|The item below is a speech given by Elaine Malloy to the Friends of Adin Ballou at the Unitarian Church in Hopedale on November 30, 2003. If your main interest is temperance, abolitionism or peace, you may want to go now to the second page.
Amusement in the Hopedale Community
"Exactly at the bottom of the hill began a long, closely packed double row of miserable dwellings, crowded to excess by the population drawn together by the neighboring factories. There was a squalid, untrimmed look about them all... an odour, which seemed compounded of a multitude of villainous smells, all reeking together into one, floated over them... My eye caught the little figures of a multitude of children... A few steps farther brought me in full view of the factory gates, and then I perceived considerably above two hundred of these miserable little victims to avarice all huddled together on the ground, and seemingly half buried in the drift that was blown against them... I knew full well what, and how great, was the terror (of severe beating by mill foremen) which had brought them there too soon, and in my heart of hearts I cursed the boasted manufacturing wealth of England, which...gives power, lawless and irresistible, to overwhelm and crush the land it pretends to fructify." These lines from Frances Trollope's Life and Adventures of Michael Armstrong, the Factory Boy, written in 1840, and others like them were being read and heard in America. Fear was growing that a similar situation was developing here and a number of reformers were trying to find a way to prevent it. Fraternal Community No. 1 in Hopedale was one of these attempts.
Into this grim scene came Jeanne Kinney. She asked if I would be willing to give a talk to the Friends of Adin Ballou and suggested that amusements in the early Community might be an interesting topic. Amusements???!!! Amusements in the early Community??? When I asked how long a talk she had in mind, she said that about forty-five minutes was typical. I almost asked her if she wanted a speech on amusements or if she wanted one that was forty-five minutes long. It was hard to imagine that amusements played a sufficiently large role in the Community to provide material for more than five minutes. However, as I looked into the subject I concluded that, from the point of view of the Practical Christians, amusements were those things they did while they weren't working to build their homes and shops and planting their crops. Generally, I'll discuss the subjects of their evening and weekend meetings and gatherings, and their interests that went beyond building a community.
First, however, let's take a look at the larger world of the mid-nineteenth century. In 1840 the US population was seventeen million. William Henry Harrison defeated Martin Van Buren for the presidency. William Lloyd Garrison and others walked out of the Anti-Slavery Convention in London when women abolitionists were not allowed to be seated as delegates. In 1841, four months after his long and chilly inauguration, Harrison died of pneumonia and was succeeded by John Tyler. As the groundwork for the Hopedale Community was proceeding that year, the Supreme Court upheld a lower court ruling allowing the Amistad mutineers to return to Africa and Brook Farm Institute was founded. In 1844 James K. Polk became president when he defeated Henry Clay. In 1848 slavery was abolished in the French colonies, revolution swept across Europe, Marx and Engels wrote the Communist Manifesto and the women's rights convention was held in Seneca Falls.
In looking into the records of the Community, especially its newspaper, the Practical Christian, I discovered that Rev. Ballou actually did address the matter of amusements. In the Practical Christian dated October 20, 1855, he published an article titled Amusements, which was taken from his book, Practical Christian Socialism. It was done in a question and answer format.
Inq. I have come to learn how you will expound the subject of amusements. I suspect it must be a somewhat difficult and delicate one to dispose of, especially for a high toned Practical Christian Moralist.
Ex. I feel that it is so, but shall not shrink from a frank exposition of my views concerning it. What are amusements? Webster defines the word amusement thus: "That which amuses, detains, or engages the mind; entertainment of the mind; pastime, a pleasurable occupation of the senses, or that which furnishes it." &c. I must give the term even a broader and more comprehensive meaning. As I am now to treat the subject all contrivances sought after or delighted in, mainly for the sake of the diversion, entertainment, sport or recreation which they afford, are amusements. Inq. ...what importance do you attach to amusements? Ex. Very considerable importance. All mankind in all ages and countries, have been more or less addicted to them. . All things, however natural, necessary and good in themselves when rightly used, are liable to perversion and abuse. Amusements are no exception. They are pre-eminently liable to perversion and abuse, on account of the strong affinity our senses have for them.
