This former home serves as a reminder that one of the most famous writers of the 19th century was a socialist.
Today a modest office building, this unassuming structure was once the home of writer Edward Bellamy for most of his life. Bellamy is famous for his 1888 book Looking Backward, a story about a man who goes to sleep in the 1880s but awakens in the distant year 2000.
The book traces the character as he learns about how American society has changed in the more than 100 years that he missed. The government has shunned capitalism and created nationalized industries. Those working the most difficult or demanding jobs have a shorter work week and, ultimately, everyone is paid the same. With such competition removed, the result is a seeming utopia.
The book detailed a number of plausible innovations, including the equivalent of radio, the internet, home delivery of goods, and credit cards. In this future world, crime rates have plummeted, government officials have become more trustworthy, and unpleasant civil lawsuits have been eradicated. The inhabitants of this future America look back on the 19th century as a barbarous, unenlightened time.
Despite a lack of significant plot, Bellamy’s book sold 200,000 copies before the end of the century. It is ranked just under Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin (1852) for sales in the 1800s in the United States. Its influence was strong enough that dozens of “Bellamy Clubs” were formed throughout the country to discuss the book’s ideas with the hope of introducing socialist practices in the U.S. Bellamy published a sequel, Equality, that also considered reform of education and women’s role in society.
Other than some journalism work, Bellamy otherwise lived a relatively quiet and uneventful life. He moved into this Chicopee home with his family while still a baby; with the exception of some time spent in New York, Hawaii, Colorado, and Germany, he stayed for the whole of his life. He died of tuberculosis in 1896 at age 48.
The home only had two additional owners before it was purchased in 1974 by the Bellamy Memorial Association. It is a registered National Historic Landmark.
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