A former Congregational minister from Vermont, John Humphrey Noyes founded the OC in 1848 in an attempt to hasten the coming of the Millennium. The OC library collection supports Noyes's reputation as an avid reader, writer, and scholar. His name appears in ownership inscriptions and dedications inside at least thirty-seven theological texts, novels, and schoolbooks. Noyes owned—and, in some cases, extensively annotated—biblical texts as well as publications by Emmanuel Swedenborg, Isaac Taylor, Augustus Clissold, and John Woolman.
Harriet Holton married John H. Noyes in 1838 and became one of the first members of the Putney Community, a predecessor of the OC. She later served as 'Mother' of the OC and remained a devoted follower of Noyes throughout the Community's decline and dissolution. Holton contributed at least nine publications to the OC library representing the genres of devotional literature, music, poetry, and religious fiction. One of Holton's additions to the OC library, The Christian Lyre (1831), contains a handwritten copy of a poem said to have been composed by John H. Noyes ("I will not give you back your heart...").
The younger brother of John H. Noyes, George W. Noyes joined the Putney Community at the age of fourteen. He later served as 'Father' of the Wallingford Community, edited the Oneida Circular, and earned a reputation within the OC for his intellectual prowess. At least twelve publications in the OC library bear Noyes's name. These publications come from a wide variety of genres, including history, social theory, theology, reference, languages, and travel.
John Langdon Skinner, an early adherent to the Perfectionist cause, married John H. Noyes's sister Harriet in 1841 and became an early member of the Putney Community. His signature appears inside twenty publications in the collection. Because Skinner was a schoolteacher prior to joining the Community, most of his contributions to the OC library are geography, history, English, and science textbooks. He also appears to have read about theology, phrenology, and abolitionism.
A zealous member of the OC from its inception, William Hinds edited its publications, supervised its industries, and later managed the Oneida Community, Ltd. corporation. The nine publications in the OC library bearing his signature exemplify OC attitudes toward perfection, namely that it could be achieved through the cultivation of knowledge and personal ability. Those publications that can be associated with Hinds are on such diverse topics as French language and literature, world history, parliamentary politics, horticulture, zoology, entomology, and chess.
Former Episcopalian minister James B. Herrick entered the OC in 1868 and remained a staunch supporter of Noyes throughout the OC's tumultuous decline. He appears to have contributed at least forty-two publications to the OC library. The majority of publications displaying Herrick's signature are ecclesiastical histories, biblical expositions, and scriptural studies. While still a student, Herrick carved his name and the Greek letters chi, psi, and iota on the front board of his copy of The Works of Horace, with English Notes, Critical and Explanatory (1855).
Charles Guiteau joined the OC in 1860, but seceded after six years of experiencing apparent social alienation from its members. He left behind six publications inscribed with his signature, including Titi Livii Patavini Historiarum (1821), Lectures to Young Men: On Various Important Subjects (1859), and Three Hours of School A Day: A Talk With Parents (1854). In 1881, Guiteau was arrested and executed for assassinating President James Garfield.
Born in what is now Sri Lanka, Robert S. Delatre joined the OC in 1856 after years of international traveling and cosmopolitan living. Issues of the Oneida Circular indicate that Delatre enjoyed painting, reading abstract philosophical works, and furthering his spiritual growth. The eight publications in the OC library associated with Delatre attest to the diversity of his interests. Prior to joining the OC, Delatre owned works of poetry, three publications about spiritual regeneration and prayer, and Practical Hints on Light and Shade in Painting (1826).
Theodore L. Pitt joined the OC in 1853, eventually serving as editor of the Oneida Circular for one year and librarian of the OC for another. His signature appears in twelve publications of various genres, including school textbooks, reference materials, bibles, biographies, and poetic works.
Formerly a Methodist minister, Lorenzo Bolles, Jr. toured a number of communal societies before choosing to settle at Oneida in 1865. He surrendered at least nine publications to the OC library upon joining the Community. Many of these publications are theological in nature, relating to Puritanism, Protestantism, and biblical studies. The two Methodist texts and one Spiritualist tract bearing Bolles's signature contribute to the theological diversity of the OC library.
Francis "Frank" Wayland-Smith joined the OC in 1851 as a ten-year-old boy. He studied law at Yale University, wrote articles for the Circular and American Socialist, led the OC orchestra, and perfected his skill on the violin at every opportunity. Five books in the OC library contain his signature, including Violins and Violin Makers (1866) and The History of the Violin (1864).
Henry A. Warne joined the Community in 1873 and served as a schoolteacher for OC children. The twenty publications in the OC library inscribed with his name suggest that Warne's main passion in life was natural science. Most of the publications Warne donated to the OC library are highly specialized texts on microscopy, entomology, botany, zoology, horticulture, and natural history.
All images courtesy of the Oneida Community Mansion House.