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Abstract

This dissertation examines the ongoing demand for, participation in, and support of well-regulated amusements—most notably, music and musical theater—at New Harmony, Indiana, following the collapse of utopian socialist Robert Owen's two planned communities: the Preliminary Society (1825-1826) and the Community of Equality (1826-1827). Through his "Plan for the Amelioration of the Condition of Mankind," Owen intended to provide members equal access to communal property and education, and to create an environment balancing industry and study with leisure. Despite the communities' initial success, which resulted in the financial support of philanthropist William Maclure, Owen's poor business and organizational decisions contributed directly to the failure of his plan. Subsequently, he left New Harmony, but Maclure and his fellow intellectuals remained and, through a series of advancements in education and the natural sciences, secured the town's international reputation. Given the extent to which these advancements have been chronicled, education and the natural sciences have been perceived justifiably as the two primary subjects of study for which New Harmony has been recognized following its inauspicious birth. However, scholars have overlooked one aspect of Owen's plan — well-regulated amusements, which remained vital to the townspeople. Through a series of three case studies (antebellum: 1827-1860), (Civil War and early postbellum: 1860-1874), and (town bicentennial: 2014), this dissertation aims to: first, add that missing element to the current incomplete understanding of New Harmony's history; second, recast this aspect of Owen's utopian efforts within the larger cultural narrative of the nineteenth century, especially in terms of music education; and third, reconsider the longitudinal viability of his plan for New Harmony. Chapter 1 positions Owen at the intersection of post-Enlightenment discourse, American communitarianism, and utopian socialism in order to analyze his ameliorative efforts. Chapter 2 uncovers the importance of well-regulated amusements to Owen at various stages of his projects, which were initiated at New Lanark, Scotland, and brought to full fruition at New Harmony. Chapter 3 argues that, following the collapse of the Community, Owen's plan was perpetuated by the New Harmony Thespian Society and other local musical and theatrical organizations. Chapter 4 asserts that Owen's ideals continued to undergird life at New Harmony during the Civil War and early postbellum, most notably through the musical-theatrical productions of Martin Golden and his Golden Family Troupe. The epilogue draws on the evidence presented in the previous chapters and offers an interpretation of New Harmony's bicentennial celebration in which music, as a well-regulated amusement, remains at the center of New Harmony's history and culture.

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