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Harmony Society

A Protestant communal society established in 1805 north of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania by 500 Pietist dissenters from Württemberg, Germany, seeking religious freedom. Led by George Rapp (1757-1847) and his adopted son Frederick, the group moved to 30,000 acres on the Wabash River at New Harmony, Indiana, in 1815. In 1825 the society sold New Harmony to British socialist Robert Owen for his communal experiment, and moved to Economy (now Ambridge), Pennsylvania, where it survived until 1916. Practicing first-century Christian communism, Harmonists labored cooperatively as farmers, brewers, millers, and spinners, making their communities showpieces of economic growth and security. They pioneered in prefabricated buildings, oil refining, and underwriting railroad construction. Well-ordered lives, uniform dress, and simple, nonceremonial religious observances characterized “Rappites.” Believing that Father Rapp would present them personally to Christ on His imminent second coming, they became perfectionists, by 1807 adopting celibacy, a factor in the society's ultimate demise.