Library & Archives
North American Phalanx
Lois R. Densky
Gregory J. Plunges
Monmouth County Historical Association
70 Court Street
Freehold, New Jersey 07728
The North American Phalanx was a non-sectarian experimental cooperative community located on a site about four miles west of Red Bank, New Jersey. The term "Phalanx" was derived from the Greek language and connotated firmness of union. The community was established about 1843 and lasted approximately twelve years until 1855-1856. It was based on the scholastic theories of the Frenchman, Francois Marie Charles Fourier (1772-1837), as interpreted and advocated by the American, Albert Brisbane (1809-1890).
Fourier was "opposed to individualism because it created an imperfect and immoral social structure. He sought social harmony through cooperation which would allow the fullest development of human nature. To achieve his cooperative society, he believed the world must be radically reformed. He proposed the establishment of phalanges, each with 1,620 persons inhabiting a common building, a hotel-like phalanstere. They would cultivate 5000 acres. Food would be prepared and served in common and services performed by those specialized in their handling." Fourier accepted the concept of private property, however, and each family would have its own quarters. During his lifetime, he published three books on his social theories.
As a young man, Albert Brisbane traveled and studied in Europe. There he encountered Fourier's theories and wholeheartedly endorsed them. Brisbane was also a critic of society and upon his return to America, he advocated Fourier's ideas.
He organized the Fourierist Society in New York in 1839. Shortly thereafter, he published a book based on Fourier's ideas, entitled The Social Destiny of Man (1840). In 1843, he published Association, or A Concise Exposition of the Practical Part of Fourier's Social Science. The philosophy of association was Brisbane's interpretation of Fourier's social theories. He later was active with the Brook Farm community in Massachusetts, which he subsequently converted to a modified form of Fourierism.
Horace Greeley (1811-1872), publisher and editor of the then New York Daily Tribune, published Brisbane's 1843 work on association. Greeley was converted to the Fourier-Brisbane doctrine, and he opened the front page of his newspaper to Brisbane where articles concerning the theory of association were frequently published. In 1843, Brisbane began publishing The Phalanx, a journal devoted to Fourierist philosophies. In that publication, he advocated the formation of a phalanx in the United States.
The development of the North American Phalanx in this country was the direct result of the efforts of Charles Sears (dates unknown), a merchant from Albany, NY, who heard of Brisbane's call for the formation of a phalanx. He and Nathan Starks spoke together of association. Subsequently, further meetings with neighbors, friends, and business associates were held, and they organized the Albany branch of the North American Phalanx which decided to make the Fourier-Brisbane theories a reality.
With the backing of Brisbane, Greeley, Park Goodwin and others, a commission was appointed which included Allen Warden, Nathan R. French, and Thomas Guest, to investigate purchasing suitable property in the New York-Pennsylvania area. On January 1, 1844, they purchased 673 acres in Monmouth County, NJ from Hendrick Longstreet and Daniel Holmes for the sum of $14,000. Within six months, a party of men arrived at the site to prepare the land and existing buildings for the community. In the spring, the women and children would join them.
At various times, Charles Sears served as director, secretary or president of the Phalanx. He was also the resident chronicler, a leading intellectual influence, chief of its practical operations, and author of a detailed history of the first nine years of the Phalanx.
When dissolution of the Phalanx occurred in 1856, he remained on the land, together with his brother-in-law, John Bucklin (1807-1896), the agricultural chief of the Phalanx. Bucklin continued a cannery operation there until his death, and his descendants retained ownership of a portion of the property which included the phalanstery until 1944. Other former members, including John B. Angell and Thomas Guest, also purchased a portion of the property when the community was disbanded.
The physical facilities of the Phalanx initially included two original farmhouses. A three-story building was soon constructed which connected the three structures. The new addition served as a dormitory-apartment complex and social area. The farmhouses were converted into a dining room and kitchen. This facility served the associates, as they were known, until 1847 when the three-story was constructed.
Facilities on the property included a stream mill, stables, cow and wagon sheds, forges, carpenter shops, a packing house, a school, a day nursery for working mothers, guest cottages, landscaped gardens and paths, and an artificial pond for bathing, boating and ice harvesting in the winter. In comparison to the rest of the country at the time, the standard of living at the Phalanx was very high, and was consistent with association theory.
