Oneida silverware, that prized matriarchal flatware, is a staple of American national holidays as much as turkey stuffing and fights about politics so loud that the neighbors call the cops. And how can it not be? After all, this decadently fancy silverware stands for everything Americans celebrate about their country: truth, cultism, and the commie threeway.
For nearly 150 years, the Oneida company has provided quality dining silverware. But for a time, Oneida wasn't a business as much as a visionary religious-communist cult. The "Society of Inquiry," better known as the Oneida Community, was founded by idealist rich kid and nephew of President Rutherford B. Hayes, John Humphrey Noyes. While studying divinity, Noyes started to believe in religious perfectionism. More specifically, he believed that he was already perfect and should pass his perfection to others. Then, when a married woman turned down his advances, he figured that possessing things was "selfish" and that sharing everything is about as perfect as it gets. Noyes quickly found out that he had stumbled dick first into the greatest recipe for a cult ever, and the Oneida Community started growing into the "most successful of the utopian socialist communities in the United States."
After a disastrous stint as a boilerplate agrarian utopia, the Oneidans switched to boilerplate capitalism when a new member gave them the blueprint for a revolutionary steel trap. Switching to metallurgic industrialism, Oneida's trap success allowed them to avoid the starvation pit traps of similar communities, eventually focussing on their sterling reputation for making your grandma's finest silverware. But Oneida's biggest draw was also its downfall, as the American government had deemed they had taken communism too far -- into the bedroom.
The community practiced a radical kind of polygamy where everyone was married to everyone, not just every guy with a long beard to seven sister-wives. And that doesn't fly in the United States. It also didn't help that teens were convinced to 'explore' their sexuality with the compound's oldest and horniest members through some very pre-Scientology psychological practices. John Noyes was prosecuted for him polyamorous advocacy and had to flee to the only place where polite socialists are welcomed in North America: Canada.
At that point, the other community members stood at an argent fork in the road: Would they go pre-Waco and defy the government by continuing their commie polyamory, or would they sell out their socialism and go corporate. The remaining members opted for the latter, banning poly weddings and rebranding themselves into more of a business than a utopian commune. Which is how they're best known today as the people who make those fancy silver dessert spoons and not the people who discussed socialism during group sex in between making said silver spoons.
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Top Image: Unsplash, Richard Waki