Fruitlands (transcendental center)

Fruitlands (transcendental center)

Infobox_nrhp | name =Fruitlands
nrhp_type = nhld

caption = Amos Bronson Alcott, founder of Fruitlands
location= Harvard, Massachusetts
lat_degrees = 42
lat_minutes = 30
lat_seconds = 33.99
lat_direction = N
long_degrees = 71
long_minutes = 36
long_seconds = 45.48
long_direction = W
locmapin = Massachusetts
area =
built =1843
architect= Unknown
architecture= No Style Listed
added = March 19, 1974
governing_body = Private
refnum=74001761cite web|url=|title=National Register Information System|date=2007-01-23|work=National Register of Historic Places|publisher=National Park Service]

Fruitlands was a utopian home established in Harvard, Massachusetts by Amos Bronson Alcott and Charles Lane in the 1840s, based on transcendentalist principles. An account of its less-than-successful activities can be found in Alcott's daughter Louisa May Alcott's "Transcendental Wild Oats." The original farmhouse, along with other historic buildings from the area, is now a part of Fruitlands Museum.

Lane purchased what was known as the Wyman farm and its 90 acres, which also included a dilapidated house and barn. Residents of Fruitlands ate no animal substances, drank only water, bathed in unheated water, and did not use artificial light. [McFarland, Philip. "Hawthorne in Concord". New York: Grove Press, 2004. p. 81. ISBN 0802117767] Additionally, property was held communally, and no animal labor was used.

Though it was short-lived, lasting only seven months, Fruitlands is significant as part of the history of American communes.


Amos Bronson Alcott, a teacher and member of the Nonresistance Society, first came up with the idea of Fruitlands in 1841. He traveled to England in 1842, where he hoped to find support and people to participate with him in the experiment. England was home to Bronson Alcott's strongest group of supporters, a group of educators who had founded the Alcott House, a school based on Bronson Alcott's philosophy of teaching. One of Bronson Alcott's supporters was Charles Lane, who returned to New England with Bronson Alcott. Lane purchased the 90 acre Wyman Farm in Harvard, Massachusetts for $1800.00, and Fruitlands opened in June 1843. Though Bronson Alcott had come up with the idea of Fruitlands himself, he was not involved in purchasing the land, largely because he was penniless after the failure of his Temple School and his subsequent years in Concord, Massachusetts as a farmer.

In principle, the Fruitlands reformers did not believe in purchasing property; Lane said the following on the subject: "We do not recognize the purchase of land; but its redemption from the debasing state of proprium, or property, to divine uses, we clearly understand; where those whom the world esteems owners are found yielding their individual rights to the Supreme Owner." [Gordon, Jessica. "Transcendental Ideas: Social Reform." American Transcendentalism Web. 20 Feb. 2008 .] The commune attracted 14 residents, including the Alcott and Lane families. Fruitlands ultimately failed the winter after it opened, largely due to food shortages and accompanying unrest in the inhabitants. The rigors of a New England winter proved too severe for the members of the Fruitlands.



Fruitlands residents wished to separate themselves from the world economy by refraining from trade, having no personal property, and not using hired labor. To this end, they strove towards self-sufficiency, planning on growing all the food they would need themselves, and making only the goods they needed. By accomplishing these two goals, they would eliminate the need to participate in trade or to purchase their food from the outside world. Initially, Bronson Alcott and Lane modeled their ideas about personal property off the Shakers, who held property communally. However, the Shakers were not completely self-sufficient; they traded their hand-made goods for coffee, tea, meat and milk. Bronson Alcott and Lane eliminated the need to trade for these supplies because they eliminated animal products and stimulants from their diets entirely.

In the end, the Fruitlands community had no effect on the economy of the outside world; Fruitlands allowed its residents to practice their ideals without forcing them to effect any real change. ["Fruitlands." Amos Bronson Alcott Network. 20 Feb. 2008 .]


Fruitlands residents subsisted on a simple diet containing no animal products or stimulants. They were strict vegetarians, excluding even milk and honey from their diets. “Neither coffee, tea, molasses, nor rice tempts us beyond the bounds of indigenous production,” Lane wrote. “No animal substances neither flesh, butter, cheese, eggs, nor milk pollute our tables, nor corrupt our bodies.” Bronson Alcott and Lane believed that animals should not be exploited for their meat or their labor, so they used no animals for farming. This arose out of two beliefs: that animals were less intelligent than humans, and that therefore it was the duty of humans to protect them; and that using animals 'tainted' their work and food, since animals were not enlightened and therefore unclean. This decision not to use animal labor on the farm proved to be the undoing of the commune; combined with the fact that many of the men of the commune spent their days teaching or philosophizing instead of working in the field, which made farming difficult. Using only their own hands, the Fruitlands residents were incapable of growing a sufficient amount of food to get them through the winter.


