Lot 6 of 230:
1852 letter to 1st American anarchist about Modern Times utopian colony on Long Island  

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Letter to the ‘first American Anarchist’ Josiah Warren about Modern Times, his new “free love” utopian colony on Long Island

Blacker, Peter I.



April 19, 1852


2 pp. + stamped address leaf. To Josiah Warren, Modern Times, Thompson Station, Long Island, New York.

Modern Times was 90-acre experimental utopian community on Long Island, founded by Josiah Warren, “the first American anarchist”, which drew some hundred pioneer reformers, “freethinkers” and “free love” sexual radicals who refused to be “bound by any government, church, constitution or bylaws.” Rare autographed letter.

This letter was written to Warren a year after the colony’s founding by his most practical-minded disciple: Peter Ignacius Blacker, a 44 year-old Boston harness maker and coach trimmer, the intellectual son of Irish immigrants, whose extended family – wife, daughter, son, brother and brother-in-law and their wives -  provided the core of original colony residents, providing stability for a community which attracted radical eccentrics of all stripes.  Historian Roger Wunderlich’s 1992 book about Modern Times, which mentions 8 members of the Blacker family – some of whom remained when the colony morphed into the village of Brentwood - was partially based on Warren letters at Harvard and other institutions, but cites no letters by Blacker. This is possibly the only Blacker-Modern Times letter to survive.

Blacker’s delay in answering Warren’s last letter was due to his own “fine fury of work for a military company”, and a mishap by his teen-aged daughter – soon to become the colony’s first school-teacher. “This would not happen again as you know this is not my way of doing business.” Many of his relatives were interested in the colony: His brother James would soon visit “to see if he can work among you to advantage and try the principles. He is an industrious and conscientious person and I hope he will find that he can settle among you.” Blacker’s brother-in-law, “a good Carpenter” who “can make agricultural tools and turn his hand to most anything” also “thinks seriously of coming on.” Blacker was having a fruitful weekly meeting at his home for other prospective colonists, and the “free-thinker” editor of the colony’s newsletter, “The Art of Living”, also reported interest in the Lowell area. Blacker had especially ”rejoiced” to hear that Warren’s anarchist colleague, Stephen Pearl Andrews, would publish a new edition of Warren’s book, “Equitable Commerce”, which would hopefully contain “specimens” of the Modern Times “Labor Note” Blacker had designed – the colony’s substitute for paper money (a rarity now sought by numismatic collectors). Blacker hoped the “Boston Investigator” (the first “free thought” American newspaper) for which he had written articles, would help publicize the colony, but he had been “out of patience” with the editors who had not kept their promises to assist. As soon as the colony produced its own newspaper and the Warren book was distributed, “we shall not have to try to get a hearing and force our way to the public ear but shall have more than we can attend to to answer inquiries. We shall then have to tell them to be satisfied with reading or go to work and try the principles.” Some potential problems that lay ahead were made clear in a letter Blacker had received from “Utopia”, a Socialist colony on the banks of the Ohio River that Warren had helped found in the 1840s. It was reportedly “getting along very comfortably” and making slow progress, but the pragmatic Blacker believed it suffered from a lack of necessary “cash capital.” Nevertheless, Blacker was a convinced disciple and as soon as the Modern Times newspaper was in print, he would “make it a special business to get all the subscribers I can…” (Full transcript of the letter available on request)

Lot Amendments

Ink faded, but text complete and clearly decipherable by enhanced scan.

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