Around the World on a Bicycle

In 1884, the 29 year old Thomas Stevens set out from San Fransisco on the 'modern mechanical invention' of the Penny Farthing to circumnavigate the globe on his 'big wheel'. His book - "Around the World on a Bicycle" - was published in 1888 and his writings are presented here in blog form. Read more in the archive.

South Amana

Hurrying timorously through Grinnell - the city that was badly demolished and scattered all over the surrounding country by a cyclone in 1882 - I pause at Victor, where I find the inhabitants highly elated over the prospect of building a new jail with the fines nightly inflicted on graders employed on a new railroad near by, who come to town and "hilare" every evening. " What kind of a place do you call this?" I inquire, on arriving at a queer-looking town twenty-five miles west of Iowa City.

"This is South Amana, one of the towns of the Amana Society," is the civil reply. The Amana Society is found upon inquiry to be a communism of Germans, numbering 15,000 souls, and owning 50,000 acres of choice land in a body, with woollen factories, four small towns, and the best of credit everywhere. Everything is common property, and upon withdrawal or expulsion, a member takes with him only the value of what he brought in. The domestic relations are as usual; and while no person of ambition would be content with the conditions of life here, the slow, ease-loving, methodical people composing the society seem well satisfied with their lot, and are, perhaps, happier, on the whole, than the average outsider. I remain here for dinner, and take a look around. The people, the buildings, the language, the food, everything, is precisely as if it had been picked up bodily in some rural district in Germany, and set down unaltered here in Iowa. "Wie gehts," I venture, as I wheel past a couple of plump, rosy-cheeked maidens, in the quaint, old-fashioned garb of the German peasantry. "Wie gehts," is the demure reply from them, both at once; but not the shadow of a dimple responds to my unhappy attempt to win from them a smile. Pretty but not coquettish are these communistic maidens of Amana.

Posted in stevens blog by Thomas Stevens on Tuesday 24th Jun 1884 (18:00 +0000) | Add a comment | Permalink

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