1. Wicked amusements. ...all such as are positively contrary in their nature and tendency to essential divine principals. (Here is a shortened list of what Ballou considered to be wicked a) Gladiatorial shows of the ancients, pugilistic fights, bullfights, cock fights, dog fights, and hunting harmless creatures for sport.
2 Unhealthful, useless, foolish, derogatory and equivocal amusements.
3. Excessive, unseasonable and ill-associated amusements. It should be regarded as the spice of life - not the staple food. Ballou's piece goes on at some length past this quote but that's enough to indicate that he wouldn't find much in what we consider amusements today that he would approve of. The dictionary definition he gave mentions that which engages the mind and entertainment of the mind. This would seem to be a major factor in what we can assume the first families of Hopedale might consider amusement. The activities that occupied most of their leisure time were musical gatherings, especially singing, writing and reading poetry, lyceums, sťances, and picnics, as well as the celebration of birthdays and a few holidays such as May Day, the Fourth of July and Christmas. The picnics reported in the Practical Christian had a higher purpose than just a social gathering. They were generally part of anti-slavery and temperance meetings; both huge issues in the Community.
Writing for Hopedale Reminiscences in 1910, Ballou's daughter, Abbie, addressed the issue of amusements saying, "Amusements combined with the educational, were considered indispensable and the several evenings of the week were accordingly appropriate to this end. Monday evening was devoted to the young; in general, elevating talks. Tuesday evening was the night given to the Lyceum, when lectures, discussions, and classes came before the assembled people. There were classes in Chemistry, Botany, and Philosophy. These classes had their stated hours through the week for study and recitation. It may seem somewhat singular that the class in Botany, in the summer, chose to meet at five o'clock in the morning at the Old House. That the attraction for these morning walks was not always for the study, I leave the hearer to judge. Wednesday eve was given usually to the social classes pertaining to the Association. "Dancing among the members generally was abjured, and as a substitute, marching was introduced by one of our procurators, similar to the contra dance. A dozen or more couples took the floor, while one of our veterans skilled on the violin, furnished the music. The room over the shop was utilized for this purpose. Old and young mingled in the entertainment, and the following prophetic Community lines were sung. These were composed by one of the original ministers, to whom I shall refer, who was always devising schemes with which to divert and interest the people, and especially the young, with whom he was a favorite. They were not only prophetic, but inspirational."
We have come from various quarters
Both parents, sons and daughters
We have come from various quarters
To live a truer life.
And here we stand, joined heart and hand
And her we hope to win the day
Oppose who will, oppose who may
And here we hope to win the day
And live a truer life.
We've met with many trials
Have had some self-denials
We've met with many trials
In founding here a home
Yet here we stand, joined heart and hand
And here we mean to conquer sin
Our foes without, and foes within
Then Heaven on earth will here begin
For humble souls a home.
"A part only of these stanzas are inscribed. All present united, singing them with spirit and animation."
Singing was a prominent amusement and on Friday evenings, we often engaged in temperance and other secular songs. What a dull entertainment for our young people now, only fascinated with card playing, dancing and similar amusement! It was not tedious in those days.
Each month was held some festive gathering in which all participated. One of the first was the "Haymakers," when a song was introduced in which the pet names of the horses and cattle were brought in. Other festivals as May [Day] and Christmas had a place. The latter was looked forward to as the gala day of the year. Then appeared our conundrum master with his humorous play upon the names of some of the company. Poets were common with us. At one of our May Festivals a very pleasing exercise was presented. Several children marched into the Chapel bearing bouquets of wild flowers, singing as they entered.
We have been in search of wild flowers
In Hopedale's glens and shady bowers
And gather each a fair bouquet
To celebrate this festal day.
And why should we not love the flowers
That grow about this dale of ours
Sweet tokens they will ever prove
Of our dear Father's precious love.
"The author of these lines was our kind friend, Rev. D. S. Whitney, and are well worth reading and repeating in song. Henry C. Wright, a great social reformer and peace man, was present and so much pleased was he with this exercise and others, that he sent an enthusiastic letter to a friend in Europe, and also a western letter describing what he had witnessed."
