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Virtual Event Recordings

Since 2020, Historic New Harmony has partnered with Historic Harmony, Inc - Harmony Museum and Old Economy Village to present The Harmonist Connection, a free virtual program that brings the three sites of the Harmony Society together to discuss what connects us. Topics in the past have included religion and symbolism, redware pottery, cemeteries, town planning, and gardens.

Recordings of past programs are available on The Harmonist Connection YouTube channel and as embedded videos in the links below. 

For the first time the three sites of the Harmony Society, Historic Harmony, Historic New Harmony and Old Economy Village have partnered together to discuss their history, connection and influence the society has on their sites today in a new quarterly virtual program. Hear an introduction from each site in our first meeting of The Harmonist Connection.

The Harmony Museum, located 30 miles north of Pittsburgh, celebrates the history of the communal Harmony Society that was founded here in 1805. The first followers of the self-proclaimed prophet Father George Rapp arrived in the winter of 1804 from Württemberg, part of present-day Germany. By 1805 some 90 families had followed Rapp to the western Pennsylvania wilderness, pledging their worldly possessions to the Harmony Society. Within a few years, the religious commune soon numbered a thousand members, with 2000 cultivated acres and more than 100 buildings, including a church, school, warehouse, woolen mills, grist mills, brewery and tannery. About two dozen of those buildings still exist. Historic Harmony and its Harmony Museum tell the story of the early Harmonists and preserve a total of nine historic properties in and around the small but bustling Borough of Harmony PA.

In 1814, the Harmony Society settled their second community, New Harmony. Between 1814 and 1824, the Harmonists constructed over 180 log, frame and brick structures in their settlement. The community was entirely self-sufficient, and produced a wide variety of goods that were recognized worldwide for their fine quality. Harmonist wares were sold throughout the United States and overseas in the British Isles, the Netherlands, Switzerland and Germany. Through divine guidance, George Rapp sought a buyer for the entire town in order to facilitate their relocation to Pennsylvania in 1824. The town was sold to Robert Owen, a Welsh industrialist, and his business partner William Maclure. Today Historic New Harmony is a program of the University of Southern Indiana. By preserving our utopian legacy, we inspire innovation and progressive thought through programs and collections.

Economy, Pennsylvania was the third and final home of the Harmony Society, established in 1824 along the Ohio River. Here the Society experienced the Great Schism, which took away one third of its members. Industries included wool, cotton, and silk, as well as wine, beer, and whiskey. As the Society grew older, hired workers took over the general functions of the town, and major business interests turned toward investments. The Harmony Society became involved with railroads, coal, oil, and lumber, as well as owning most of the town of Beaver Falls, Pennsylvania. After selling off most of its holdings, the Society closed in 1905 with two members remaining as the booming town of Ambridge in its infancy sprang up around them.

Hear from Dr. Alice Ott and Dr. Don Pitzer as they present on the religious influence and the enduring symbolism of the Harmony Society. Alice T. Ott received her PhD at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School (TEDS) in Deerfield, Illinois. Her PhD dissertation, published under the title The Sunwoman in the Wilderness (Emeth Press, 2014), examined the religious beliefs and practices of George Rapp’s Harmony Society. She currently serves as an Affiliate Professor at TEDS, where she teaches courses in church history, the history of mission and world Christianity.

Don Pitzer is Professor Emeritus of History and Director Emeritus of the Center for Communal Studies at the University of Southern Indiana. He is a founder and first president of the Communal Studies Association in the United States and of the International Communal Studies Association headquartered in Israel. He published America’s Communal Utopias in 1997 and New Harmony: Then & Now with images by photographer Darryl Jones in 2012.

George Rapp’s sermons and other writings reveal that the Harmonist leader’s religious beliefs were influenced by a number of divergent influences. On one hand, Rapp’s beliefs reflect the cosmological speculation and Sophia doctrine common among some radical Pietists. But alongside this group of influences are other more orthodox Christian beliefs: core Reformation doctrines found within Lutheranism, key emphases of church Pietists, and important Anabaptist beliefs including the love feast, pacifism and shunning.

