Evening Entertainment

Bag Bee

In today’s blog from Harriet Worden’s 1868 Journal, (Harriet’s Posts ~ 1868)  she describes an evening entertainment that marked the end of the bag business at the Oneida Community.  Erastus Hamilton, who often led the Evening Meetings rather than John Humphrey Noyes due to Noyes’ health issues, announced:

“We are a business sort of people, paying but little attention to Sunday and funerals.  In fact, the solemn institution of funerals has been very much neglected among us; but lately the attention of the Community has been turned to this subject, with its usual enterprise and thoroughness.”

Mr. Hamilton then announced that the remainder of the evening would be devoted to staging a funeral marking the end of the bag business at the Oneida Community, and he expected that the audience would get “themselves into a suitable frame of mind; and that a free and conspicuous use will be made of pocket handkerchiefs.”

Erastus Hamilton

What Harriet Worden describes is both amusing and historically significant; using song and theater (a mock funeral is staged) to celebrate the end of a business venture that was once very profitable for the Community, and was an activity that transformed the act of making bags to fill business orders into a communal experience that, when the business was retired, provoked tears and memories ~

Of bees, of love tales read,

Of bright-eyed maidens short & tall

Who lined and stitched and bled!

The funeral ends on a hilarious note and is not to be missed in reading this remarkable entry by Harriet Worden.  Her entry captures the inventiveness  of the members of the Oneida Community as they created entertainment that was both educational and fun, and provides a glimpse of stern-looking characters like Erastus Hamilton that is more humorous and nuanced than is revealed in most Oneida Community publications .


1 Comment

  1. kaitlin said,

    November 17, 2010 at 4:12 pm


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