Oneida: From Free Love Utopia to the Well-Set Table

Oneida From Free Love Utopia to the Well Set Table A fascinating and unusual chapter in American history about a religious community that held radical notions of equality sex and religion only to transform itself at the beginning of the twentieth c

  • Title: Oneida: From Free Love Utopia to the Well-Set Table
  • Author: Ellen Wayland-Smith
  • ISBN: 9781250043085
  • Page: 337
  • Format: Hardcover
  • A fascinating and unusual chapter in American history about a religious community that held radical notions of equality, sex, and religion only to transform itself, at the beginning of the twentieth century, into a successful silverware company and a model of buttoned down corporate propriety.In the early nineteenth century, many Americans were looking for an alternative tA fascinating and unusual chapter in American history about a religious community that held radical notions of equality, sex, and religion only to transform itself, at the beginning of the twentieth century, into a successful silverware company and a model of buttoned down corporate propriety.In the early nineteenth century, many Americans were looking for an alternative to the Puritanism that had been the foundation of the new country Amid the fervor of the religious revival known as the Second Great Awakening, John Humphrey Noyes, a spirited but socially awkward young man, attracted a group of devoted followers with his fiery sermons about creating Jesus millennial kingdom here on Earth Noyes established a revolutionary community in rural New York centered around achieving a life free of sin through God s grace, while also espousing equality of the sexes and complex marriage, a system of free love where sexual relations with multiple partners was encouraged Noyes s belief in the perfectibility of human nature eventually inspired him to institute a program of eugenics, known as stirpiculture, that resulted in a new generation of Oneidans who, when the Community disbanded in 1880, sought to exorcise the ghost of their fathers disreputable sexual theories Converted into a joint stock company, Oneida Community, Limited, would go on to become one of the nation s leading manufacturers of silverware, and their brand a coveted mark of middle class respectability in pre and post WWII America.Told by a descendant of one of the Community s original families, Ellen Wayland Smith s Oneida is a captivating story that straddles two centuries to reveal how a radical, free love sect, turning its back on its own ideals, transformed into a purveyor of the white picket fence American dream.

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      Published :2020-08-11T15:25:22+00:00

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  • Ellen Wayland-Smith

    Ellen Wayland-Smith Is a well-known author, some of his books are a fascination for readers like in the Oneida: From Free Love Utopia to the Well-Set Table book, this is one of the most wanted Ellen Wayland-Smith author readers around the world.


  • Of all 19th century communal experiments, Oneida stands out for its success and its foundation on free love. (Interestingly, Shaker communities also survived into the 20th century with the opposite approach to sex.) A descendant of the founders, Ellen Wayand-Smith, digs into the archives to present a portrait of Oneida at the various stages of its development.As he came of age, conventional Christian beliefs about sex weighed heavily on John Humphrey Noyes. From his powerful dreams and visions, [...]

  • I was excited to read this book, especially to understand the connection between electricity, sex, and immortality. ;) I found the author’s writing to be a bit long-winded. I also felt she infused so much of her own personal opinions and judgments that I didn’t know if I was always getting the facts. It is understandable since she is a descendant of the community, but something I didn’t care for. Overall it was a bit dry.

  • 3.5Ellen Wayland-Smith, a descendant of the original founders of the Oneida community, digs into the commune's history and tells the story of how they started, but of more interest to me, how they changed and survived for over 100 years. A commune espousing free love was not unusual in the years before the Civil war. There were a number of them that experienced varying amounts of success, but most of them fizzled out within a relatively short time. The Oneida community was able to redefine itsel [...]

  • Fascinating and well-presented book of the Oneida community. I've read many accounts, and what I like best about this one is that it traces the line of the OC past its abandonment of Complex Marriage to its present-day families.

  • I was pleased to read this book discussion choice from my local public library because it deals with the Oneida Community, a 19th-century utopian group that lived just a few miles south of where I presently reside. What a fascinating group they were! John Humphrey Noyes, the founder, was born and grew up in Putney, Vermont, and grew to believe that "Bible communism" was the best type of society. He and his followers pooled all their possessions and money and built a mansion and farm in Oneida, N [...]

  • Spectacularly dull for a book that had a chapter called "sex battery." I guess it'll take even more than bizarro sex communism to make 19th century Revivalism interesting to me.Several book club members brought in their silverware.

  • In the mid 1800's a young man called John Humphrey Noyes feels a calling to start a new faith community in rural New York called the Oneida Community. This community based on free love, equality of the sexes and eugenics takes off. Ellen Wayland-Smith, a ancestor of Noyes writes a compelling story of the history of her ancestor, the community he developed and the silver wear the community made to support themselves.

  • This was an ok book, just disgusting to read but also very important to read so that it does not ever happen again. It is so sad how the Oneida's lived and inbred their residents in the 1800's. it is hard to believe a cult like this lived in and thrived in Central New York. I mostly feel sorry for the Young women who were abused and taught that they had to let themselves be sexually assaulted to be able to fit into the society.

  • Interesting subject. I am glad it was written, but it is pretty boring and a bit of a slog to get through. Lots of quotes from old letters and autobiographical books written by members of the Oneida community. I give it 3 stars for the attempt and research. If you are into reading about cults and/or early communes, you might find this of interest.

  • Well written and researched book about some distant ancestral relations of mine. Interesting/eye opening to finally read and understand what the Oneida Community was all about. I'm gonna recommend this book to my relatives I recommend it for 19th and 20th century American history enthusiasts.

