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Manuscript Group 437
24 cubic feet

Karl J.R. Arndt (1905-1991) was a scholar specializing in utopian societies, a linguist, and Head of the Department of German at Clark University, Worcester, Massachusetts. These materials were collected by Dr. Arndt during the course of his research and publication of documentary histories of the Harmony Society (1805-1905) of Harmony, Pennsylvania; New Harmony, Indiana; and Economy, Pennsylvania. The members of the Harmony Society, also sometimes called Harmonists, Economites, and Rappists, were religious separatists devoted to communal living. The Society was founded in 1805 by Johann Georg Rapp (1757-1847), a farmer and vinedresser born in Iptigen, Germany. Rapp and his followers believed in refashioning their lives around their vision of what "primitive Christianity" was like during the first centuries of the Christian era. They established their first community called Harmony in the Connoquenessing Valley of Butler County in 1805 in which all property was placed in a common fund. A small cloth factory was established in 1806 which was followed by a sawmill, tannery, distillery, vinyards, and a two-story hotel. The group adopted the practice of celibacy in 1807.

In 1814, the Society sold the property in Butler County and founded New Harmony in Posey County, Indiana where they erected even larger factories. In 1824 the members returned to western Pennsylvania and established the village of Economy in Beaver County where Rapp died in 1847. Under the trusteeship of Romelius L. Baker (1847-1868) and Jacob Henrici (1868-1892), the Society became involved in real estate speculation in Beaver Falls, construction of the Pittsburgh and Lake Erie Railroad, established the Economy Savings Institution and Economy Brick Works, and operated the Economy Oil Company, Economy Planing Mill, and Economy Lumber Company. Following litigation by heirs, the Harmony Society was dissolved in 1905. The seventeen structures comprising Old Economy Village were acquired by the Pennsylvania Historical Commission in 1919 for use as a historic site. Most of the archival records thereafter came into the possession of John S. Duss and Susanna C. Duss, the last trustees, who were employed by John Duss to write The Harmonists: A Personal History (1943). The Historical Society of Western Pennsylvania took custody of part of the records in 1931 and 1933, with the balance being sold to the Pennsylvania Historical Commission in 1937. The majority of the materials in this collection were obtained by Dr. Arndt through a series of interlibrary loans, 1941-1943, from the Old Economy Village historic site while the remainder was collected independently by Dr. Arndt.

The collection consists primarily of original administrative and legal papers, correspondence and accounts of the Harmony Society and its business enterprises. In addition, there are related materials interfiled in the collection which were by collected by Dr. Arndt from unidentified sources.

These materials have all been transferred to the PHMC's Old Economy Village Historic Site, but microfilm copies of the materials can be viewed at the Pennsylvania State Archives.

For related records see the Harmony Society Papers (Manuscript Group 185), John S. Duss Papers (Manuscript Group 310), Old Economy Village Collection (Manuscript Group 354), Knoedler Family Collection (Manuscript Group 330), and Henry Mohn Family Collection (Manuscript Group 332), which have also been transferred to Old Economy Village.

Administrative Files

Legal Files


Also present is correspondence of George C. Buell, Charles F. Straube, and H.G. Wasson, which relates to escheat proceedings instigated by the state of Pennsylvania after the dissolution of the Harmony Society in 1905; and the correspondence of Gilbert H. Hays, which relates to the creation of the Harmony Society Historical Association.

Bound Accounts

Loose Accounts

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