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The Stelton colony in central New Jersey was founded in 1915. Humble cottages (some little more than shacks) and a smattering of public buildings ranged over a 140-acre tract of scrubland a few miles north of New Brunswick. Unlike America’s better-known experimental settlements of the nineteenth century, rather than a refuge for a devout religious sect, Stelton was a hive of political radicals, where federal agents came snooping during the Red Scare of 1919-1920. But it was also a suburb, a community of people who moved out of the city for the sake of their children’s education and to enjoy a little land and peace. They were not even the first people to come to the area with the same idea: There was already a German socialist enclave nearby, called Fellowship Farm.

The founders of Stelton were anarchists. In the twenty-first century, the word “anarchism” evokes images of masked antifa facing off against neo-Nazis. What it meant in the early twentieth century was different, and not easily defined. The anarchist movement emerged in the mid-nineteenth century alongside Marxism, and the two were allied for a time before a decisive split in 1872. Anarchist leader Mikhail Bakunin rejected the authority of any state — even a worker-led state, as Marx envisioned — and therefore urged abstention from political engagement. Engels railed against this as a “swindle.”

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A matchbook ad for Pennsylvania Railroad, 1940. Jim Heimann Collection / Getty.

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Click the link below for the article:

The Anarchists Who Took the Commuter Train

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