Manuscript Group 354 2017-10-25T11:52:43-04:00

Manuscript Group 354 – Old Economy Village Collection; ca. 1813 – 1953, 5.5 cu. ft.

Old Economy Village is the restored 19th century home of the Harmonists, a Christian communal society known for its piety and industrial prosperity. The Harmony Society was founded by George Rapp, a German Pietist who believed in the need for more purity in the Christian faith. Gathering a group of followers, Rapp left Wurttemberg, Germany to come to America in 1803. The Harmonists formed a communal society in Butler County, Pennsylvania in 1805. In 1814, the group moved to Harmony, Indiana, hoping to further their industrial growth with the advantage of river transportation. In 1825, the Harmony Society returned to Pennsylvania, establishing its third and final home called Economy (now Ambridge). The Harmonists were well known worldwide for the production of wool, cotton and silk, and Economy became known as the pioneer American silk center in the 1830’s and 1840’s. Except for a brief split of the Society in 1832 due to the emergence of “Count de Leon,” who claimed to be the Messiah, the Harmonists maintained a productive and peaceful way of life. With the death of their founder, the increased economic competition occasioned by the expanding industrial revolution, and the commitment to the practice of celibacy led to a gradual decline and eventual dissolution of the Society in 1905. After extended litigation, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania received title to the property of the Harmony Society in Economy. In 1919, Old Economy Village became a historic site operated by the Pennsylvania Historical Commission.The collection contains manuscript materials of the Harmonists including:

  • Accounts
  • Balance Sheets
  • Business Correspondence
  • Deinner Donation, including:
    • Harmony Society Accounts (1825, 1831, 1851)
    • Harmony Society Incoming Letters (1813-14, 1821, 1831, 1841, 1846, 1854-55, 1858,1863)
      stamped envelopes (1850-88)
  • Financial Settlements
  • Ledgers
  • Mary Fruth Papers, 1897-1937, including Letters, Postcards, and Photographs
  • Memorandum
  • William J. Werner Papers, including Economy Milling Co. Checks (1905-18) and Journals (1898-1909)
  • Yost Papers, 1832-33, dealing with the Count de Leon affair in the Harmony Society
  • Lithographs
  • Engravings
  • Prints
  • Maps relating to the Harmony Society
  • Glass Plate Negatives, ca. 1900, showing scenes in Harmony and Economy, Pennsylvania
  • Breeding Way Glass Lantern Slides

This manuscript group has been transferred to the PHMC’s Old Economy Village Historic Site, but the Pennsylvania State Archives maintains microfilm copies of photographs of Old Economy Village and the Harmony Society leaders, members and workers taken prior to 1950.

For related records see the John S. Duss Papers. (Manuscript Group 310)Old Economy Village Collection. (Manuscript Group 354)Karl Arndt Collection of Harmony Society Materials. (Manuscript Group 437)Knoedler Family Collection. (Manuscript Group 330), and Henry Mohn Family Collection. (Manuscript Group 332), which have also been transferred to Old Economy Village.