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Essay on The Shakers
Essay on Utopias in American
Essay on Shaker Style
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The National Park Service's National Register of Historic Places and Northeast Regional Office, in conjunction with the Shaker communities and museums of the east coast and the National Conference of State Historic Preservation Officers (NCSHPO), proudly invite you to discover the Shaker Historic Trail. The Shakers, more properly known as the United Society of Believers, are one of the most compelling religious and social movements in American life. Beginning in the 1780s, the Shakers established 19 official communities from Maine to Kentucky. This latest National Register of Historic Places travel itinerary highlights 15 Shaker communities listed in the National Register, including nine which are open to the public. This online itinerary was based on the previously published National Park Service brochure, The Shaker Historic Trail.

Originating in the religious ferment of Manchester, England, in the mid-18th century, the "Shaking Quakers" reached fruition after settlement in America in 1774. "Mother" Ann Lee, the English-born leader of the Shakers, began her public ministry in America in 1780. By 1784 she had died, but her charismatic preaching had sparked a revolutionary new movement that had enduring impact on American religion and culture. The Shakers were ardent believers in the millennialist principle of establishing "heaven on earth" through the practice of communitarian social organizations, pacifism, celibacy, gender equality and the confession of sin. The Shakers offered an intriguing alternative to mainstream culture in post-Revolutionary War America. They challenged prevailing ideas about worship, marriage, the family, and social and economic order. Over time, they made major contributions to the history of American music, arts, architecture, business and religion. Their legacy is preserved in many of their original communities, such as Canterbury Shaker Village, Hancock Shaker Village, Mount Lebanon Shaker Village, Shaker Village of Pleasant Hill or the Enfield Shaker Museum. Today, only one active community remains at Sabbathday Lake, Maine. Several museums are devoted exclusively to Shaker heritage, as you will find at the Shaker Museum at South Union, Shaker Heritage Society, or the Shaker Historical Museum. Each of the Shaker sites included in this itinerary contribute to the overall story of Shaker determination to express their distinctive voice in the heady atmosphere of American democracy, pluralism and religious liberty.

The Shaker Historic Trail offers several ways to discover these historic places reflecting the Shaker legacy. Each highlighted site features a brief description of the place's significance, color and, where available, historic photographs, and public accessibility information. At the bottom of each page the visitor will find a navigation bar containing links to three essays that explain more about The Shakers, Utopias in America, and Shaker Style. These essays provide historic background, or "contexts," for many of the places included in the itinerary. The itinerary can be viewed online, or printed out if you plan to visit the Shaker sites in person.

Created through a partnership between the National Park Service's National Register of Historic Places and Northeast Regional Office, the Shaker communities and museums of the east coat and NCSHPO, Shaker Historic Trail is the latest example of a new and exciting cooperative project. As part of the Department of the Interior's strategy to promote public awareness of history and encourage tourists to visit historic places throughout the nation, the National Register of Historic Places is cooperating with communities, regions, and Heritage Areas throughout the United States to create online travel itineraries. Using places nominated by State, Federal and Tribal Historic Preservation Offices and listed in the National Register of Historic Places, the itineraries help potential visitors plan their next trip by highlighting the amazing diversity of this country's historic places and supplying accessibility information for each featured site. In the Learn More section, the itineraries link to regional and local web sites that provide visitors with further information regarding cultural events, special activities, and lodging and dining possibilities. Visitors may be interested in Historic Hotels of America, a program of the National Trust for Historic Preservation, located near the places featured in this itinerary.

The Northeast Regional Office and the Shaker communities and museums are the 15th set of more than 30 organizations working directly with the National Register of Historic Places to create travel itineraries. Additional itineraries will debut online in the future. The National Register of Historic Places, Northeast Regional Office and the Shaker communities and museums hope you enjoy this virtual travel itinerary of Shaker heritage. If you have any comments or questions, please just click on the provided e-mail address, "comments or questions" located at the bottom of each page.