Residents of the Fruitlands came to be called "consecrated cranks" and followed strict principles and virtues. They strongly believed in the ideas of simplicity, sincerity, and brotherly love.

Amos Bronson Alcott - Born in 1799, Bronson Alcott was a prominent educator and Transcendentalist who believed in eliminating corporeal punishment, and incorporating field trips, physical education, art and music into the curriculum.

Abigail Alcott - Abigail was Bronson Alcott's wife and also a reformer. She was one of only two women who lived at Fruitlands, and was primarily responsible for taking care of the house and farm, as well as raising her four children.

Louisa May Alcott - The Alcotts' second daughter, her short piece "Transcendental Wild Oats" was written about her experiences at Fruitlands. [Brown, Amy B. "Amos Bronson Alcott." American Transcendentalism Web. June 2002. 20 Feb. 2008 .]

Charles Lane - Lane met Bronson Alcott in England in 1841, at which time Lane was living at the Alcott House school in Surrey. His strict views on living a "pure" life were ultimately part of what destroyed the Fruitlands community. ["Charles Lane." Amos Bronson Alcott. 21 Feb. 2008 .] His son was also a resident of Fruitlands.

Joseph Palmer - Palmer joined Fruitlands in August 1843, and stayed through the demise of the commune, later purchasing the farm and founding another utopian society there. He was famous for wearing a full beard, despite social stigma against it; he had even served time in prison for defending his right to wear a beard. ["Joseph Palmer." Amos Bronson Alcott. 2 Feb. 2008 .]

Isaac Hecker - Hecker began life as a baker in New York, but then went through a progression of religious and spiritual explorations. He resided at Brook Farm, another Transcendentalist community for six months, before joining the Fruitlands community. He only stayed for two months. He later became a Roman Catholic priest. ["Isaac Thomas Hecker." Amos Bronson Alcott. 21 Feb. 2008 .]

Samuel Larned - Like Hecker, Larned lived briefly at Brook Farm before coming to Fruitlands. He traveled around New England swearing at people, believing that using swear words in a pure spirit could redeem the words. ["Samuel Larned." Amos Bronson Alcott. 21 Feb. 2008 .]

Abraham Everett - Also known as Abraham Woods, he changed his name upon his arrival at Fruitlands, to Wood Abram. He had once been committed to an insane asylum before joining Fruitlands. ["Abraham Everett." Amos Bronson Alcott. 21 Feb. 2008 .]

Samuel Bower - Bower lived at Fruitlands for only a few months, after which he left to experiment with nudism, believing that clothes "stifled the spirit". ["Samuel Bower." Amos Bronson Alcott. 21 Feb. 2008 .]

Ann Page - Besides Bronson Alcott's wife, Page was the only adult female member of Fruitlands. Page and Mrs. Alcott were responsible for most of the household chores and often had to take care of the farm as well. Page was eventually kicked out of Fruitlands, supposedly for eating a piece of fish, which was forbidden in the community. ["Ann Page." Amos Bronson Alcott. 21 Feb. 2008 .]

Impact of Fruitlands

The Fruitlands experiment ended only seven months after it began. According to Bronson Alcott, the inhabitants left Fruitlands in January 1844; his daughter, Louisa May, wrote that they left in December 1843, which is considered to be the more accurate date. ["Fruitlands." Amos Bronson Alcott. 5 Mar. 2008 .]

Fruitlands had only a brief opportunity to impact America and the Transcendentalist movement, but it left a legacy of inspired authors (such as Louisa May Alcott, who wrote "Transcendental Wild Oats"), and is a prime example of the mistakes made by American utopian societies.

Today, Fruitlands is a museum in Harvard, Massachusetts.

ee also

* Commune


External links

* [ Fruitlands Museum]
* [ Transcendental Wild Oats]
* [ History of Fruitlands]
* [ Amos Bronson Alcott]
* [ "The Success of American Communes", by Clifford F. Thies]

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