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From Commune to Company Town, 1840–1920

Edward K. Spann

Edward Spann’s lively study examines two key phases in the evolution of Hopedale, Massachusetts—its development as a radical Utopian Christian community and its establishment as a model company town under George Draper.

Hopedale’s story began in the 1840s when Adin Ballou established a peaceful and prosperous community of “Practical Christians.” The Hopedale Community gradually became a prosperous manufacturing village shaped by elements of the Christian reform culture of its times, notably nonresistance, abolition, feminism, temperance, and spiritualism.

Hopedale’s success in creating an environment for manufacturing attracted the attention of George Draper, an ambitious entrepreneur and the brother of an original member. Draper, taking advantage of a financial crisis in the community, gained control of the village and geared its manufacturing success specifically toward the production of textile machinery. After a period of industrial expansion under Draper, Hopedale developed a renewed sense of idealism, and under the management of Draper's sons, the Draper firm became one of the most innovative and profitable businesses in America. Inspired at least partly by their early years in the Hopedale Community, the sons implemented what can be characterized as an early form of welfare capitalism in their company town. By 1920, though, the firm's profits had begun to decline while new problems set in, ending Hopedale's golden age.

Edward Spann’s study of a town shaped by two distinct dreams of a good society provides new insight into the development of Utopian societies and is essential reading for those interested in Utopian and religious communities, nineteenth-century American history, urban history, and business communities.

Edward K. Spann is professor of history at Indiana State University and is the author of Ideals and Politics, The New Metropolis, and Brotherly Tomorrows.

1992  213 pp. This title is no longer available in a traditional print edition. Click here for free access to the book's full text.
Urban Life and Urban Landscape