The Shakers

In his book, The American Soul, Rediscovering the Wisdom of the Founders, Jacob Needleman states, "we need to appreciate the important role that innovative religious communities played in the formation of our country--remembering that, for many of the Founding Fathers, America itself was envisioned as a new land, a new community defined not only politically but also spiritually." While the definition of "spirituality" took many forms, from enlightenment principles to freedom of worship, many European groups envisioned America as a place to plant the seeds for utopian communities, both religious and secular. One such group was the United Society of Believers in Christ's Second Appearing, commonly known as the Shakers, who arrived in America from England in 1774. Founded in 1747, in Manchester, England, from a group of dissenting Quakers, only a handful of Shakers came to North America in 1774. Once in America, the Shakers won many converts, and their faith spread to include roughly 6,000 members just before the Civil War. The Shakers were but one of many sects that found fertile soil in the North American continent to practice their beliefs and expand. Today, except for one active community in Sabbathday, Maine, the great Shaker villages are diminished, but the Shakers left an enduring impact on the religion and culture of the United States.

Historical Background: The origins of the Shakers, like many other religious sects that splintered off mainstream Protestantism, are found in the 17th century. The Protestant Revolution, which began in Europe in 1517, along with the discoveries of new technologies and trade routes, altered the political, spiritual, and economic life of Europe and the world. The discoveries of the Americas, the uses of the vernacular tongues in writing, and the ancient earth-centered universe disproved by Tycho Brahe and other astronomers, along with the opening of new trade routes and newer technologies for warfare altered the earlier medieval conception of the universe. With new scientific and religious interpretations opening up (the publishing of the Bible in various vernacular languages helped speed the process), the creation of new Christian Churches outside the Catholic Church and the mainstream Protestant denominations (the Lutheran Church, the Calvinists and Church of England) continued in the 17th and 18th centuries. Already in Elizabethan England the Puritans were becoming separate from the Church of England. Following came the Baptist Church, the Quakers, the French Camisards, the Community of True Inspiration, the first Unitarian tract, various Anabaptist and millenarian groups, the Methodists and others. Often the congregations that created these new churches believed that the mainstream Protestant Churches were becoming too legalistic in interpretation of the Bible. Two of these newer sects, the French Camisards and the Quakers, lead the way to the Shakers. The beliefs and early histories of these two religious groups will be briefly explored, as both groups contributed to the formation of Shaker beliefs.

French Camisards and Quakers: The French Camisards, whose religious beliefs inspired both the Quakers and Shakers, originated in southern France during the 17th century. Influenced by the French Calvinists, the Camisards, whose name originated from the Provence word camiso, or chemise (shirt), rebelled against the royal persecution of their faith by the French authorities. The Camisards held some of their leaders to be Prophets, whom they claimed heard the word of God. They battled the armies of the French King Louis XIV from 1702 to 1706. Loosing the battle, some Camisard survivors fled to England, where they continued to practice their beliefs. It was when these exiles preached in England that some Quakers fell under their influence. The Shakers Compendium of the Origin, History, Principles, Rules and Regulations, Government, and Doctrines of the United Society of Believers in Christ's Second Appearing, written by F.W. Evans, and originally published in 1859, mentions the Camisards favorably, stating "In the beginning of the eighteenth century, Spiritualism broke out on the continent of Europe, and was followed by most remarkable religious revivals; out of which arose the 'French prophets'."

It was a merging of both Quaker and French Camisard beliefs that created the Shakers. The Quakers were founded in England in 1652 by George Fox. Stressing the "Inner Light of Christ," the early Quakers taught that direct knowledge of Christ was possible to the individual without a Church, priest or book as the final word of revelation. While no official creed holds the Quakers, or Society of Friends, together, the belief that God exists in all people caused many Quakers to be sensitive to injustice and degradation. They have a long history of pacifism, and this belief was found also among their spiritual descendants, the Shakers. During the 1740s, the Quakers changed their process of worship where their violent tremblings and quakings, from which they derived their name, predominated. One group in Manchester, England, retained this form of worship, and it was during the 1740s that the "Shaking Quakers," or Shakers, came under the influence of some exiled French Camisards. This group split off from mainstream Quakerism in 1747, and developed along their own lines, forming into a society with Jane and James Wardley as their leaders. Ann Lee, the founder and later leader of the American Shakers, and her parents were members of this society.

