And so winds up 1868! Come on New Year!!!

With these words ~  “And so winds up 1868!  Come on New Year!!!” ~ Harriet Worden concluded her 1868 Journal, and we log the final entry for 1868 in Harriet’s Posts ~ 1868 in sync with 2010.  Tomorrow we will post the start of Harriet’s posts for 1869.

It has been an interesting daily ritual, reading Harriet’s entries on the corresponding day in 1868.  For instance, comparing the weather they were having in 1868 to ours in 2010; they had more snow.  We have enjoyed following the daily comings and goings of Community members as they moved from apartment to apartment, job to job, shifting from living in the Mansion House to the satellite Community at Willow Place, a mile a way.  And in the case of poor Uncle Horace (Burt) who wandered off from the Community one day, Harriet reported, “Mr. Burt had a letter from Uncle Horace this evening. It was dated at Schenectady. Said he left without purse or script – without two coats & two pairs of shoes. Whither bound or what his plans are not plain. He is far from being in his right mind.”

Harriet’s accounts of the nightly meetings and entertainments provided a window into the creative, resourceful and often amusing ways and lives of Community members.  They gave lectures on Entomology, Chemistry, Babylon, Egypt, The Greeks and Persians, and the history of Roman times and Constantinople, and a course of lectures for the children on the “Providence of God.”

Harriet Worden with Guitar

They had “scandalous” dances that showed, for some, too much of a “woman’s bottom,” and an amazing  variety of musical performances  and dramatic interpretations, including promenades, skits mimicking “a goodly number of Oneida Community personages,” and even a “practical illustration of Shaker life.”   A mock-funeral for their bag business ended this way ~ making fun of the size of their Oneida Community handbook, and celebrating with a surprise magic act, their new project – Stirpiculture ~ selecting parents to give birth to the next generation of Oneida Community children.  Harriet wrote,

“Then followed a little scene in which Mr. Kelly as an agent offers the “handbook” of two thousand pages to his customers.  He goes out and in comes John Lord & George Allen; each carrying a large leather bag & to all appearances very heavy – and upon setting them down out comes, what do you think – two children, Harold & Temple!  They each exclaimed, “Hurrah for Scientific Propagation!”  and the curtain fell.”

These were just some of the informative and entertaining performances the Community presented at their regular 7PM meetings.

With their habit of keeping records of everything, the last days of the year were devoted to taking inventory.  Harriet reported that John Humphrey Noyes requested on December 8 that the Community “take an inventory of the labor of each individual during past year.”  During the last days of December, Community members took stock of what they had labored at and what they had achieved.  On the final evening meeting of the year, Theodore Noyes read the inventory.  Unfortunately, we do not have that report, but the Oneida Community archives at Syracuse University contain various inventories of their possessions, food stocks, business income and expenses, itemized costs for sustaining each member at Oneida, Wallingford, and Willow Place, and a record of each Community member, listing their name, age, height, weight, birth place and date,  the age and date when they joined, and how much property they brought into the Community.  The Oneida Community considered themselves to be living under scientific principles, and to do so they needed data.

And so Vicki and I are taking an inventory of our labor for the past year.  We began the year in Montreal, living under the shadow of the great Basilica, L’Oratoire Saint-Joseph du Mont-Royal; me working on completing the animated documentary on the explorations of Samuel de Champlain – Dead Reckoning ~ Champlain in America, and Vicki keeping her American intellectual property clients happy from Canada.  In January, we decided to investigate living in the Mansion House and producing a media project on the Oneida Community.  In early April, we moved back to Cumberland Head on Lake Champlain as I began work on the Cirque du Soleil PBS special, Flowers in the Desert. Within weeks of returning to the US, we visited the Mansion House and fell in love with our future home, Tontine 255.  Since the end of June, we have been living in the Mansion House, in an apartment furnished with furniture from throughout the great house and dishes and silverware from Oneida Ltd.  And except for three months when I was up to my eye balls with work producing Flowers, we have been consumed with the lives of the three hundred or so religious pioneers in the 19th Century.  We have made many wonderful new 21st Century friends here among the people who work for or live in the Mansion House.  Vicki has been exploring the cooking and baking philosophy of the Oneida Community described so well by Harriet Skinner. And early next year, she will be publishing a new version of this wonderful glimpse into the food produced and consumed in the Oneida Community.

Oneida Community Web Doc

January 12th is the deadline for our proposal to the National Endowment for the Humanities for support for the Oneida Community Media Project.  We didn’t think we would make this deadline due to the amount of time taken up with the Cirque project, but it looks like we will make the deadline!  I have nearly completed the proposal requesting support for an innovative interactive media project that will include: a documentary broadcast on public television; the same film streamed on the internet with interactive features available to allow a viewer to access additional historical information, context, analysis and commentary by our scholars; and an interactive web documentary that will allow the viewer to discover multiple narratives, historical information, tour the Mansion House in a virtual environment, trace the history of the Community through an interactive timeline and map, view Mansion House exhibits online, and discuss ideas with our panel of scholars.

And so winds up 2010!  Come on New Year!!!


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