Rapp, Johann Georg

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Founder of the Harmony Society; b. Iplingen, Württemburg, Germany, Nov. 1, 1757; d. Economy, Pa., Aug. 7, 1847. He was the son of a prosperous farmer. Although he had little formal education, Rapp was deeply influenced by the writings of J. Böhme, P. J. Spener, E. Swedenborg, and other German mystical theologians, and he gathered some followers into a spiritual family. In 1803 he went to the United States to select a site for a community; his disciples joined him in 1805 to form the Harmony Society at Harmony, Butler County, Pennsylvania. All goods were held in common and after 1807 celibacy was enforced. The community migrated to New Harmony, Posey County, Indiana, in 1814 and in 1825 moved to Economy, near Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Rapp continued as the group's spiritual leader and virtual dictator until his death. His eclectic theology was expounded in his Thoughts on the Destiny of Man (1824).

Bibliography: c. knoedler, The Harmony Society (New York 1954). j. s. duss, George Rapp and His Associates (Indianapolis 1914); The Harmonists (State College, Pa. 1943).

[r. k. macmaster]