Mother Ann Lee and the Early Shakers: Ann Lee, who became the charismatic leader of the Shakers, was born the daughter of a blacksmith in the English city of Manchester in 1736. Growing up illiterate, Shaker tradition has it that Ann worked in a cotton factory, marrying a blacksmith named Abraham Standerin (also referred to as Stanley and Standley) in 1762. The couple had four children, all of whom died in childhood. At age 22, Ann joined the Shakers and after being a member for about 12 years, she experienced what Evans named "a special manifestation of Divine light." After this experience the small society after which the small society of believers acknowledged her as "Mother in Christ" and Mother Ann became the leader of the Shakers. In 1774, according to Evans, "Mother Ann received a revelation, directing her to repair to America; also that the second Christian Church would be established in America." With her husband and seven members of the society Ann Lee set sail for America on May 10, 1774. By late 1776 she and some followers were located in an area northwest of Albany, New York, by which point her husband had left her to marry another woman.

In 1780, the first two American converts joined the small community, but Ann Lee and the Shakers came under suspicion of not aiding the American Revolution against the British. Ann Lee was placed in jail until George Clinton, governor of New York, released her, provided she did not work against the patriot cause. While her English followers opposed the war between the Colonies and Great Britain, they did not aid the British. Ann returned to Niskeyuna, north of Albany, New York, in 1783. This location was already becoming the headquarters of the American Shakers. Ann gathered more followers with her teachings until her death in 1784. Historians interested in the history of women's rights have recently reevaluated the life of Ann Lee.

Shaker Beliefs: The Shakers in America lived a communal life based on common ownership of property and goods, celibate purity, and confession of sins. The Shakers did not believe in procreation and therefore had to adopt children or allow converts into their community. The adopted children were given a choice at age 21 whether to remain with the Shaker community or go their way into the world. The Shakers eventually created 19 official communities in the Northeast, Ohio, and Kentucky. From these communities came agricultural advances and quality manufactured goods. In addition, the Shakers had advanced notions of equality between the sexes and the races. The Shakers had prosperous communities and grew to be respected by people who had scorned them for their unorthodox religious practices. The Shakers, like the Quakers, were pacifists in outlook, citing the example of Jesus Christ. The Shakers believed in opportunities for intellectual and artistic development within the Society. Good sanitation, simplicity in dress, speech, and manner were encouraged, as were the living in rural colonies away from the corrupting influences of the cities. Like other Utopian societies founded in the18th and19th centuries, the Shakers believed it was possible to form a more perfect society upon earth. The Shaker belief in the equality of the sexes is symbolized by the special place their founder, Ann Lee, holds in the community. Spiritually, Shaker theology, which held that God created all things in a "dual" order, stated that the female element of Christ, manifested in Ann Lee, heralded the second Christian Church, as Christ heralded the first Christian Church. Evans states that Ann Lee became a spiritual woman, who could reveal and manifest "the Mother Spirit in Christ and in Deity," as Jesus, "being a male, could only reveal and manifest the Father in Christ and God." According to Christian Becksvroort, in The Shaker Legacy Perspectives on an Enduring Furniture Style, "The belief that God is both mother and father is the theological basis for the Shaker belief in the basic equality of the sexes and has important implications for Shaker organizational structure, which required male and female representatives in key roles."

