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What was the Harmony Society?

February 15th

Johann_Georg_Rapp_1757_-_1847February 15, 1805 — About 400 German followers formally organized the Harmony Society in Butler County, PA today, placing all their goods in common.

Its leader was Johann Georg Rapp (November 1, 1757 – August 7, 1847), who wrote, “Thoughts on the Destiny of Man,” in 1824, which he outlined his ideas and philosophy.

Rapp let newcomers into his Society, but it took a year-long trial period, and many found the Harmonists’ religious life too difficult. During a period of religious zeal in 1807-1808, most of the group adopted the practice of celibacy. However, Rapp’s son, Johannes, was married in 1807; and it was the last marriage on record until 1817. Although Rapp did not entirely bar sex initially, it gradually became a custom and there were few births in later years.

After Rapp’s death in 1847, a number of members left the group, which slowly became more protective of itself, ad did not allow many new members. It disbanded and the land and financial assets were sold off by 1906.

Today, many of the Society’s remaining buildings are preserved. All three of their settlements in the US have been declared National Historic Landmark Districts by the National Park Service.

Words of Wisdom

What is the chief end of man's existence? He is destined to make use of the faculties implanted in him by his maker, for the benefit of himself and others. To do this, he needs practice. He has to learn, and that learning must be acquired among his fellow creatures. No one can find out the proper use of his abilities, without having objects before him. For this an intercourse with man is necessary.

— Harmony Society founder George Rapp, excerpts from "Thoughts on the Destiny of Man"

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