In Hopedale, From Commune to Company Town, Edward Spann writes, "Life at Hopedale was often somber, especially during its pioneer years, but the community did attempt to add an element of joy to its earnest strivings for improvement. It gave much attention to the subject of amusements, especially for the children, a particularly perplexing matter for its leaders. On the one hand, they were suspicious of the often brutal, lewd, enervating, and time-wasting entertainments of the corrupted world; on the other hand they recognized that there was a basic human need for some healthful diversion and merriment to provide occasional release from the serious business of life. How, then, to invent amusements that would nurture rather than detract from moral development?
"This question became the particular concern in the 1840s of Daniel Whitney, the official servant for educational affairs, who became, as Ballou later called him, 'a kind of Purveyor of Amusements.' Whitney spent much time inventing and arranging various sports, games, and other entertainments, as his most notable effort being an attempt to establish monthly 'festivals' where members met to sing, give speeches and readings, and play some games. This effort to consolidate communal feelings on a monthly basis seems to have faltered even before Whitney abandoned the community, but it did yield some more-permanent results, including an annual May Day festival that Whitney helped inaugurate in 1848..." with the hymn Abby Price included in her memories of the Community.
"In 1848, the gentleman who visited the community for May Day, Henry C. Wright, [a social reformer and peace man] had his letter to Philip Carpenter published in the May 13, 1848, edition of the Practical Christian. He stated, "Hopedale is a settlement of 20 houses, over 100 inhabitants, in the Township of Milford....The community was projected by Rev. Adin Ballou. Its object is to reform and improve society. You love to get into the innocent amusements of your fellow creatures, and I am in the midst of these kind and loving people....the band is playing some fine marches to open the festivities." He goes on to describe the participation of children through song, recitations, and skits. Since it was a sunny day, there were outdoor games- Blind Man's Buff and Hide and Seek. When Adin Ballou addressed the audience, all was quiet. He spoke of "Amusements." His talk pretty much mirrored statements near the beginning of my speech, and ended with an admonishment to enjoy selves in innocence. A picnic at 5:30 consisted of bread and butter, pies, cakes, custards, and parched corn. The evening program began with music, followed by poetry, and a drama acting out Charity, Faith, Hope, Patience, Remorse, Penitence, Childhood, and Old Age. A dance then began, a modest and orderly dance with 2 violins. Wright concluded by saying the festival closed around nine. "It has been a warm and kindly interchange of true, tried, and loving hearts." He again attended the May Day in 1850. His letter to Oliver in the May 15, 1850, edition of the Practical Christian, begins: "I'm in the Hopedale Temple, Schoolhouse, Meetinghouse." The program began at 3:00 with music accompanied by a band. Ballou spoke that day on the mingling of beauty and strength, of loveliness and power, and the gentle and stern in nature. There was also an account of the Community acting out the prayer, "Thy kingdom come on earth," focusing on the Brotherhood of Man, stressing that the community was based on principles, founded in the Paternity of God and the Fraternity of Man. Then followed a song by Abby Price, "Welcome to Spring." Mrs. Ballou and the children had a dialogue on the issue, "Why the people of Hopedale have an army." (Referring to the Industrial Army, whose purpose was village improvement.) Answers included 'armed with a broom' or 'father with a hoe in the garden.' Miss Lizzie Humphrey, eight years old, was chosen May Queen. At 6:00, there were refreshments, followed by more music and speakers.
Spann, in Hopedale, from Commune to Company Town, states, "Hopedale also celebrated the major traditional holidays in its own distinctive way. In 1845 some eighty people sat down at a long table in the machine shop to have Thanksgiving dinner, after which they sang hymns especially composed for the occasion. Eventually the community got around to celebrating the Fourth of July, despite its associations with war and riotous behavior, by emphasizing its connections with the rights of man rather than with nationalism. Without drunks and firecrackers, the community met to celebrate its own devotion to the divine principles of freedom."
Further, "Hopedale's most momentous celebration was Christmas, held in December to commemorate not so much Christ's birth- which was supposed to have been in the spring- as his example. It was a conscious defiance of New England's religious past, when Puritans had spurned Christmas as a heathen holiday. In 1854, Heywood began his address by making 'a very unpuritanical wish,' that they have a Merry Christmas, one that would combine an earnest appreciation of Christ and of the Christian mission with 'our idea of fraternal affection and sympathy in connection with social pleasure.' After the evening service, a large Christmas tree was unveiled loaded with 'many golden and glittering treasures, and not a few fantastic toys.'