The Shaker communities referred to those who lived outside as people from "the World." They allowed contact with outsiders, and many outsiders, including Nathaniel Hawthorne, observed their religious practices. Shaker communities were agriculturally based, and consisted of several Shaker "families." The celibate Shaker "family" was not a family of blood relations; rather all referred to themselves as brothers and sisters of the Shaker community. The sexes lived, and mostly worked, apart, living in communal homes that could house up to 100 people. The community meeting-house became the center of Shaker worship services on Sunday where the sexes sat in separate rows. The spontaneous dancing that was part of Shaker worship until the early 1800s became replaced by choreographed dancing. Around the 1840s spontaneous dancing returned, but by the end of the 19th century dancing ceased, and worship services were taken up with the singing of hymns, testimonials, a short homily, and silence.

19th Century to the Present: Following the death of Mother Ann Lee, new leaders took over as head of the Shaker religion. William Lee, the brother of Ann Lee, was one such leader. William Lee, who was born in England in 1740 and died in 1784, was remembered for, according to Evans, his undaunted stance during the Shakers time of persecution in the United States as well as his love for music and gift of song. English-born James Whittacker (1751-1787), was the leader following William Lee, and was remembered for his strong faith in God. John Hocknell, who followed Whittacker, was a convert from the Methodist Church in England and was remembered, according to Evans, for his gift of healing. After Hocknell's death in 1799 Joseph Mecham (1742-1796), born in Connecticut, and Lucy Wright (1760-1821), born in Massachusetts, were the first American-born leaders of the Shakers. Meacham transformed Shakerism by setting down rules for architecture, communal sharing of goods, behavior and worship, thus placing individual discipline as a cornerstone for spiritual salvation both individually and within the wider Shaker community. Under Mecham's leadership two societies in New Lebanon, New York (Mount Lebanon Shaker Society), and Albany, New York (Watervliet Shaker Historic District), were added. Under Wright's leadership, immediately following Mecham, several societies in Ohio and Kentucky were established along with great accessions to the Eastern societies. Shaker communities were eventually founded in States from Maine to Kentucky. One of the most thriving of the Shaker communities was Pleasant Hill, in Harrodsburg, Kentucky, which had over 500 inhabitants and included over 260 buildings in the 19th century. From their inception, Shaker communities were known for their manufactured goods. The Shakers embraced new labor-saving technologies, and invented metal pen nibs, the flat broom, a prototype washing machine called a wash mill, the circular saw (invented by a woman, Tabitha Babbit), waterproof and wrinkle-free cloth, a metal chimney cap that blocked rain, and improved on the plow.

The Shakers came under a spiritual revival called the Era of Manifestations, which lasted from the late 1830s to about 1850. According to Shaker tradition, heavenly spirits came to earth, bringing visions, often giving them to young Shaker women, who danced, whirled, spoke in tongues, and interpreted these visions through their drawings and dancing. While the Era of Manifestations strengthened the spiritual roots and bonds of the Shakers, several of the leaders of this movement later left the Shakers. As pacifiists,the Shakers did not believe that it was acceptable to kill or harm others, even in time of war. As a result the Civil War brought with it a strange time for the Shaker communities in America. Both Union and Confederate soldiers found their way to the Shaker communities. Shakers tended to sympathize with the Union but they did feed and care for both Union and Confederate soldiers. President Lincoln exempted Shaker males from military service, and they became some of the first conscientious objectors in American history. The end of the Civil War brought large changes to the Shaker communities. One of the most important changes was the post- war economy. The Shakers had a hard time competing in the industrialized economy that followed the Civil War. With prosperity falling, converts were hard to come by. By the early 20th century the once numerous Shaker communities were failing and closing. Today, in the 21st century, the Shaker community that still exists--the Sabbathday Lake Shaker Community--denies that Shakerism was a failed utopian experiment. Their message, surviving over two centuries in America, reads in part as follows: " Shakerism is not, as many would claim, an anachronism; nor can it be dismissed as the final sad flowering of nineteenth century liberal utopian fervor. Shakerism has a message for this present age--a message as valid today as when it was first expressed. It teaches above all else that God is Love and that our most solemn duty is to show forth that God who is love in the World."

