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Clermont Phalanx
Clermont Phalanx
Ultrachrome print, text panel
20.75 x 28.5 inches

Location: Clermont County, on the banks of the Ohio
River in Franklin Township

Duration: 1844-1846

Affiliation: Fourierist Movement

Size: 120 members on 900 acres

“They either find that their patience is insufficient for the task, or that being in inferior circumstances, THEY are becoming inferior.”
- A.J. MacDonald writing in July 1844 about the Clermont Phalanx

The Clermont Phalanx was founded in the enthusiastic aftermath of a Fourierist convention in Cincinnati in which movement leaders Albert Brisbane and Horace Greeley spoke of the ideas of French theorist, Charles Fourier. Fourier, in the aftermath of the French Revolution, felt that the evils of competitive civilization could be cured through carefully planned cooperative communities called “phalanxes.” These communities would gather people of all classes and characters and spread throughout the world. His ideas veered into the fantastical, but his eager American student Albert Brisbane translated Fourier’s thoughts for an American audience. Brisbane focused on the phalanxes as models of rationalism for the reformation of all of society. On the 9th of May 1844, a large party proceeded on a steamboat chartered for the occasion, took possession of the land with appropriate ceremonies, and a pioneer band lead the way to commence operations.

Reason for Demise: The community’s demise can be attributed to a number of reasons. Failure to pay off the land debt of $19,000 was primary, but the need for skilled labor, discord from a lawsuit, and losses due to a flood also contributed.

In 1846, the land was sold to John Wattles, who wished to start a new community, Excelsior, with a more Spiritualist persuasion after the failure of his venture at Prairie Home. Wattles ignored warnings from the previous owners and built a town hall/dining hall on the edge of the Ohio River. Unfortunately, it was completed just a few days before one of the biggest floods of the 19th century. On December 13, 1847, the community sought refuge in the town hall as their houses began to flood. In the midst of an impromptu community dance, the river washed out the south wall of the building, sweeping a large number of people into the river. 17 people died.