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Building Jerusalem in America: William Ashton and a Trans-Atlantic Utopia

VI. Postscript

Although the American branch of the MSCC dissolved, Ashton and many of his fellow emigrants remained in America.  Ashton became a designer of patterns for a cloth firm in Cincinnati, Ohio, where he was later joined by his brother Whiteley.  Over the next several decades, the Ashton brothers sold cloth throughout the region.

The brothers had abandoned their shared vision of a pastoral utopia in America, but Ashton's interest in the natural world was transferred to his designs, which were frequently of flowers, vines, and forests.  These images were printed on tablecloths and draperies which were distributed throughout the American frontier.  Ashton's vision of a land untainted by industrialism, then, had an ironic second life as a commodity which was bought and sold. 

But because the Ashtons first raised capital for their trans-Atlantic journey by selling stock, their endeavor had always been part business venture and part utopian vision.  After the dissolution of the MSCC, the Ashtons converted their vision of a pastoral paradise, a "new Jerusalem," into a marketing opportunity - and so contributed, in a small way, to the transformation of the American frontier into the industrial dystopia they had fled in England.

Flower design

Floral design, William Ashton (after 1836). 
This design is likely from the period following the dissolution of the Manchester Social Community Company, when Ashton turned to designing patterns for cloth manufactured by Sawyer & Brackett, of Cincinnati, Ohio.