Information for this essay was found in several sources, among them the biographical account of Ann Lee written by Stephen J. Stein, edited by John A. Garraty and Mark C. Carnes (general editors) and found in American National Biography Volume 13 (New York: Oxford University Press, 1999).In passing, one book which explores the larger theme of spirituality in America, Jacob Needleman's The American Soul Rediscovering the Wisdom of the Founders, (New York: Putnam, 2002) deserves mention. F. W. Evans original 1859 work, Shakers Compendium of the origin, History, principles, Rules and Regulations, Government, and Doctrines of the United Society of Believers in Christ's Second Appearing with Biographies of Ann Lee, William Lee, Jas. Whittaker, J. Hocknell, J. meacham, and Lucy Wright was found online at Much of the information found here was taken from the National Park Service's pamphlet The Shaker Historic Trail. Information on the current beliefs of the Shakers was found at their Sabbethday Lake Shaker Community website at Christian's Becksvoort's The Shaker Legacy Perspectives on an Enduring Furniture Style (Newtown, Ct: The Taunton Press, 2000) gave a good account of Shaker innovations, while the reforms of Joseph Meachum, a successor of Ann lee, were found in Julie Nicoletta's The Architecture of the Shakers (Woodstock, Vermont: Norfleet Press, 1995).


The Shakers were one of many groups establishing utopian colonies on American soil during the 18th and 19th centuries. There were hundreds of communal utopian experiments in the early United States, and the Shakers alone founded around 20 settlements. While great differences existed between the various utopian communities or colonies, each society shared a common bond in a vision of communal living in a utopian society. The definition of a utopian colony, according to Robert V. Hine, author of California's Utopian Colonies, "consists of a group of people who are attempting to establish a new social pattern based upon a vision of the ideal society and who have withdrawn themselves from the community at large to embody that vision in experimental form." These colonies can, by definition, be composed of either religious or secular members, the former stressing (in the western tradition) a community life inspired by religion while the latter may express the idealism of a utilitarian creed expedient to establishing human happiness, with a belief in the co-operative way of life. The more familiar non-monastic religious communal movements typical in Western society have generally originated from a deliberate attempt among various Christian sects to revive the structure of the primitive Christian community of first-century Jerusalem, which "held all things in common" (Acts 2.44; 4.32). This essay explores the origins and development of the Utopian idea and its arrival in the United States before giving examples of 19th-century utopian colonies and some organizations on their ultimate demise. The Shaker, Rappite and Amana experiments, as well as the Oneida community and Brook Farm, find their origins in the European Protestant Reformation and the later Enlightenment.

Origins of the Utopian Idea: The western idea of utopia originates in the ancient world, where legends of an earthly paradise lost to history (e.g. Eden in the Old Testament, the mythical Golden Age of Greek mythology), combined with the human desire to create, or recreate, an ideal society, helped form the utopian idea. The Greek philosopher Plato (427?-347 BC) postulated a human utopian society in his Republic, where he imagined the ideal Greek city-state, with communal living among the ruling class, perhaps based on the model of the ancient Greek city-state of Sparta. Certainly the English statesman Sir Thomas More (1478-1535) had Plato's Republic in mind when he wrote the book Utopia (Greek ou, not + topos, a place) in 1516. Describing a perfect political and social system on an imaginary island, the term "Utopia" has since entered the English language meaning any place, State, or situation of ideal perfection. Both the desire for an Edenic Utopia and an attempt to start over in "unspoiled" America merged in the minds of several religious and secular European groups and societies.

