, but I think I’ve started to grasp the extent after reading Codman’s memoir chapter. He discussed the “busy energy” of mealtimes where each and every person gathered. It seemed a time that everyone could connect and see the greater goal beyond themselves; community. Codman didn’t describe the communal mealtime as a requirement, but implied that it was certainly an expectation. Codman also described the simplistic lifestyle of Brook farm in which people labored, ate, and dwelled together without modern amenities, such as running water, or luxuries, such as ornate decoration. The walls were decorated with pictures of nature, or framed, dried leaves and flowers that reflected the simplicity of life at Brook Farm.
Codman, John Thomas. Brook Farm; historic and personal memoirs. Boston: Arena Pub. Co., 1894. Print.
Note: Image is simply the cover over Brook Farm; historic and personal memoirs
Heavens on Earth by Mark Holloway is great source for my research paper because it’s a comprehensive analysis of several utopian communities over many decades. Because the book is so comprehensive, I would consider it more of a secondary source which happens to be just what I’m looking for in terms of background information regarding the rise of utopian communities. Although specific references to and analyses of Brook Farm, in particular, were few and far between, Holloway covered many other similar utopian experiments and dug deep into aspects that made some successful and others unsuccessful.
Holloway proves that although utopian societies are very different in their ideals, goals, and varying levels of success, the recognizable continuity lies in the religious origins of the community. According to Holloway, utopian communities generally rise out of religion or a varying version of a religious sector. In particular, Brook Farm rose out of Unitarian ideals that George Ripley extracted after preaching Unitarianism. What makes Brook Farm different from other successful and unsuccessful utopian communities, it that members of were encouraged to practice whatever religion they chose to any degree they chose. Holloway also identifies the influence of Transcendentalism briefly, but fails to further elaborate.
Unlike the first source I used, Heavens on Earth conveys utopian communities as small scale versions of extremism, stemming from Socialist and Communist ideals. In this way, the source is weakened because Holloway makes this broad statement without addressing specific evidence. For instance, many ideologies of Brook Farm seem to parallel ideas of communism and socialism, it was neither truly a Communist, nor Socialist Community.
Holloway, Mark. Heavens on Earth: Utopian Communities in America, 1680-1880. New York: Dover Publications, 1966. Print.
Holloway, Mark. Heavens on Earth: Utopian Communities in America, 1680-1880. New Yok: Dover Publications, 1966. Front Cover. Print.
The article “Brook Farm” from the New England Magazine (Volume XVIII No. 4) backs my argument that Brook Farm was monumental event in social experimentation, changing the course of the functions of society.
The article seemed a general glance at Brook Farm, its ideals, and a description of its first settlers. However, the editorial was much more in-depth, making it a primary source rather than the secondary source I was hoping for. The editorial identifies Brook Farm’s founder (George Ripley), describes the (Unitarian/Transcendentalist) origins of Brook Farm, its education ideology, and paints the picture of the enormous property, the buildings, and the culture of their utopian lifestyle. The culture seemed the most researched part of the editorial. In some ways, Brook Farm was complex and detailed, but in other ways it was minimalist (the economic system and everyday life, respectively). Quotes from George Ripley, residents, and visitors enhanced the editorial and offered many perspectives that were further expanded upon in the by the author.
The editorial addresses the misconceptions of Brook Farm being a Communist or Socialist experiment, when in fact, Brook Farm was a utopian social experiment composed of “a company of teachers” who are “thoroughly happy”. This was the only section that the author’s bias was clear as he vehemently expresses his opposition to the idea that Brook Farm was a Communist or Socialist experiment. The only weakness I found in the editorial was this portion. The topic was addressed sporadically and not particularly clearly. Overall, though, the editorial was both meticulously researched and factual.
Citation of Editorial and Picture:
Cooke, George Willis. “Brook Farm.” New England Magazine Volume 0023 Issue 4 Dec. 1897: 391-407. Making Of America. Cornell University Library. Web. 7 Jan. 2017.