Adults as well as children received gifts; an unnamed giver left a cow worth $45 in Ballou's barn, while another anonymous donor placed 30 copies of Ballou's latest book under the tree for distribution among the members. In 1863, after religious services, the community met in Hopedale's Social Hall, where in front of a mammoth tree, presents were distributed ....the gifts were publicly reported as having a value of between $1500 and $2000." Frank Dutcher in Hopedale Reminiscences wrote about "Christmas in the Old Days." He recalls the first mention of Christmas exercises in The Practical Christian, January 14, 1854. Entitled "Christmas Festival," it says, "The people of Hopedale had a Christmas festival on Saturday, Dec 24, commencing at 2:30PM." The article further states that original hymns by Joseph Bailey were sung, and that children played a major role in the exercises. Midway in the program "Came a simple repast of bread and butter, plain cake, and popcorn." Presents were given out at 7:00, followed by a play and musical number.
Birthdays were recognized. According to Ballou's History of the Hopedale Community, two were celebrated in the year 1843. "Some account of which will give a fairly intelligible idea of those festal occasions which were observed from time to time among us, serving to relieve the tedium and tiresome drudgery and nerve-strain of our common life. They were not characterized by much display but were full of good cheer and innocent pleasure..." Abby Price wrote in the April 29th Practical Christian: "Sunday, April 23rd, was Brother Ballou's 40th birthday. The evening celebration was a happy time for Hopedale. Not with the festival and dance, not with merriment and feasting, but with one spontaneous feeling of grateful and fervent congratulation as the friends and associates gathered around him.... May our brother be spared to carry forward the enterprise so happily begun. May we be refreshed by many such birthday seasons." She also composed a hymn for the event- I will read the first stanza:
"Sing, Hopedale, sing! Your voices raise,
Let every heart attuned to praise
Sound forth the cheerful lay;
Praise God who gave our brother dear-
Who spares his life from year to year
To cheer us on our way."
Ebenezer Draper's birthday was also described by Abby Price. "Last Sunday, Jun 14th, was Brother Draper's birthday. The meeting in the evening was pleasant and we trust profitable. How much it becomes for us on such occasions to look back in solemn reflection upon our past lives....yet the kind encouragement of friends and new resolutions for the future may in a measure dispel our sorrow, and refreshed and invigorated, we may begin anew the journey of life." The opening stanza of her original hymn:
"How sweet our birthdays are
When spent with those we love,
Kind words like sunbeams fair
Make all our glooms remove,
And love for friends so true and strong,
Will cheer our pathway all along."
Lyceums and lectures provided a diversion for those of the 19th century- Hopedale was no exception. The January 20, 1849 Practical Christian had an article, "Mrs. Paulina S. Wright at Hopedale." Our community, especially our women, have just enjoyed the rare privilege of a course of lectures on Anatomy and Physiology from Mrs. Wright." She was a leading feminist of the time.
Since the Practical Christian is the source of most of what follows, I'll give only the date of the event. When it's from another source, I'll name it.
In the November 10, 1849 issue, "Henry "Box" Brown, a well-known fugitive slave, visited and lectured in Milford. "What he knows he tells. If it so happens that those who have cruelized him are Methodist ministers, and the Presbyterian and Episcopal church members, the fault is not his. He must speak the Truth." D. S. Whitney
November 24,1849. "Mr. Parker's Lecture" in Milford. He delivered a Lyceum on Human Progress. "It was not eloquent, did not aim to be- it was a simple, clear, earnest and beautiful statement of facts. Its flaw was brevity. We think we can safely give assurance that Hopedale will not fall behind. About 20 got out to hear." Fish
February 16, 1850. "Our Lyceum. The first of the series by D.B. Chapman centered on Politics. Next E. Soward stressed Want of Appreciation of men of Genius in his talks. Thomas Provan from Scotland lectured on the Peace Movement in Europe. Rounding out the series were conversations with A. Bronson Alcott and Thomas Drew on Labor."