The 19th-century utopian sects can trace their roots back to the Protestant Reformation. Following the early Christian communities, communal living developed largely within a monastic context, which was created by Saint Benedict of Nursia (480?-543?AD), who founded the Benedictine order. During the Middle Ages a communal life was led by several lay religious groups such as the Beghards and Brothers and Sisters of the Free Spirit. In allowing the sexes to live in the same community these societies differed from the earlier Catholic and Orthodox monasteries. The Protestant Reformation, which originated with the teachings of Martin Luther (1483-1546) and John Calvin (1509-1564), changed western European societal attitudes about the nature of religion and work. One of Luther's beliefs broke with the medieval conception of labor, which involved a hierarchy of professions, by stressing that all work was of equal spiritual dignity. Calvin's doctrines stressed predestination, which stated that a person could not know for certain if they were among God's Elect or the damned. Outwardly a person's life and deeds, including hard work and success in worldly endeavors, was a sign of possible inclusion as one of the Elect. These theological ideals about work were stressed in the various American religious utopian societies. The Shakers, for example, believed in productive labor as a religious calling, and the Amana Inspirationists saw labor as productive and good, part of God's plan of contributing to the community.

In the wars and general disorder following the establishment of Protestant sects in northern Europe, many peasants joined Anabaptist and millenarian groups, some of which, like the Hutterian Brethren, practiced communal ownership of property. To avoid persecution several of these groups immigrated to America, where the idea of communal living developed and expanded. The first significant group was the Ephrata Community (now a National Historic Landmark), established in 1732 in Pennsylvania. Much of this community was destroyed when Ephrata's members cared for the injured soldiers following the battle of Brandywine in 1777. Typhus set in, killing both soldiers and residents. By the end of the century the cloister's vitality was gone. It was not until the first half of the 19th century that a great expansion of communitarian experiments took place on American soil. Inexpensive and expansive land, unhampered by government regulations in a time when progress and optimism shaped people's beliefs, created a fertile milieu for the establishment of utopian societies. Europe, in the early 19th century, was emerging from a long history of religious and dynastic wars, and America, in contrast, became a location where people could start over, the "New Eden" that beaconed colonists across the Atlantic Ocean.

The Great Awakening, a series of religious revivals that affected every part of English America in the first half of the eighteenth century, prepared the American soil for numerous religious sects. In addition to the religious revivals, new ideas on government and man's role in society began with the Enlightenment, an 18th-century European philosophical movement characterized by rationalism and a strong skepticism and empiricism in social and political thought. These ideas found reception among the drafters of the American Constitution. Freedom of religion, guaranteed in the First Amendment of the United States Constitution, attracted European groups who were persecuted in their own countries. Arriving in America, some of these colonists hoped to form Utopian societies, self-containing religious or secular communities, agrarian and largely communal in nature, far removed from the perceived vices found in the overcrowded cities. While numerous religious and secular utopian experiments dotted the American landscape, the Shakers, Rappites, the Perfectionists of the Oneida Community, the experiment at Brook Farm and the Amana Colony of the Inspirationists were among the most famous. Some exploration of their beliefs and history presents an example of how these utopian colonies functioned.

The Shakers: Formally known as the United Society of Believers in Christ's Second Coming, the Shakers developed their own religious expression which included communal living, productive labor, celibacy, pacifism, the equality of the sexes, and a ritual noted for its dancing and shaking. A significant portion of Shakerism was founded by Ann Lee, in England (for more information see The Shakers), from a Quaker splinter sect created in 1747 and lead by Jane and James Wardley. Ann Lee and a handful of followers arrived in America in 1774. Ann Lee died in 1784, but her message spread through her followers and Shaker colonies spread to newer communities. Containing 6,000 members before the Civil War, these communities maintained economic autonomy while making items for outside commercial distribution. Intellectually, the Shakers were dissenters from the dominant values of American society and were associated with many of the reform movements of the 19th century, including feminism, pacifism and abolitionism: an Enfield Shaker's diary, for example, records the visits of fugitive slaves, including Sojourner Truth. Their work was eventually redirected from agricultural production to handcrafts, including the making of chairs and furniture (for more information see Shaker Style). Both the Enfield Shakers Historic District, in Enfield, Connecticut, and the Hancock Shaker Village, in Berkshire County, Massachusetts, stand as two noteworthy examples of Shaker communities. The community at Enfield, which began in the 1780s, peaked from 1830 to 1860. In 1860 there were 146 Shakers in Enfield, living in same-sex housing, working in its garden-seed industry. The Enfield Shakers Historic District, containing 15 buildings, has been recognized by the National Register of Historic Places for its significance in reflecting the social values and communal lifestyle of the Shakers. The Hancock Shaker Village was considered the center of Shaker authority in America from 1787 until 1947, and is today designated as a National Historic Landmark. Four other Shaker Village have also been designated as National Historic Landmarks: Shakertown at Pleasant Hill Historic District, Canterbury Shaker Village, Mount Lebanon Shaker Society and Sabbathday Lake Shaker Village, the latter which is the sole surviving Shaker community.

