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Blood on the Tracks in Pullman: Chicagoland's Failed Capitalist Utopia

In 1880 industrialist George Pullman set out to build a capitalist utopia. The town of Pullman was established just outside of Chicago as a model community—a place that was supposed to produce both happy workers and a nice return for Pullman's investors. It turned out to be a miserable failure. And conditions in the…

That New Utopia Show Is a Dumb Dystopia But Obviously That's the Point

Throughout history, people have tried to build many different versions of Utopia. Sometimes it's a charismatic leader ushering people toward a righteous path with a common goal. Other times, groups of like-minded people come together to democratically work toward a common goal. And sometimes it's just a bunch of…

Broadacre City: Frank Lloyd Wright's Unbuilt Suburban Utopia

Frank Lloyd Wright was arrogant, stubborn, and brilliant. But above all, he was a shrewd businessman who understood the importance of spectacle in keeping his business afloat. Wright put on many shows over the course of his lifetime, but arguably no performance was greater than his utopian plan to create the perfect…

Synanon's Sober Utopia: How a Drug Rehab Program Became a Violent Cult

In 1970, George Lucas needed dozens of actors with shaved heads for his sci-fi dystopian movie THX 1138. He had trouble filling the roles at first, since so few actresses wanted to cut their locks, but Lucas eventually found the extras he needed in a strange utopian community where everyone worshipped sobriety and…

How Upton Sinclair Turned The Jungle Into a Failed New Jersey Utopia

In 1906, novelist Upton Sinclair founded a cooperative community in Englewood, New Jersey, not far outside New York. It would exist for just six months before being completely consumed by fire, but Sinclair would spend the rest of his life dreaming about his time there. They called it the Helicon Home Colony. And…