The Oneida Perfectionists, circa 1875

We chose for our website 19th century drawings of life in the Oneida Perfectionist Community, an utopian commune that existed in New York state (1848-1880) founded by John Humphrey Noyes, believed to be the Third Coming of Christ. These 58 children were the result of a 10-year eugenics experiment. This “free love” society, after two decades of strict birth control, decided to create “perfect” children, free of original sin. Noyes called his experiment “stirpiculture” (from Latin: “stirps”, meaning “stock, stem, or root).”

By all accounts the children seem to have led a privileged, even luxurious life, with lots of sports, theatre, music, parties and an excellent education – although they were discouraged from forming emotional bonds with their parents. Pierrepont Noyes, one of John Humphrey’s many sons, wrote his memoires, My Father’s House, in which he describes a mischievous, adventurous, fun-loving boyhood in this controversial religious community.