Brook Farm: Some of the secular utopian communities in the United States found inspiration from ideas and philosophies originating in Europe. Transcendentalism began as a term developed by the German philosopher Immanuel Kant (1724-1804) embodying those aspects of man's nature transcending, or independent of, experience. Taking root in America, Transcendentalism created a cultural renaissance in New England during 1830-45 and received its chief American expression in Ralph Waldo Emerson's individualistic doctrine of self-reliance. Some Transcendentalists decided to put their theories about "plain living" into practice. This experiment in communal living was established at West Roxbury, Massachusetts, on some 200 acres of land from 1841 to 1847. The Brook Farm Institute of Agriculture and Education became better known than many other communal experiments due to the distinguished literary and intellectual figures associated with it. The Brook Farm Institute was organized and directed by George Ripley, a former Unitarian minister and later literary critic for the New York Tribune. Others connected with the project were Charles A. Dana and Nathaniel Hawthorne (both shareholders), Ralph Waldo Emerson, Margaret Fuller, William Henry Channing, John S. Dwight, and Sophia Dana Ripley, a woman of wide culture and academic experience. Brook Farm attracted not only intellectuals, but also carpenters, farmers, shoemakers and printers. The community provided to all members, their children and family dependents, housing, fuel, wages, clothing and food. There was an infant school, a primary school and college preparatory course covering six years. The 1846 fire disaster which burned the newly financed Phalanstrey building, combined with further financial troubles, including Hawthorne's suit against Ripley and Dana to recover his investment in the project, brought about the end of the Brook Farm community the following year. The Brook Farm site is now recognized as a National Historic Landmark although only a small cottage on the property is definitely known to have been occupied by the Brook Farm community. Nathaniel Hawthorne used his experiences at Brook Farm as the basis of his novel The Blithedale Romance. The Brook Farm experiment began with about 15 members and never contained more than 120 persons at one time.

The Rappites: The Harmony Society, also called the Rappites, were similar to the Shakers in certain beliefs. Named after their founder, Johann Georg Rapp, the Rappites immigrated from Württemburg, Germany, to the United States in 1803, seeking religious freedom. Establishing a colony in Butler County, Pennsylvania, called Harmony, the Rappites held that the Bible was humanity's sole authority. They also advanced celibacy and lead a communal life without individual possessions, and believed that the harmony of male and female elements in humanity would be reestablished by their efforts. Under the guidance of Frederick Rapp, George Rapp's adopted son, the economy of Harmony grew from one of subsistence agriculture to gradual diversified manufacturing. By 1814 the Society boasted 700 members, a town of about 130 brick, frame, and log houses, and numerous factories and processing plants. Their manufactured products, particularly textiles and woolens, gained a widespread reputation for excellence, as did their wines and whisky. The Harmony Society soon outgrew its markets, and after selling all their holdings to a Mennonite group for $100,000 they moved to a new location on the Wabash River in Indiana. Here again they built a prosperous community, New Harmony (now a National Historic Landmark), only to sell it to Robert Owen, a social reformer from New Lanark, Scotland, and his financial partner, William Maclure, in 1825. The Harmonists next returned to Pennsylvania and built their final home at Economy (now called Old Economy and recognized as a National Historic Landmark), in Ambridge on the Ohio River. The Harmonists reached their peak of prosperity in 1866, but the practice of celibacy and several schisms thinned the Society's ranks, and the community was finally dissolved in 1905. The surviving buildings of the first settlement in Harmony, with their sturdy, simple brick dwellings, the Great House with its arched wine cellar, and the imposing cemetery and original town plan are today a National Historic Landmark named the Harmony Historic District.

