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April 27, 1825
New Harmony

On April 27, 1825, British industrialist Robert Owen, established a utopian community in the town of New Harmony, Indiana he had just purchased. This community was one of the first communes established to be organized around the principle of rational ethics instead of religion. Owen believed that misery and vice in the world stemmed from a "trinity of evils" : traditional religion, inequalities in wealth and private property, and conventional marriage based on religion and property. He also thought that through education and nurturing a person's intellect and spirit, human character and potential could be developed to its highest potential and benefit for the individual and the community. 800 people were invited to live for free in his utopian experiment. Although the community proved to be an economic failure after just two years, Owen's experiment provided inspiration for many philosophers and political pragmatists and in the development of what would eventually become the principles and practices of socialism.

Before coming to America, Robert Owen was a successful Welsh businessman during the Industrial Revolution in Britain who had left his mark on history as one of the leading social reformers of his time. He is considered the "father of the cooperative movement." At the time, most workers lived and worked in poor conditions for little wages. After amassing a fortune as an industrialist, Robert Owen set out to make his new cotton factory, New Lanark Mills in Scotland, a cooperative factory community that focused more on the well-being of the community than on profits. During the early 1800s poor children were expected to work in factories at an early age; For his mill, Robert Owen set up an infant school, a day care center for working mothers, providing education and health care to children starting when they were three. Children did not have to work in the mill until they were 10, which was revolutionary at the time. He also set up a cooperative shop that provided high quality goods at reasonable costs for the mill's workers and their families. Owen believed that education and safe cooperative work conditions would promote a happy, healthy and productive community of workers. This would not only be good for the business, but for the entire society as well. The Mill became a successful model that prominent social reformers and industrialists visited. Owen published many works promoting his cooperative ideas and attempted to establish several utopian communities, besides New Harmony. This visionary philanthropist's ideals have continued to inspire many trade and cooperative movements for the past 150 years.

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