American Transcendentalism: An Online Travel Guide

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Alcott's Fruitlands

"Here we prosecute our effort to initiate a Family in harmony with the primitive instincts in man."
                                ~
A. Bronson Alcott & Charles Lane, co-founders of Fruitlands


In June 1843, Bronson Alcott and Charles Lane, both reformers involved in the Transcendentalist movement, founded Fruitlands in an attempt to strengthen their spirituality through self-reliant, simple living. Although the experiment failed, the seeds of communal living planted by this attempt (and others similar to it) are still growing in the American landscape today. The site of Fruitlands, in Harvard, Massachusetts, is preserved today as a museum. Prepare to visit this literary landmark by taking a tour of the history, philosophy, and impact of its founding.

Right: Fruitlands Farmhouse (Image courtesy of Fruitlands Museum, Harvard, MA).


Before you visit Fruitlands, explore the life and work of Bronson Alcott. Prior to founding Fruitlands, Alcott was an educator. Read Elizabeth Palmer Peabody's Record of Mr. Alcott's school, exemplifying the principles and methods of moral culture, to get his assistant's first-hand view of his pedagogy. Bronson Alcott truly inspired our class. Read Tiffany's thoughts on this educator, and then be sure to look at Catherine's reflections as well 

Alcott's role as father evidences his passion for education.  Read about the interaction between Alcott and his literary daughter, Louisa May. Linda has something to say about Alcott's daughter, Louisa May Alcott.

Left: A. Bronson Alcott (permission pending from Orchard House).


Visitors to Fruitlands can get a sense of the site by looking at this Historic American Building Survey map and description of the famed community. The farmhouse has been preserved by the Fruitlands Museum. 

Read about the history of and philosophy behind Fruitlands. Louisa May Alcott documented her life as a young girl at Fruitlands in her fictional piece "Transcendental Wild Oats." (And don't forget to visit Orchard House in nearby Concord: that's where Louisa May wrote Little Women.)

Fruitlands was just one of the Transcendentalist utopian communities. Brook Farm was another communal living experiment based on the Transcendentalist philosophy. Nathaniel Hawthorne memorialized this experiment in his novel, The Blithedale Romance. Visit the Brook Farm Historic Site, and watch the C-SPAN American Writers video clip which discusses Hawthorne's experiences at Brook Farm. (Once you've loaded the clip, go to 1:26.13 and watch until 1:29.19.) 

Left: The Study at Fruitlands (Image courtesy of Fruitlands Museum, Harvard, MA).


Learn about the past and present of communal living experiments.Not all of the communal living experiments in the 19th century were led by the Transcendentalists. It's helpful to place the Transcendentalist experiments within the context of other utopian community movements of the 19th century. 

Consider what it means to live in an intentional community today. Twin Oaks is an intentional community that was established during the communal living movement of the 1960s. Explore its origins, values, and philosophy. 

Left: Harvard, Massachusetts (in relation to Boston, Massachusetts) (courtesy of www.mapquest.com)


This page was created by Catherine Hall, an English major at Shepherd College.

"American Transcendentalism: An Online Travel Guide" was produced by students in ENGL 446, American Transcendentalism, and ENGL 447, American Literature and the Prominence of Place: A Travel Practicum. These courses were team-taught in the Department of English at Shepherd College, Shepherdstown, West Virginia, in Spring 2002 by Dr. Patricia Dwyer and Dr. Linda Tate. For more information on the course and the web project, visit "About This Site." 2003 Linda Tate.