The majority of members were of working- and middle-class backgrounds from urban areas in the Northeast, and had varied occupations. The criteria for admission were a person's skills, the ability to work with others under the theory of association, credentials, the serving of a probationary period, good moral character, and the competency to make contracts. Interested parties were invited to visit for thirty days, and if it was mutually satisfactory, they were offered probationary admission for one year. The entire associate body would then vote on that person's application and, if approved, the candidate served a limited membership, then became a full associate. Between 1843 and 1855, the population fluctuated between 125 to 150 persons, a number far less than Fourier had originally indicated.
The community was administered under a written constitution adopted in 1843. The constitution provided that the business of the organization be directed and managed by the Executive Council, consisting of a president, vice-president, secretary, treasurer, and twelve directors.. These positions were initially filled by election of the stockholders, but the revised 1848 constitution was amended to also include voting by resident members. The officers served one-year terms. The directors served two-year terms, with half replaced each year. Their duties were confined to the administrative work of the Phalanx including purchasing supplies, the selling of products and manufactured items, keeping resident's accounts, and producing an annual progress report.
From Fourier's theories, labor was organized into six series with a chief directing each one. These series were agriculture and manufacturing, livestock, domestic matters, festal plans (leisure activities), and education. Each series was subdivided into groups that were responsible for different functions and had their own elected chief. Every evening all chiefs gathered for an "industrial council" to plan the next day's work and post it for members. At the beginning of each year, associates signed up for one or more groups.
Compensation was based on the character of the work multiplied by an hourly wage (64 - 104 per hour), with at least desirable work yielding the most wages. No distinction was made between age and sex when it came to jobs. The cost of living at the Phalanx was about $2.00 per week for room, board, and laundry, etc., which helps explain the low wages paid. Outside goods were bought in bulk and at wholesale with the savings passed on to members.
In 1853, a philosophical schism had developed between the Marcus Spring/George Arnold faction and the Sears/Guest/French faction over the issues of women's rights, the anti-slavery movement, and the proposed change to relate the community to a denominational organization. The Spring/Arnold group left the community, depleting the Phalanx of much needed financial backing and human resources.
Dissolution of the community was partly the result of a fire on September 10, 1854 which destroyed the flour and saw mills, the blacksmith and tin shops, and valuable machinery. When their insurance company went bankrupt, the loss of $10,000 was too much for the members to cover.
In addition to the philosophical schism and the fire, other causes of dissolution were the inability to attract new stockholders and members, and the unwillingness to incorporate the new woman's movement into their philosophy.
All of these events led to the decision by the associates in June 1855, to sell the estate at auction. The land was sold in October of that year and the stockholders repealed the constitution and bylaws in November. The corporation did not legally dissolve until January 1, 1857, but by the beginning of 1856 operation of The North American Phalanx had ceased.
On November 15, 1972, a fire destroyed the remainder of the phalanstery building.
DESCRIPTION OF COLLECTION
The North American Phalanx Collection contains corporate records which include legal and financial documents, miscellaneous manuscripts, genealogical material, bills of fare, printed material, photographs and illustrations, maps, drawings, and blueprints. It is a subject collection acquired through various donors. The bulk of material dates from 1853 to 1879.
Notable corporate records include handwritten drafts of the 1843 and 1848 versions of the constitution, lists of voters and stockholders, final receipts and discharge papers including those for Horace Greeley and Nathan R. French, and a photocopy of the Certificate of Association. The bound Stock Book (1843-1855) contains copies of the constitutions, and describes stock transactions of the corporation. It includes an index to its contents.
The three-volume Record of the Proceedings of the North American Phalanx (1843-1857) contains minutes of the sessions of the Executive Council, resident members, stockholders, Council of Award, Association meetings, and Council of the Educational Series. They contain various other corporate records including the bylaws, Rules and Conditions of Admissions to Resident Membership, elections of officers, formation of work series and groups, and some accounts of the transactions of the sale of the domain of the Phalanx. Other legal documents include bonds, deeds, and mortgages.
The financial records include accounts, a bill, and a copy of a balance sheet. Also included are examples of Phalanx currency and stock certificates. The Stock Ledger of the North American Phalanx (1843-1863) contains accounts of the stockholders and includes an alphabetical index to the stockholder's accounts.
