Annotations - Louisa May Alcott, "Transcendental Wild Oats" (1873)

Joseph Palmer (1789-1873)


Joseph Palmer (1789-1873), was a farmer who became involved in reformist causes after he was wrongfully imprisoned for refusing to pay a fine for “unprovoked assault” after two men tried forcefully to shave off his beard. Exposed to the miserable and degrading conditions of imprisonment, he became active in prison reform and abolition. After the Fruitlands experiment had come to an end, he purchased the property and established the Leominster and Harvard Benevolent Association. In “Transcendental Wild Oats” he is introduced as: “one of the elect precious–a regenerate farmer whose idea of reform consisted chiefly in wearing white-cotton raiment and shoes of untanned leather. This costume, with a snowy beard, gave him a venerable and at the same time a somewhat bridal appearance.” (1569) Note that he is wearing cotton and leather, both of which were to be forbidden in the community.



Image of Joseph Palmer, one of the founding members of the short-lived commuinty Fruitlands. From a daguerreotype (no artist or date listed). From Bronson Alcott's Fruitlands by Clara Endicott Sears. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company 1915. Page 56. Unlisted photographer, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons