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Communal Societies Collection

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The Oneida Community Library

Description of the Communal Societies Collection

The Special Collections of Hamilton College include a substantial gathering of primary and secondary source materials relating to American Communal Societies: groups of people who have intentionally separated themselves from society in general and live according to a shared set of principles, whether religious or secular, in common ownership of property. This collection consists of manuscripts, printed works, visual materials, audio/video materials, ephemera, and a limited number of artifacts from the eighteenth through the late twentieth centuries.

The aim of the collection is to be comprehensive for imprints relating to all aspects of American Communal Societies, and strong in materials relating to the Kentucky Revival, the Reformed Methodists, the Burned-Over District, the early Adventist movement, Spiritualism, and nineteenth-century reform movements. We also have a number of imprints from the Rogerenes, the Ephrata Cloister, the Unitas Fratrum or Moravians, and periodical literature related to Robert Owen.

Selected photographs and ephemera are viewable through the Digital Collections portal. Manuscript materials are being cataloged, and finding aids are currently available for some parts of the collection.

Printed materials in the Communal Societies Collection are findable in the library's online catalog.

Research on site at Hamilton College

To schedule a research visit, please contact us in advance.

Christian Goodwillie, Director and Curator of Special Collections and Archives
E-mail: cgoodwil (at) hamilton (dot) edu
Telephone: (315) 859-4447

Special Collections
Burke Library
198 College Hill Road
Clinton, NY 13323
Regular hours: 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Monday through Friday.


Amana Society Collection
These are materials related to the Community of True Inspiration held by the Special Collections Department of Hamilton College. Non-digital printed materials can be found in the Special Collections Department of the Hamilton College Library. The Community of True Inspiration, today's Amana Society, is a Pietist sect that began in south central Germany in 1714. The Inspirationists, like the Shake... [description clipped]
Bishop Hill Colony Collection
A collection of manuscript correspondence and ephemera relating to the Bishop Hill Colony, Bishop Hill, Illinois. The Bishop Hill Colony was founded in western Illinois in 1846 by dissenters from the Swedish Lutheran Church. Known as lasare (or readers), they read the Bible for themselves and followed the preaching of their leader Erik Janson. Many of the settlers perished during a difficult first... [description clipped]
Church of the Messiah Collection
The Church of the Messiah was a communal colony founded in Washington County, Maine, by George J. (George Jones) Adams (ca. 1811 – May 11, 1880).
Father Divine Collection
Father Divine's International Peace Mission Movement is based at Woodmont outside of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Its leader Reverend Major Jealous Divine, usually called Father Divine, began attracting followers in the American South during the 1910s. By 1919 the movement was based at Sayville, New York; and in 1933 Father Divine established a headquarters in Harlem. Followers recognize Father Div... [description clipped]
Harmony Society Collection
This is a collection of manuscripts from The Harmony Society of Butler County, Pennsylvania. The Society was a Christian theosophy and pietist group founded in Iptingen, Germany, in 1785. Due to religious persecution by the Lutheran Church and the government in Württemberg, the group moved to the United States, where representatives initially purchased land in Butler County, Pennsylvania.
Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn
Arthur Edward Waite was an author and creator or joiner of societies important in the history of modern occultism and mysticism. He edited The Unknown World, proclaiming it would investigate “those mysteries which are called transcendental, occult, and mystic.” Waite was a member of various Golden Dawn and Rosicrucian sects beginning in the 1890s.
House of David Collection
These are materials related to the Israelite House of David community founded by Benjamin and Mary Purnell in Benton Harbor, Michigan. The Israelite House of David, and The Israelite House of David as Reorganized by Mary Purnell (commonly called Mary's City of David), communities are active at present. Popularly known for their athletic teams (baseball and basketball), amusement parks and jazz ban... [description clipped]
Jezreelite Collection
These are materials related to the Jezreelites community of New Brompton, England in the 19th Century. The movement was also known as the "New & Latter House of Israel."
Kerista Commune Collection
The Kerista commune existed in the Haight-Ashbury neighborhood of San Francisco, California, from 1971 to 1991. The Kerista religion was founded in 1956 in New York City by World War II veteran John Peltz Presmont, who became known as Bro Jud Presmont. The Keristans practiced polyfidelity, in which up to twenty-four or thirty-six partners (an even mix of men and women) were faithful to each other,... [description clipped]
Koreshan Unity Collection
The Special Collections of Hamilton College have nearly complete runs of four periodicals published by the Koreshan Unity: The Guiding Star (Chicago, 1887-1889); The Plowshare and Pruning Hook (San Francisco, 1891-1895); The Flaming Sword (Chicago and Estero, 1890-1948); and The Salvator and Scientist (Allegheny, Pa., 1895-1896).
Oneida Community Collection
Rooted in the theology of Perfectionism, the Oneida Community is also known for its practice of bible communism, complex marriage, and stirpiculture (eugenics). The founder John Humphrey Noyes encouraged members to attain perfection by reading, writing, and participating in other intellectually-stimulating activities.
Rajneeshpuram Community Collection
A collection of 37 letters related to the Rajneeshpuram community. "Rajneeshpuram was an intentional community in Wasco County, Oregon, briefly incorporated as a city in the 1980s, which was populated with followers of the spiritual teacher Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh, later known as Osho." (from, accessed: 2016-12-18)
Ruskin Colony and Commongood Society Collection
These are manuscript and printed materials related to the Ruskin Commongood Society. "The Ruskin Colony (or Ruskin Commonwealth Association) was a utopian socialist colony which existed near Tennessee City in Dickson County, Tennessee from 1894 to 1896. The colony moved to a slightly more permanent second settlement on an old farm five miles north from 1896 to 1899, and saw another brief incarnati... [description clipped]
Shaker Collection
The Shakers are one of the most successful communal societies in America. Established in New York in 1774 when Ann Lee and a small group of followers emigrated from Manchester, England, the Shakers developed a system of communal living with rules governing all aspects of life. These are materials related to the United Society of Believer's in Christ's Second Appearing, more commonly called Shakers... [description clipped]
Snow Hill Cloister Collection
This is a collection of photographs related to the Snow Hill Cloister near Waynesboro, Pennsylvania. A finding aid to Snow Hill Cloister manuscripts in the Communal Societies Collection is also available.
Sun Ra Collection
This collection features digital versions of the some of the writings of the jazz musician and cosmic thinker Sun Ra (1914-1993). Born Herman Poole Blount, he took the name Sun Ra (after Ra, the Egyptian God of the Sun). He developed a complex persona and mythology that would make him a pioneer of Afrofuturism. This digital collection is a collaborative enterprise between John and Peter Hinds ... [description clipped]
Topolobampo Colony Collection
The Topolobampo cooperative colony was founded in 1886 by a group of American colonists at Sinaloa, Mexico, at the head of the Gulf of California. Leader Albert Kimsey Owen (1847-1916) was a surveyor, civil engineer, and utopian socialist. He dreamed of establishing a railroad from Texas to the site of "Pacific City," his ideal planned settlement. Owen funded his ideas through his Credit Foncier C... [description clipped]
Woodhull and Claflin Collection
Victoria (Claflin) Woodhull (September 23, 1838 – June 9, 1927) and her younger sister Tennessee Claflin (October 26, 1844 – January 18, 1923) were suffragist activists who promoted their ideas in their "Woodhull & Claflin's Weekly" which began publication in 1870. It was one of the first newspapers founded by women in the United States.