Community Children

Stirpicults 1887

While we were completing our proposal to the NEH requesting funding for the production of the Oneida Community Digital Media Project, we came across the charming photo above.

It was taken in the late 1880s of a group of young men and women that were born as a result of the Oneida Community’s eugenics program, which John Humphrey Noyes called “Stirpiculture” ~ the only large-scale experiment in selected human breeding ever attempted in the United States.

Anthony Wonderley, the curator of the Oneida Community Mansion House, provided us with the photo and identified the individuals in it.

Seated (left to right): Holton Noyes, Gertrude Noyes, John H. Noyes II, Josephine Kinsley, Irene Newhouse, George Wallingford Noyes

Standing: Althea Reeve, Rutherford Towner, Eleanor Kellogg, Richard Wayland-Smith, Corinna (Ackley) Kinsley, Pierrepont Noyes, Burton Dunn

These remarkable young people were part of the third generation of the Oneida Community.  58 children were born during the  eugenics program that Noyes began in 1869, and ended when he fled for Canada in 1879 , driven out by both the threat of arrest for adultery and the internal conflict within the Community, in part brought on by Noyes’ imposition of the Stirpiculture program.

John Humphrey Noyes was the father of 5 of the young people pictured above:  John H. Noyes II, Pierrepont Noyes, Holton Noyes, Gertrude Noyes and Irene Newhouse.

His brother,  George Washington Noyes, fathered two: Richard Wayland-Smith and George Wallingford Noyes.

John Humphrey Noyes’ sons, Theodore and Victor father two: Rutherford Towner and Corinna (Ackley) Kinsley, respectively.

9 out of the 13 are from the Noyes’ blood line. The names don’t always reflect the paternal identity, since at the Break-up of the Community in 1881, many children were adopted and assumed their adopted father’s name.

Three couples would later marry in the 1890s: Pierrepont Noyes and his cousin, Corinna (Ackley) Kinsley; George Wallingford Noyes and his cousin, Irene Newhouse; and Holton Noyes and Josephine Kinsley (no relations).

What is also fascinating about this photograph is that it is a portrait of the future.  Here are many of the leaders that saved the joint stock company that emerged from the Oneida Community ~ Oneida Community Limited, later renamed, Oneida Ltd.

Pierrepont "Pip" Noyes

In 1904, Pierrepont Noyes, known as Pip when he was a little boy growing up in the Mansion House, called on his generation to rescue the Company that was being driven into bankruptcy by its leadership comprised of Community members, so hopelessly lost in the new business environment of the 20th Century that they regularly consulted with the spirit of John Humphrey Noyes who died in 1886.

Many in the group photograph above responded to Pip’s summons and eventually became the leaders of what became the world’s largest manufacturer of silverware or flatware:  Pierrepont lead the company for 20 years.  George W. Noyes retired as a VP in 1920 to write a history of the Community.  John H. Noyes II became the Secretary of the Company, and Dr. Burton Dunn became the Director of Advertising, pioneering the use of images of women in advertising.

Onieda Community Limited Board 1907

Look for the young faces from the 1887 photo in the formal portrait of the Oneida Community Limited in 1907 shown here.

The history of the silverware company is a story of the attempt by the grown children of the Community, the Stirpicults, to create a new “heaven on earth” through the operations of the company that emerged from their ancestors’ labor ~ Oneida Ltd,  in a new city of their creation ~ Sherrill, NY.

And the next chapter in our media project.

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5 Comments

  1. Ann Kemp said,

    January 12, 2012 at 12:27 pm

    Hi!
    I am the grand daughter of Miriam Trowbridge Noyes Barron Earl.
    The information is very interesting. I learned things I didn’t know.
    Great work.

    Ann

  2. Ben Wise said,

    August 3, 2012 at 9:49 pm

    I’m a newcomer to the blog and am not sure where to submit this query. There seem to be several different “blogs” that accept “replies” – it’s a bit disorienting to a newbie. I’ve entered a Reply on one of the other “blogs” (the illustrated list of JHN’s offspring) and haven’t gotten a response to it yet. So now I’m trying this one!

    So here is my question, and perhaps someone will read it and respond in some fashion: I discovered that a movie called Apostasy: A Film about the Oneida Community and the Life of Its Founder, John Humphrey Noyes, by Paul Ronder, was produced with the date 1973. Or at least a book of that name (143 pages) is shown at http://books.google.com/books/about/Apostasy.html?id=SLHrtgAACAAJ
    and also listed on Amazon.com. I could not find any other information about it at all, and it is not currently available. Does anyone know anything about the film and/or where it can be found?

    Many thanks for any clue.

    Ben Wise

    • tontine 255 said,

      August 4, 2012 at 10:23 am

      Hi Ben

      I have never heard of this film, and I have been researching the Oneida Community story for decades, which shows that there are still many undiscovered commentaries on the Oneida Community.

      From what you sent me and with a little web research, I discovered the Paul Ronder was a documentary filmmaker who died in 1977, at the age of 37. The book you mentioned was published four years earlier. It is certainly a book, 143 pages in length. I checked Ronder on IMDB and there is no reference to this being a film: http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0740017

      So, perhaps this book was a script or extended treatment that Ronder intended to make, but did not.

      Best wishes,
      Frank Christopher

      • Ben Wise said,

        August 4, 2012 at 10:39 am

        Hi Frank,

        Yup, I found Ronder’s obit in the NYT archives, myself (first thought: AIDS, unspeakable at the time. But who knows?) I also speculated that it might be just a book with intentions of becoming a movie. Very sad that he did not live to produce it.

        I have some ideas about a screenplay toward a really good film about the O.C. Hope to share them (not to mention, realize them!) sometime.
        If interested in discussing this, write to me “offblog”: bnwise@comcast.net

        Thanks.

        Ben

  3. October 23, 2012 at 9:52 pm

    Am a descendant of the Community-left a message a few days ago.
    Enjoy this blog!

    Rosemary MacKown


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