New Discoveries

We have lived in the Mansion House for three weeks.  For nine of these days, we have sought refuge from the July heat wave (high 90s and heavy air) in the Syracuse Library Special Collections Room.  This is where the Oneida Community papers are kept.

Cool Researching

It is a treasure of diaries, letters, Community records, poems, novels, plays, sketches, and articles and essays.  The Special Collections room is also refrigerated, which feels very refreshing in the midst of the heat wave outside.

We have examined letters, diaries and journals from 16 of the 77 boxes of materials from the Oneida Community.  It is exhausting work, trying to decipher handwriting that was written in pencil and is now faded or ink soaked pages that are on the brink of disintegration.  But every day of work produces rewards that makes it all worthwhile.  One such discovery was Harriet Worden’s 1868-69 Journal.

I first heard of Harriet Worden in the 1980s, when I read her son’s account of growing up in the Oneida Community ~ My Father’s House, An Oneida Boyhood by Pierrepont B. Noyes.

PB Noyes as he was called as an adult, was born in 1870; his father was John Humphrey Noyes, and Pip (as he was called as a child) was one of the children born during the eugenics program, what the Community called “Stirpiculture.”  In his twenties, PB Noyes took control of the joint stock company that emerged from the dissolution of the Oneida Community in 1880, and built it into the world’s biggest manufacturer of flatware, Oneida Ltd.  I recall Pip’s mother admonishing him not to cry or cling to her when it was time for him to return to the Children’s House, where he was raised together with the other children by “a mother” and “father” chosen by the Community.

Reading Tirzah Miller’s diary, published as Desire & Duty at Oneida ~ Tirzah Miller’s Intimate Memoir edited by Robert S. Fogarty, Harriet makes several appearances, but as a rival to Tirzah for the love of Edward Inslee and Henry Hunter.  Both Tirzah and Harriet were writers and took turns editing the Community newspaper, The Circular.  Harriet Worden wrote a memoir of her own, but much less personal than Tirzah’s ~ Old Mansion House Memories, which were public memories of the first Mansion House that was replaced in 1862 by the present building, and published in The Circular in 1870-71.

Harriet Worden

The journal we found in Harriet’s folder was written contemporaneously between November 1868 and May 1869.  It is very exciting to find this journal.  It records daily events in the life of the Oneida Community.

For example:

  • the changes in living and working arrangements between and within the three “families” at Oneida, Wallingford Ct., and Willow Place (the location a few miles from the Mansion House where the traps were manufactured)
  • the visitors to the Community
  • the births and deaths within the Community
  • the weather (a critical factor in this part of the world)
  • the sales and other business trips by members of the Community
  • the orders for traps and silk thread
  • the appeals by people in the outside world to join the Community
  • the accounts of members who decided to leave the Community
  • the criticisms of individuals by criticism committees
  • the ideas expressed by the leader of the Community – John Humphrey Noyes  – and the subsequent discussion by the Community
  • the plans for new buildings and changes in the organization of work
  • the evening meetings and the entertainment that was almost a nightly occurrence

Anything that was unusual or extraordinary, Harriet wrote about it.  It is a wonderful account of the daily life of the Community when it was at it’s zenith.  It was a time of confidence, of business success, of plans to produce scientifically superior children, of showing the way to perfection to the outside world by the manner in which they worked, lived and loved.

Today, we begin posting excerpts from Harriet’s Journal, which will provide a sense of the rhythm of life at a critical time in the history of the Oneida Community.



  1. Carina Eddy said,

    July 26, 2010 at 12:54 pm

    I’m looking forward to follwing your journey. It’s facinating so far!

    Hugs and love,

  2. robert Fogarty said,

    August 2, 2010 at 11:21 am

    Vicky & Frank:
    I look forward to seeing more material and a visit to Oneida.

  3. James Eddy said,

    August 11, 2010 at 10:27 am

    Reading about your unfolding journey is truly amazing! How wonderful it must be to live within the walls of your subject…. Can’t wait to see what comes next!!


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