An article, "Lucy Stone in Milford - Miss Stone gave us an interesting talk on the subject of reform, at our Hopedale Lyceum, on Tuesday evening and then left us, carrying with her the confidence and affection of all." December 20, 1851.
July 17, 1852, The "Our Lyceum" column relates that on July 6, a lecture on Geography was given by Jerome Wilmarth.
October 9, 1852. Practical Christian tells of A. Bronson Alcott's visit to Hopedale where he "talks unmercifully about flesh-eating- incorporating animalism into our organism, degrading the angel into the beast. Spirit-Man- may be valuable - appealing to the senses to convince them of immortality. Genuine communings with the departed are good only if enjoyed through purity in the inner life. His conversations were full of instruction and self-arousing interest."
February 26, 1853. "Mr. Garrison at Mendon...delivered on the 14th before the Young Men's Society on the subject of individual responsibilities...clear, strong impressive statement and an exposition of man's duties to himself, society and God. About 30 from Hopedale attended." William H. Fish
November 18, 1854. "Lyceum Lectures on Science." Professor William Symington Brown of the NE Female College of Boston respectfully announces to the Lyceum Committee that he is now ready to enter into arrangements for the delivery of the popular Scientific Lectures during the season- 1. Course of 3 lectures on Chemistry, comprising practical, political, and more interesting truths of that science, illustrated by a numerous selection from the Lecturer's most brilliant Experiments. 2. A course of 4 lectures on Anatomy and Physiology, illustrated with French masters, Skeletons, Recent Dissections (if desired), and Drawings. Also the following Single Lectures- Human Hand, Poetry and the Magic of Science, Romance of Food, and the Relation of Science to Morality."
Another source, The "Spiritual Reformer" (February, 1862) discusses "Young People's Lectures." The lectures are to be given mostly by young women, of whom there are not a few in our village, of fair intellectual culture. Miss Lizzie Humphrey gave the opening lecture, the 17th(January), to an interested audience. Her subject was "Women," and her treatment of it evinced an extended research of history as well as a native genius....a fine beginning to the series.....Miss A. Albee was announced to give the second lecture on Friday evening January 31."
I spoke before about Alcott's references to manifestations. In that same issue (10/9/52Practical Christian), I found an interesting article about a Spiritualist Convention in Boston. The meetings on Sept. 29 and 30 were held at Horticultural Hall. Adin Ballou was president, and A. Bingham, J. Spear, and Ebenezer Draper, vice-presidents.
In May 1855 (Practical Christian) a story relates that "Charles Main, a medium of spiritual manifestations from Boston, to whom was given a somewhat remarkable gift of healing, made us a 2 days visit a fortnight since, for the purpose of relieving, if possible, the physical ailments of some of our people. His labors here, so far as can be judged, were not altogether ineffectual. It is thought by many that he will be able to alleviate, if not entirely cure, the pains and debilities of years. He relates some most striking cases of spirit-healing through his mediumship. At a public meeting on Sunday evening, the 20th, he exhibited a large number of drawings executed with much taste and design by the use of the hands of persons entirely unacquainted with the art. Who laughs at our gullibility? Let them read this item and laugh again!"
This subject was apparently important in those days of Hopedale. The "Spiritual Reformer," August 1860, had a detailed story, "Spirit Manifestations," at John J. Gilbert's residence, Milford. "A company, mostly of Hopedale, met Jul 2, to witness the manifestations through Annie E. Lord, of Portland, ME. Among the members of the circle, seated around a long table (with a musician outside to play an introductory tune), were well known personages of this village- PB Southwick, William and Abbie S. Heywood, Principals of the Home School, the editors of this paper (Harriet N. Greene and Bryan J. Butts), and others. [Mr. And Mrs. Warren Dutcher, E. Stimpson and Emily Gay were those I recognized.]
On a small, adjacent table, at one end of the circle, near the medium, rested a guitar, tambourines, several bells, a vase of flowers, two drum-sticks- the drum being placed under the table. Mrs. G. and Miss Fannie Davis, the celebrated trance speaker, sat next to the medium, on either side. Adjoining them opposite each other, sat Mr. H and Mr. S, whose hands were continuously manipulated by the hands of the medium during the manifestations which followed. All the other hands in the circle being joined, the light was removed, and the outside musician played.
