Charles Nordhoff (1830–1901)
Above: A general view of Amana in 1874, from Nordhoff’s book.
“The people of Amana appeared to me a remarkably quiet, industrious, and contented population; honest, of good repute among their neighbors, very kindly, and with religion so thoroughly and largely made a part of their lives that they may be called a religious people.”
Amana was a utopian community, located in Iowa, whose members came originally from Germany and Switzerland. The journalist Charles Nordhoff visited Amana in 1874 as part of his exploration of “The Communistic Societies of the United States, from Personal Visit and Observation.” At that time, there were seven villages, each with from 135 to 450 persons. Besides farming, the communities managed a woolen mill, saw mill, tannery, and grist mill. Nordhoff talked “with a number of the rank and file, and noticed in them great satisfaction with their method of life . . . They had evidently thought pretty thoroughly upon the subject of communal living; and knew how to display to me what appeared to them its advantages in their society: the absolute equality of all men — ‘as God made us;’ the security for their families; the abundance of food; and the independence of a master.”
I read “The Amana Community” for volume 28 of the Nonfiction Collection.
The U.S. Park Service, in cooperation with the Iowa State Historic Preservation Office and the Amana colonies Visitor’s Bureau has prepared “A National Register of Historic Places Travel Itinerary” to this “unique historic communal society in eastern Iowa.”