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Any visit to the Old Economy Village begins at the Visitor Center located a couple blocks away from the main sites. The building’s architecture is such to mimic that found within the Village, complete with espaliered grape vines along the walls - the Harmonist espaliered grape vines along the south walls of buildings to increase the heat and sun that the vines received. Within the Center there is an excellent permanent exhibit which describes the history of the Harmony Society and the day-to-day life of the Harmonists. There is also a special exhibit devoted to the schism of 1832 when over a third of the Society members left the community, following another leader, Bernhard Mueller, the self-styled Maximilian Count de Leon and “Lion of Judah”. George Rapp, being the millenarianist he was, had made the mistake of giving a date for the Second coming - September 15,1829 - this was coming at the end of the three and one half years of the Sun Woman. That date came and went leaving many of the faithful disgruntled. Celibacy had become another problem for the community, especially among the younger Harmonists whom had grown up within the Society. Rapp became convinced that a new messenger would come to the group and he had decided that Mueller fit the bill. When Mueller came over from Germany, it didn’t take long for him and Rapp to grow less amicable. The people he lead away from Economy settled in the short-lived New Philadelphia Congregation. Several of the people from this group would go on to form the nucleus of William Keil’s communal efforts in Bethel, Missouri and later, Aurora, Oregon. The community in Economy persevered, though it lowly withered away as Rapp had taken a position that new members were not to be accepted - to help insure the economic stability of the community. He also declared that the property people had brought into the Society when joining , remained within the Society even if those people were to subsequently leave. By Rapp’s death in 1847, there were 288 members left. The Society lasted until through the rest of the 19th century, but the focus of the community changed from that of a self-contained commune to a group of old peculiar people. They were forced to hire outside workers to keep the run the many industries the Society had expanded into. A few members were accepted later after Rapp’s death and two such were John and Susanna Duss in 1888. John became a junior trustee for the Society within six months of his acceptance and gained total control by 1892 when he began forcing out the few remaining members. Then, he began liquidating Society assets and transferring the funds to himself. Duss had been involved in music since childhood and he expanded the local band under the name of the Duss Concert Band, going on the road for an extended appearance in New York City. His memory is memorialized in a more ideal fashion through the John S. Duss Memorial Music Conservancy founded by a granddaughter in Duluth, Minnesota in 1982.
Written Oct 5, 2008
Address: 270 Sixteenth St Ambridge, Pennsylvania 15003-229
Phone: (724) 266-4500