  • Well researched, but there were just too many theological discussions when all we needed to know was that Noyes was a lunatic.

  • This book was highly fascinating to me. I live in the area and I feel an urge to drive out there to take a better look at the houses around the Mansion since I had not realized they were part of it. I'm much more educated on the topic now and want to learn even more. I did not realize what an influence in society the community played. My heart aches at the burning of all their documents too.

  • Written by a descendant of the original Oneida Community, this is a fascinating tale of the origins of what most of 20th century people know only as a maker of silverware and other table setting things.While it's fascinating, it's also very creepy, as you have founder John Humphrey Noyes creating a closed in society based on "Bible Communism," rationalizing free love as the only way to connect with God, and his controlling of who has sex with whom the only way to express it. As I listened to the [...]

  • As the Oneida Community is nearby me (I have been to the Mansion House several times) its history has always fascinated me. The community was one of a number of Utopian societies that emerged in the 19th century. It was most widely known at the time (and still today) for its practice of group marriages where multiple partners would engage in marital relations. The Oneidas also experimented late in their association with a form of selective genetic breeding, called "stirpiculture", whereby couple [...]

  • Wow. I will never look at my Oneida silverware the same again! This book is about the 19th century communist community of Oneida, New York. It was a community of not just free love and complex marriage, but also incest, avuncular sex, eugenics, and things like stirpiculture, sticky love, and coitus continence all in the name of religious perfectionism. Although it was a bit drawn out and over detailed at times, this was a pretty interesting read.

  • In 1848 a group of mostly ordinary people established the Oneida community that rejected marriage, monogamy, and traditional family structure (although still considering themselves Christians), attempting to set up a more egalitarian society than they saw around them. But their autocratic leader dictated who could have a relationship with whom, and broke up any relationships that were getting what he deemed "sticky"--i.e. too emotionally close. He would even enforce separations between mothers a [...]

  • Wayland-Smith tells a fascinating story about her ancestors. John Humphrey Noyes was an imperfect visionary who convinced others to contribute their fortunes to found a Christian community where free love was integrated into theology. They settled into the Oneida valley of New York in the 1840s. (I'm assuming that this land belonged to the Oneida Tribe, who were earlier removed to Wisconsin, but this is not discussed in the book.) The community disbanded in 1881, but the industries they develope [...]

  • Ironically, Oneida silverware still markets via a message of middle class respectability and the traditional family. Ironic, since the community began as a Great Awakening 19th century response to industrialization and individual survival (with the added flavor of "complex marriage" and birth control to instill communal connections and add sexual liberation for women). Unlike their Brook Farm comrades, and much like the Mormons, the Oneida community smartly built up industries and defended thems [...]

  • Before hippie free love, there were the Oneidans-- a commune of Christian heretics who put to test the doctrine that “sexual love is not naturally restricted to pairs.” The idea: Unrestricted sex (including with 13-year-olds) is a "joyful act of fellowship" that establishes God's kingdom on earth. Guess how Oneida ended up.

  • I enjoyed this book and in many ways, I would have preferred that it was somewhat longer. The book covers the rise and fall of the Oneida community which, sadly, has some limitations due to the destruction of a significant portion of the community's written records. I think the author does an excellent job using other sources and bringing multiple viewpoints to the founding, and the eventual breakup, of Oneida as a community. Equally as interesting, and this portion could have been longer as wel [...]

  • Oneida by Ellen Wayland-Smith is a free FirstReads advance reader copy of a paperback book that I received in April, but didn't finish until late May while on a road trip. Inspired by Chris Jennings' Paradise Now, I had wanted to learn more about the figurehead community featured in it, Oneida.Where Paradise Now engaged in philosophy and the events going on at that point in history (roughly the 1840s-1880s), Wayland-Smith's chapters are bogged down so much by the inhabitants of Oneida that the [...]

  • I was able to pick up an ARC at a library conference. Thanks, Macmillan!This is a wonderful account of one of the most successful American utopian communities of the 19th century. John Humphrey Noyes, a completely whacky religious revivalist, somehow managed to convince a few hundred devotees to embark on an experiment in "Bible Communism' which included, most notably, the adoption of "complex marriage," eschewing monogamy. Wayland-Smith, as a descendant of Noyes has a particular personal intere [...]

  • A long path through the founding of a religious experimental community, the individuals and their philosophies, the families and how they were directed, and eventually the businesses and how they accumulated wealth, and the eventual breaking up and its consequences. Certainly it is a long and winding road, but curiously each part is interesting in its own way. This community has long been noted because of its complex marriage practices early birth control and communal child raising. Unfortunatel [...]

  • What does free love, Bible thumpers,Christian Communism, Silverware, WWII arms makers, millennial cults have in common the Oneida movement which was started by John Humphrey Noyes in the mid 19th century. It was a religious movement that believed in selflessness and sharing even in sexual matters. It was one of those Christian movements that took the gospel teaching in some weird directions. Although I don't think I would want to be anywhere near these people it does make a good story.

  • Good read. Interesting story that demonstrates how organizations change over time. A couple of factual errors (referring to insect collecting and taxidermy as botanical sampling, and saying Darwin published The Origin of Species in 1850) irritated me but did not detract from the book. Just a couple of grains of sand in the overall reading swimsuit.

  • This is a terrifically informative book. Its well written, funny and simply an amazing story that tells us a huge amount about how crazy American culture is and how a Bible sex cult ended up designing most of the silverware used by 20th century Americans. What a ride!

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