For roughly 100 years, the silverware corporation—which was eventually renamed Oneida Limited—thrived under the leadership of the Community’s descendants.
However, the 2000s weren’t kind to Oneida, so its executives had to file for bankruptcy in 2006 and sell the brand, which is owned by a houseware conglomerate now.
According to Wayland-Smith’s , the dog-eat-dog system of free-market capitalism was not yet a part of the American dream.
Wage labor was thought of as akin to slavery, and the notion of an individual pursuing his own wealth and self-interest above that of the community was an appalling, grievous sin.
At the time, industrialization in the United States was just gearing up, threatening to unravel the fabric of Americans’ agrarian lifestyle as they knew it.
Before the 19th century, Americans believed they’d left the ugly, inequitable factory system of England behind.Wayland-Smith’s book begins in July 1948, when Oneida Limited flatware manufacturer celebrated the Community’s 100th birthday and the company’s reputation as—forgive the pun—a “sterling” example of American industry.On a grandstand outside the original community’s 93,000-square foot Victorian brick home called the Mansion House in Oneida, New York, the crowd enjoyed a soprano and organist performing “The Star-Spangled Banner,” the crowning of a “Silver Queen,” and a string of circus and daredevil acts.Most scandalously, commune members engaged in a system of “complex marriage,” believing that loving, open sexual relationships could bring them closer to God.They believed the liquid electricity of Jesus Christ’s spirit flowed through words and touch, and that a chain of sexual intercourse would create a spiritual battery so charged with God’s energy that the community would transcend into immortality, creating heaven on earth.Born to a well-off family in Putney, Vermont, in 1811, Noyes, an awkward and introverted redhead, grew up lamenting his feelings of sexual frustration.When his religiously devout mother sent him to a tent revival in fall of 1831, the 20-year-old virgin discovered he could channel all his erotic energy into Christianity.“All of these sensitive materials were in that collection.The Oneida descendants knew about the burning, obviously.Top: To counter criticism, the Oneida Community put out this photograph, circa 1870, of men and women in the Mansion House public square or “quadrangle.” The women, though still in pants, avert their gazes, and the men have removed their hats according to Victorian bourgeois custom.(Courtesy of Picador) Above: A 55-piece set of Oneida silverplate in the “Plantation” pattern from 1948..