Josiah Warren's Labor Notes
This labor note was created for Modern Times, a planned community founded in 1851 by Josiah Warren and Stephen Pearl Andrew, based on the idea of individual sovereignty. Like other utopian communities founded by Warren, the settlement used labor notes that enabled residents to trade their labor for the labor of their neighbors in a regulated system or through a time store, a shop run by Warren himself. The project sought to replace other forms of currency as part of Modern Times' remaking of interpersonal economic relations. The community was located on ninety acres of land on Long Island about forty miles from New York City and its population had nearly peaked at about 150 people when this note was printed in 1857. Modern Times struggled through the Civil War years and eventually disbanded as a planned settlement, reincorporating as the town of Brentwood in 1864.
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"TWO HOURS LABOR IN SIGN PAINTING," currency, 1857. Courtesy of the Bank Note Collection, Box 2, Nineteenth-Century Currency, Folder 16, Unidentified Private Currency, American Antiquarian Society, Worcester, Massachusetts.
The best modern treatment of Modern Times is Roger Wunderlich's Low Living and High Thinking at Modern Times, New York (Syracuse, 1992); on Warren himself, see William Bailie's Josiah Warren, the First American Anarchist (Boston, 1906). Albert Brisbane's Association: or, A Concise Exposition of the Practical Part of Fourier's Social Science (New York, 1843) provides a window to nineteenth-century communitarian thought. Warren laid out his own ideas in Equitable Commerce: A New Development of Principles as Substitutes for Laws and Governments, for the Harmonious Adjustment and Regulation of the Pecuniary, Intellectual, and Moral Intercourse of Mankind Proposed as Elements of New Society (New York, 1852) and True Civilization an Immediate Necessity, and the Last Ground of Hope for Mankind (Boston, 1863).