The miscellaneous manuscripts include a handwritten "Copy of Circular sent by Charles Sears to John _____? from Albany, May 18, 1843" and signed by Nathan Starks which includes "Rules Adopted for the Organization of a Social Reform Society"; a handwritten account of "George Ripley's visit to the Phalanx on May 14, 1846"; and a February 2, 1897 letter from Mrs. Julia Bucklin Giles to William Sharp describing life at the Phalanx. Ripley (1802-1880) was the founder of Brook Farm. An 1879 notebook of Charles Sears includes a draft of his work "The North American Phalanx. A Historical and Descriptive Sketch."
The genealogical material contains family histories and genealogies of the French and the Beckwith families. The sketch on Nathan R. French includes a typed transcript copy. The bills of fare are examples of the daily menus of the Phalanx including handwritten and printed copies.
The printed material contains a variety of material including a broadside, packaging labels, circulars, typed transcripts, newspaper clippings, a copy of the pamphlet Socialism and Christianity: Being a Response to an Inquirer Concerning Religion and the Observance of Religious Forms of The North American Phalanx (Monmouth C., NJ: The Phalanx, 1854), and bound copies of the journals The Phalanx of Journal of Social Justice (V. 1, Nos. 1-23, 1843-44), and The Harbinger, Devoted to Social and Political Progress (V. 1 Nos. 1-26, 1845), published by Brook Farm Phalanx. Both journals include indices.
Notable printed material includes the 1856 broadside and the circulars describing the intended sale of the domain of the Phalanx, and the typed transcript entitled "address of Mrs. Julia Bucklin Giles" (Ca. 1929) given before the members of the Monmouth County Historical Association describing life at and giving a history of the development of the Phalanx. Mrs. Giles was the daughter of John Bucklin and was born at the Phalanx. The newspaper clippings contain NY Daily Tribune columns, mostly written by Albert Brisbane, on association and are in original, photocopy, typed transcript, and Photostat form.
The photographs and illustrations portray the buildings and grounds of the Phalanx, particularly illustrating the palanstery. Some photographs or illustrations are prints of an earlier daguerreotype, prints of paintings, and printed illustrations of buildings. A notable photograph records the employees of the Bucklin canning factory in front of the building (Ca. 1900).
The maps, drawings, and blueprints record the Phalanx domain and property. Notable items include a "Map of Domain of North American Phalanx (1901) restored from the original 1855 survey by Alfred Walling, and line drawings of the floor plans of the phalanstery building drawn in November 1972. This last item is particularly valuable since it preceded the 1972 fire by a few weeks.
The North American Phalanx Collection is arranged first by form or document type within series, then chronologically by date. Items removed from the collection include the broadside, maps, drawings, blueprints, and typed transcripts. (Please see Appendix B for disposition of this material.) A microfilm of the collection is also available in the Library.
The North American Phalanx Collection will be of interest to researchers of the history and development of utopian communities in the United States, the history of socialist theory, the history of agriculture and manufacturing in Monmouth County, and the history of the women's movement.
A related collection housed in New Jersey, that pertains to this collection, is located in the NJ Historical Society, Newark (See, "Raritan Bay Union and Eagleswood Academy Collection, 1848-1973," 1 foot). Related materials housed in the Library of the Monmouth County Historical Association pertaining to the Phalanx will be found in the Thomas Irving Brown Collection.
Museum artifacts located in the Monmouth County Historical Association collections pertaining to the Phalanx include a Windsor chair from the Phalanx (accession #78.12), an oil painting of the phalanstry (ca. 1850, Holmes #947), and two watercolor caricatures by George Arnold (Holmes #195 & #196).
PROVENANCE: Acquired between 1931 and 1978, gifts of Asbury Park Press, NJ. (Acc: 88-37)
Brower, Mrs. Donald F., Rumson, NJ
Brown, Thomas I., Red Bank, NJ
Bucklin Family, Phalanx, NJ
Farr, Mrs. Warren, Baton Rouge, LA
Reynolds, Rev. F.T.B., Yardville Heights, NJ
Sim, Mrs. Robert J., Yardville Heights, NJ
Works Project Administration, Washington, DC
SIZE OF COLLECTION: 2 Linear Feet (148 items).
1. Records. 1843 - 1864. 30 items.
Arranged first by form or document type, then chronologically by date.
Contains corporate and legal records including documents, the three-volume Record of the Proceedings of the North American Phalanx, and the Stock Book.
2. Financial Records. 1843 - 1885. 14 items.
Arranged first by form then chronologically by date.
Contains financial documents and the Stockledger of the North American Phalanx.
