Brook Farm

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.

Brook Farm

Brook Farm, 1841–47, an experimental farm at West Roxbury, Mass., based on cooperative living. Founded by George Ripley, a Unitarian minister, the farm was initially financed by a joint-stock company with 24 shares of stock at $500 per share. Each member was to take part in the manual labor in an attempt to make the group self-sufficient. Intellectual life was stimulating, with such members as Nathaniel Hawthorne, John S. Dwight, Charles A. Dana, and Isaac Hecker, and such visitors as Ralph Waldo Emerson, W. E. Channing, Margaret Fuller, Horace Greeley, and Orestes Brownson. Brook Farm was mainly an outgrowth of Unitarianism, although most of the members had left that church and were advocates of the literary and philosophical movement known as transcendentalism. Economically, the community's excellent school was the most successful part of the venture (anticipating John Dewey's progressive-education ideas of learning from experience); agriculture showed little profit because of the sandy soil and the inexperience of the farmers. The popularity of the doctrines of Charles Fourier led, especially through the efforts of Albert Brisbane, to Brook Farm's conversion to a phalanx in 1844. The group, however, did not long survive the financial disaster of the burning (1846) of the uncompleted central building. The Harbinger (1845–49), printed at Brook Farm and edited by Ripley, was rather a Fourierist weekly newspaper than the organ of Brook Farm and was continued in New York City with Parke Godwin as editor after 1847.

See E. R. Curtis, A Season in Utopia (1961, repr. 1971).

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