The Shakers were the largest and most successful Utopian venture in existence in their time, with an estimated four thousand to six thousand members in eighteen principal communities from Maine to Kentucky by 1840. The Shakers peacefully pursued the vision of their English founder Mother Ann Lee (1736-1784), who came to America with eight followers in 1774. They turned away from the rest of society, which they simply called the World. They lived in large families that were both celibate and communal, devoted their lives to work, and celebrated their love of God in the rousing dance worship that gave them their name. Simplicity was their hallmark, they cared little for worldly goods.
Many today know of the Shakers for the furniture style that they created, highly funcional furniture that pleases the eye through its simplistic beauty. Shaker design is devoid of any unnecessary ornamentation or frivolous detail. Many examples of original Shaker furniture can be viewed in permanent exhibits in fine museums throughout the world.
As they created a new, more perfect society, the Shakers also produced a visual environment of such quiet power that it continues to impress the observer centuries later.
1 Watervljet (Niskeyuna), New York (1787-1938)
2 Mount Lebanon, New York (1787-1947)
3 Hancock, Massachusetts (1790-1960)
4 Harvard, Massachusetts (1791-1918)
5 Tyringham, Massachusetts (1792-1875)
6 Enfield, Connecticut (1792-1917)
7 Canterbury, New Hampshire (1792-1992)
8 Shirley, Massachusetts (1793-1909)
9 Enfield, New Hampshire (1793-1923)
10 Alfred, Maine (1793-1931)
11 Sabbathday Lake, Maine (1794-still active)
12 Union Village, Ohio (1805-1912)
13 Watervliet, Ohio (1806-1900)
14 Pleasant Hill, Kentucky (1806-1910)
15 South Union, Kentucky (1807-1922)
16 West Union, Indiana (1810-27)
17 North Union, Ohio (1822-89)
18 White Water, Ohio (1822-1916)
19 Groveland, New York (1836-92)
Gorham, Maine (1808-19)
Savoy Massachusetts (1817-25)
Sodus Bay, New York (1826-36)
Narcoossee, Florida (1896-c. 1920)
White Oak, Georgia (1898-1902)
The Shakers Today...
Today, fewer than a dozen Shakers remain in the last active community at Sabbathday Lake, Maine.
In spite of the decline in practicing members, their buildings and villages, along with their furniture and art, remain as a testimony to their quest for perfection and simplicity. Many former communities have been restored to their original splendor and serve as museum sites to preserve the Shaker's legacy, and to educate the current and future generations of the Shakers' heritage.
For those who yearn for more knowledge of Shaker life, work and art, many wonderful writings have and continue to be published and are available at most book stores. In addition, a yearly seminar is held in early July. Previously run by the Berkshire Community College and now hosted by The Hancock Shaker Village, the Berkshire Shaker Seminar has been held yearly for close to 30 years. This seminar varies the location that it is held in from year to year, often being held at an actual Shaker Village. All aspects of Shaker life, work, art and religion are delved into during this yearly event. For more information contact The Hancock Shaker Village at (800) 817-1137 or by email at:
The Following Link prepared by The National Parks Service is a very informative one ;
Who Made It ?
As different as the Shakers were from the rest of society, there existed differences between the various communities.
Many examples of this can be found through the study of furniture and art specimens that remain today. The western Shakers of Ohio and Kentucky, for example, often utilized woods such as ash and oak in furniture construction, woods which were seldom used by the communities in the Northeast. In addition, certain design elements varied.
Even in the Northeast, where the communities were in closer proximity to each other, details in design and construction serve as telltale signs of the origin of remaining Shaker work. For example, each community that produced chairs had their own distinct finial design that adorned the top of the rear posts.
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