The concentration of wealth will rather be accelerated than otherwise by change. The election of a democrat or a republican as president will have no more effect than the kick of a knat on the Rocky Mountains. -The Coming Nation March 21, 1896
It was 1896 the recession that had started a year earlier had deepened. Americans of different income levels experienced this recession differently. In spite of the obvious structural crisis surrounding them it was common to blame those who could not find work.
Rush Limbaugh, Glen Beck and a number of conservative republicans have openly stated their goal is to recreate the conditions found at the during the gilded age. So tonight I will give you a look at what those conditions were, what some people did about it, and what happened as a result.
In 1896 the unemployment had been over 10% for 7 years and wages were falling
There are millions of heads of families partially or wholly out of employment, and many of these must live in some degree on the earnings of their friends. In the agricultural districts wages have fallen one-half. In manufacturing and other lines, where labor is organized, and the unions will not permit reductions, wages remain more nearly at the old figures, but as there is nothing to prevent employers from reducing the number of their employees, this has been done to such an extent that the aggregate of all wages paid is at the starvation point. --Denver News, 20 September 1896
It was this atmosphere that three men, former residents of the defunct socialist community of Glennis, purchased land on an isolated small southern Puget Sound bay in Washington State. Their plan was to form an intentional community as a model for society.
This was not to be another socialist community, all were weary of the socialist system. Colony members were to "test the theory that in a well-ordered society it is safe to allow each Individual full liberty of action, as long as he does not infringe his neighbor's equal freedom."
The government of their day had proven to be corrupt and completly owned by the powerful. Graduates of various universities, they had decided to use the system against itself. They would form a corporation and buy the land around this bay and invite anyone who wanted to come to buy into the corporation and live there.
The land was divided into 4 acre pieces, A new resident paid $14.00 an acre for shares in the corporation the land remained the property of the Mutual Home Assosiation there by protecting the individuals from seizure by the government or creditor. Yearly dues were the cost of the property taxes.
The town of Home was born. The goal was not to set a specific system of governance but to arrive at a mutually agreed upon system.
While in theory, everyone no matter what their race, creed or politics were welcome, the majority of the people who settled in Home held one of the many varied anarchist political views.
For many years it thrived without incedent. The towns meeting place Liberty hall became a favored venue for nationally known progressive and anarchist speakers of the time.
The by laws of the town prohibited it mutual home society from starting any industry or engauging in commerce but anyone was welcome to create their own. Small businesses were born and thrived while other sought gainful employment in the nearby city of Tacoma.
During this time in the country there was a great deal of anti progressive propaganda being circulated by those who didn't want trade unions, safety laws, or workers rights. It was a divide and conqur strategy that set up an internal enemy for "patriotic citizens" to fight. It was most often promoted with the funding of those in the high income brackets along with large business interests.
Newspapers knew who bought their advertising and often printed material encouraging vigilantisim and violence against the unemployed or those who would suggest such things as trade unions to give workers more power over their working conditions. The Tacoma Evening News was no exception.
The town of Home first ran afoul of the law in the winter of 1900 when US Marshalls arrived on the morning boat to arrest Charles Goven, publisher of the towns newspaper for violating the 1873 Comstock act against the mailing of obscene material. The article in question discussed free love and the problems for the practising anarchist of entering into state approved marriage. The trail was held in Seattle and Mr. Govan was found guilty paying a fine of $100.
The Tacoma Evening News seemed to take no notice of the event at the time. In the summer of that year 50 or so of homes residents went on an excursion to picnic on Anderson Island located about halfway, by water, between Tacoma and Home. The Evening news used this event to run a scathing editorial about anarchisim in general and the residents of Home in particular. The editorial used such inflamitory statements as. "Anarchists are a threat to us all good citizens" and "they should be exterminated like the pests they are" It also reminded its readers that the town had a newspaper that had violated the "decency laws"
The shooting of President William McKinley on September 7th, 1900 ignited the situation. The shooter, Leon Czolgosz had been known to frequent anarchist lectures. Among those detained for questioning in the case was Emma Goldman a nationally known anarchist speaker and frequent visitor to Home.
The following evening The Tacoma Evening News ran a headline "They are crimminally insane" the article ended with a call to action "No more toleration of anarchists and their doctrines that lead to assisanation! Put them down! Exterminate them like the disease they are!"
On September !4th another article ran with the title of "The answer to Red Peril: Wipe Out the Local Anarchists!" and they did try.
On September 16th a crowd of armed men boarded the boat of Captain Edward Lorenz with an aim of doing just that. Captain Lorenz a military veteran and resident of a town neighboring home swung into action and faked a breadown about halfway across. After several hours of drifting about the sound while he pretended to work on the engine he returned the would be vigilantes to Tacoma. The town of Home was spared.
As the Red scare and the McKinley assassination waned Home continued on as a colony to be disolved in 1910 not by force but by prosperity and the desire of the colonists to own their land.
Home and it's residents were never a threat to anyone they were people who tried to live by belief system and set an example for others. In the end their system didn't work for them but at least they had tried it out.
The information for this article comes from interviews and research notes I created when I was in elementry school that later became a chapter in a local history book.
What it has to teach us about the world today I will leave up to you to decide.