"Soon the guitar was heard to vibrate, touching the high ceiling overhead, and the floor outside of the circle- passing over the heads of several persons and touching others. The bells were rung, the tambourines played with violence, the drum sounded several times; flowers were distributed (not thrown apparently) in different parts of the circle.
"At one time, as the guitar was at rest on the long table in front of Mr. H, he touched it, by moving his hand forward, without violating a previous direction given by the spirits, 'not to break the circle.' The absolute darkness would preclude the medium from any occult knowledge of this simple circumstance; yet she, or the spirits through her, immediately said, 'You should not touch the instrument if you do not break the circle.' Mr. H thinks this circumstance alone, a strong proof of the intelligence beyond that of the medium, or the circle.
"When the light was brought into the room, the small table was entirely stripped of its previous loads, and the long table was displayed with flowers, musical instruments, etc.
"Another evening, July 4, we again attended the circle convened at J. G. Gilbert's. On this evening, the drum was suspended between the ceiling and floor, and it seemed impossible for the medium to reach it without moving from the table. Now, if Miss Lord "humbugged" us on those evenings, Mrs. Gilbert, Miss Davis, as well as others, were easily duped. Who thinks it? We do not. The drum was played upon with favorable force; the guitar and other instruments were carried round the room, and played while passing over our heads. There was a pitcher of water standing on the mantel, out of the medium's reach; Mr. Dutcher and others were pretty well sprinkled. The guitar, while lying upon the table, went through the process of tuning. We distinctly heard the screw turn, and the strings vibrate. Mr. Dutcher asked how they (the spirits) knew the instruments to be in tune without trying it. Instantly the guitar was raised from the table, and commenced playing in perfect time with the flute, which all listened to with pleasure.
"In addition to our testimony to the above, we are permitted to append the names of several others who were present at the circles."
Bryan J. Butts W.W. Dutcher Lyman Gleason
Mrs. M. Dutcher Mrs. Atta Gleason Wm. S. Heywood
Charles Williams Mrs. Abbie S. Heywood Mrs. Williams
Pliny B. Southwick Mary Buffington Edward Stimpson
Emily Gay Adaline Knapp Sullivan Jones
Eleanor Armstrong Mary O. Harlow Moses Quimby
Mrs. Quimby H. N. Greene
"The spirit purporting to communicate was Red Jackson, whose name was written on the wall of the room, 7.5' from the floor, 1' or more beyond the reach of the medium, as testified by a half dozen or more honest witnesses. Touches of a spirit hand were also felt by persons in different parts of the circle, as they affirmed. These facts occurred several evenings after the forgoing. We saw the "Hand-writing on the wall" a day or two after its inscription. The following names, among others, are given in testimony:"
Ralph C. Hill Mrs. Susan Hill Firilla S. Gilbert Emily Gay S.W. Gilbert etc.
There was Counter Testimony. On another evening "Mrs. (E.M.) Marshall, 'struck a match' in the circle, and herself, and Mr. Jencks, testify to having seen the guitar in the hands of the medium. Mr. E.M. Marshall has written an "Expose" in the Bay State Chronicle."
The Spiritual Reformer, in the November, 1861 issue, had an article written by editor Harriet N. Greene. It was entitled Hand Writing on the Arm. " She was invited by kind friends Mr. And Mrs. D. to go to Boston and visit Mr. Foster, the great test medium. All participants had previously written questions and had rolled them up. At the beginning, everyone tossed them onto the table. He became influenced, and said to me, 'There is a spirit here, who, as a test of her presence, will give you her name upon my arm.' He rolled up his sleeve, and there was written the name ELLA. It then disappeared. He opened a paper and handed it to me. Upon opening it, I found a question I had asked- if Ella could come she would , as a test of her presence, write her name upon the medium's arm. He then turned to Mrs. D. and said, "There is a spirit here who says she will write her name on my arm." He rolled up his sleeve - the name MARY was there. The paper handed to Mrs D. contained her request that her neice Mary make herself known."
To read the rest of the speech, which concerns temperance, fairs, music, peace and abolitionism, click here.