Additionally, certain symbolism endured from Rapp’s separatist movement’s beginnings in 1785 in what is today Iptingen, Germany. These theological and philosophical sources may be called the “Four P’s”: pietism, pacifism, perfectionism, postmillennialism. Tangible symbols of Harmonist beliefs, like churches, cemeteries, labyrinths, grottos, and sculptures began in the Society’s first communal settlement at Harmony, Pennsylvania after 1804 and evolved into those at New Harmony, Indiana, and Economy, Pennsylvania. Additional symbolism began in New Harmony and Economy that endured until the Society was dissolved in 1905. Evidence of Harmonist symbolism can still be seen in all three of their towns.

Learn more about Harmonist burial practices while virtually visiting the Harmonist cemeteries in Harmony, New Harmony and Old Economy. Guest speakers Dr. Michael Strezewski of the University of Southern Indiana and Dr. Bryan Hanks of the University of Pittsburgh share their archaeological discoveries in the New Harmony and Economy cemeteries using ground penetrating radar.

Dr. Mike Strezewski is an archeologist and Associate Professor of Anthropology at the University of Southern Indiana. Since 2008, he has led several archeological field schools in New Harmony including one on the grounds of the Working Men’s Institute, at the site of the Harmonist kiln and one just outside the north wall of the Harmonist Cemetery. In 2015, he conducted a study within the cemetery wall through magnetometry and resistivity surveys, gaining a better understanding of both the Native American mounds and Harmonist graves.

Bryan Hanks (Ph.D., University of Cambridge 2003) is an archaeologist whose research interests have focused on the development of late prehistoric societies in Europe and the Eurasian steppes. He has been engaged in collaborative field research in Russia since 1998 and has directed research projects in the southeastern Ural Mountains region of Russia and most recently in southeastern Europe in the Republic of Serbia. Since 2014, he has been working annually with the US Forest Service on the study of Native American Pit House villages along the Salmon River and its tributaries in the state of Idaho. Dr. Hanks has also assisted in the survey of Old Economy Village's Cemetery working to identify grave pit features and related patterning using ground penetrating radar.

Hear from Dr. Michael J. Lewis as he presents on utopian town planning.

Michael J. Lewis is a professor of art at Williams College and the architecture critic of the Wall Street Journal. He studied at Haverford College after which he spent two years at the University of Hannover Germany, receiving his Ph.D. from the University of Pennsylvania in 1989. He has taught at Bryn Mawr College; McGill University, Montreal; and the University of Natal, South Africa. Lewis has a longstanding interest in the architecture of the Harmony Society, dating to 1987 when he was involved in the restoration study of Old Economy Village, which led to his 2008 Guggenheim Fellowship to write his history of utopian town planning, City of Refuge, published in 2016. Other books include Frank Furness: Architecture and the Violent Mind (2001), American Art and Architecture (2006) and the prize-winning Politics of the German Gothic Revival (1993).

Hear from New Harmony resident Kent Schuette and Old Economy Village volunteer, Joe Pulgini as they share the work that goes into maintaining a modern garden while drawing on the traditions of the Harmonists.

Kent Schuette is a professor emeritus of Purdue University, having served 45 years on the faculty in Purdue's Department of Horticulture and Landscape Architecture. In 2020, Kent was asked to become the David Lenz House Garden manager, a position he continues to hold with the Colonial Dames in the State of Indiana.

Joe Pulgini has served on the Board of Directors for Old Economy Village since 2011. He has volunteered in the gardens for 8 years, working to keep the grounds beautiful and the harvest bountiful.

Hear from Dr. Michael Strezewski about Christoph Weber, Redware Potter of the Harmony Society, a German utopian group founded by religious dissenter George Rapp.

Working from 1808 to 1853, Weber made a variety of household wares such as pitchers, storage jars, jugs, plates, and mugs. Weber’s pottery was distributed among the Society’s members and sold to their neighbors. Utilizing documentary sources, archaeological investigations, and analysis of surviving ceramics, Michael Strezewski paints a detailed picture of Christoph Weber, the different types of pottery he manufactured, and his place in the early nineteenth century origins of the ceramics industry in the United States.

Dr. Strezewski is an Associate Professor of Anthropology at the University of Southern Indiana. He has been working at New Harmony since 2008 and has conducted excavations at several sites in New Harmony, including Community House #1 and #2, the Fauntleroy House, the Harmonist kiln, and the Harmonist frame church. He is also the author of Christoph Weber: Redware Potter of the Harmony Society, 1808-1853, which was published in 2023 as part of Hamilton College’s American Communal Societies Series.