3. Miscellaneous Manuscripts. 1843 - 1897. 6 items.
Arranged chronologically by date.
Includes Charles Sear's 1879 notebook.
4. Genealogical Material. n.d. 4 items.
5. Bills of Fare. 1844 - 1855. 9 items.
Arranged chronologically by date.
6. Printed Material. 1841 - Ca. 1929. 33 items.
Arranged first by form or document type then chronologically by date.
Contains broadside, packaging labels, circulars, typed transcripts, newspaper clippings, and bound volumes.
7. Photographs and Illustrations. 1855 - 1972. 41 items.
8. Maps, Drawings, and Blueprints. 1855 - 1972. 11 items.
Arranged chronologically by date. (Please see Appendix B for location os oversize material.)
BOX # / FOLDER # / CONTENTS
1 / 1 / Articles of Agreement Constiuting the the Company of Reunion (Texas).1855. 1 item.
1 / 2 / Certificate of Association and Constitutions. 1852; n.d. 4 items.
1 / 3 / Bonds and Deeds. 1846 - 1864. 7 items.
1 / 4 / Financial Receipts & Discharges. 1863 - 1864. 7 items.
1 / 5 / Lists of Stockholders & Voters. 1850 & 1855. 2 items.
1 / 6 / Mortages & Title Search. 1856 - 1864. 3 items.
1 / 6 / Stock Book. 1843 - 1855. 1 item.
1 / 7 / Financial Records. 1849 - 1855. 13 items.
1 / 8 / Marriage Certificates. 1852. 2 items.
1 / 9 / Miscellaneous Manuscripts. 1848 - 1897. 6 items.
1 / 10 / Genealogical Material. n.d. 4 items.
1 / 11 / Bills of Fare. 1844 - 1855; n.d. 6 items.
2 / 1 / Printed Material. 1851 - 1855; n.d. 9 items.
2 / 1 / The Phalanx & The Harbinger. 1843 - 1845. 1 item. (Bound together.)
2 / 2 / Typed Transcripts. 1917 - 1932. 4 items.
2 / 3 / Newspaper Clippings. 1841 - 1855. 19 items.
2 / 4 / Photographs & Illustrations. 1855 - 1972, 41 items.
2 / 5 / Maps. 1855 - 1873. 3 items.
3 / - / Cash Account Book, 3 April 1851 - Oct 1851
4 / - / Record of the Proceedings of the North American Phalanx, March 18, 1843 - February 20, 1844 & January 5, 1847.
February 1, 1847. 1 item
4 / - / Record of the Proceedings of the North American Phalanx, October 29, 1847 - December 31, 1849. 1 item.
4 / - / Record of the Proceedings of the North American Phalanx, January 1, 1854 - January 1, 1857. 1 item.
4 / - / Stockledger of the North American Phalanx, 1843 - 1863. 1 item.
1. Ellis, Franklin. History of Monmouth County, N.J. Philadelphia: R. T. Peck, 1885.
2. Expose of the Conditions and Progress of the North American Phalanx: in Reply to the Inquiries of Horace Greeley, and in Answer to the Criticisms of Friends and Foes During the Past Year. The American Utopian Adventure, Series 2. Philadelphia: Porcupine Press, 1975. Reprint of the 1853 ed. pub lished by DeWitt & Davenport, N.Y.
3, Haas, Paul. "The Era of the Phalanx an Examination of its Origins," The Monmouth Historian (Spring 1974): 16-19.
4. Mokrzycki, Rev. M. Joseph. "Life and Times at the N.Å.P.," The Monmouth Historian (Spring 1974) : 20-31.
5. Noyes, John Humphrey. History of American Socialisms. New York: Hillary House, 1961. Reprint of 1870 ed.
6. Schirber, Eric R. "The End of an Experiment: the Decline and Final Dissolution of the Phalanx," The Monmouth Historian (Spring 1974) : 32-34.
The following items have been removed from the collection:
1, Broadside. 1856. 1 item. Placed in oversize (O.S.) Coll. #5.
2. Maps, Drawings, & Bluesprints. Placed in O.S. 1855 - 1972. 8 items Coll. #5.
3. Typed Transcripts. Fair Copy Disposed. See, Noyes....Book Catalog & carbon of chapters 36-38 from #335.9N.
Noyes, John Humphrey, History of American Socialisms, Philadelphia: J.B. Lipincott & Co., 1870. 2 items.
This page last updated 4 August 2008.