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I am working on a paper right now on the educational philosophy and practice in the utopian Oneida Community, which existed in New York state from 1848-1881 as a religious commune and continues to this day as a company manufacturing housewares. As part of this research, I visited Boston College’s O’Neill library, which has a microfiche collection of the community’s newspaper, the Oneida Circular. Microfiche is a pain to read–I have been known to get both migraine headaches and severely motion sickness–but the content it enables researchers access to is often excessively diverting.

The Circular functioned as both a venue for the community to evangelize to an external audience and as sort of community newsletter. They seem to have freely culled news items from other publications, usually unattributed, and also share miscellany from the life of the community, such as a note that “the wheat that was stored in the can-shop is nearly all saved, and but slightly injured” (1). Here are some oddments that I discovered while in the midst of “serious” research.

A large lithographic “View of the First American Railway Train” is on exhibition in the Library. It shows simply a line of old-fashioned stage-coach bodies connected together, and placed on car-wheels. Each vehicle contains six solid-looking gentlemen with stove-pipe hats; and their sharp noses and chins are all after the same pattern. The brakeman sits comfortably on the driver’s seat with an iron lever in his hands (2).

Seneca Lake is frozen over and people skate from one end to the other. This has never happened before within the memory of white men (3).

Answers to correspondence: “J. Y., Rochester, N.Y.–We should probably have to deny your request for admission as we are full. In any case, very much more acquaintance with you would be necessary. Our Community is not of the nature of a cooperative union, but of a church.” (4).

[The] cuttle-fish of the European coast are dwarfed by comparison with some from the coast of Newfoundland. In the American Journal of Science and Art for Feb., Prof. Verrill gives an account of a specimen which became entangled in herring-nets near St. John’s, Newfoundland, and was secured after a severe battle. The body was nearly seven feet long with eight arms covered with suckers each six feet in length . . . (5).

We feel warrented in advocating romping girls. They seldom fail to make healthy, happy, useful and not un-refined women. Do let us have more of them! (6)

(1) 1 March 1875, p. 69
(2) 1 March 1875, p. 70
(3) 1 March 1875, p. 72
(4) Ibid.
(5) Ibid.
(6) 1 March 1875, p. 70

Image found at the Oneida Community Mansion House website.