The Oneida Community: The founder and leader of the communal Oneida Community, John Humphreys Noyes, was born in Brattleboro, Vermont, in 1811. Noyes joined the Andover Theological Seminary in November, 1831. Transferring to Yale Theological College at New Haven, he became involved with the nascent abolitionist movement. In 1833 he founded the New Haven Anti-Slavery society and the New Haven Free Church, where he preached his radical belief which laid great emphasis on the ideal of perfection being attainable in this life. His followers became known as Perfectionists. However, Noyer's belief in "complex marriage" alienated many of the townspeople in Putney, New York, where he was living, and he left in 1847. Perfectionists practicing "complex marriage" considered themselves married to the group, not a single partner. Noyer moved his community to the town of Oneida, in Madison County, New York. At Oneida, the group practiced "Bible Communism." The skills of the artisan members were channeled into broom manufacturing, shoe manufacturing, flour processing, lumber milling and trap manufacturing. The Perfectionists in Oneida held communal property, meals and arrangements for the rearing and education of children. They built the Oneida Community Mansion House, a rambling U-shaped, brick, Victorian building which began housing the community in the early 1850s. The Oneida Community Mansion House is now listed as a National Historic Landmark. In 1874 there were 270 members of the Oneida Community. Misunderstanding of the community, allied with traditional points of view, inspired a 1879 meeting of ministers in Syracuse, New York, to condemn the settlement. Eventual unrest hit Noyes' followers, and Noyes fled to Canada on June 29 1879. "Complex marriage" ended two days later. The experiment in their communal utopia ended in January of 1881 when the Oneida community was reconstituted as a joint stock corporation.

The Amana Colonies: The Amana Colony in Iowa was established by German-speaking European settlers who belonged to a religious group known as the Community of True Inspiration, which traces its origins to Himbach, Germany in 1714. Community founders J.F. Rock (1678-1749) and E.L. Gruber (1665-1728) were among many Europeans seeking a more meaningful religious experience than they felt the established churches provided. By 1842, the descendants of the original Inspirationalists, living in the modern day state of Hesse, Germany, decided to move to the United States of America. In September of 1842 a committee led by Christian Metz traveled to America in search of land on which to relocate the Community of True Inspiration. They purchased a 5,000-acre site in western New York, near Buffalo, and by the end of 1843 nearly 350 Inspirationists had immigrated to the new settlement, which they named "Ebenezer," meaning "hitherto hath the Lord helped us." Feeling that they were too close to Buffalo, New York, and the corrupting influence of cities, the community moved again, this time to rural Iowa. After investigating sites in Kansas and Iowa, the True Inspirationists selected a location along the Iowa River valley about 20 miles west of Iowa City, Iowa for the relocation of their community. This site offered extensive timberland, limestone and sandstone for quarries, and long stretches of prairie filled with rich, black soil. Construction of the first village began in the summer of 1855 and the new settlement was named "Amana," meaning "believe faithfully." Eventually a series of Amana villages grew, living communally until June 1st, 1932, when the members of the community elected to retain the traditional church as it was, and to create a joint-stock company (Amana Society, Inc.) for the business enterprises to be operated for profit by a Board of Directors. This separation of the church from the economic functions of the community--the abandonment of communalism--is referred to by Amana residents still today as "the Great Change" (see The Amana Colonies itinerary for more information).

The Demise of the 19th-Century Utopian Colonies: Numerous religious and social communal groups developed in the 19th century. By end of the century even Theosophical colonies, based off Madame Blavatasky's merging of eastern and western mysticism, had cropped up in such places as Point Loma and Temple Home, near San Diego, California. Other groups included the Zoarites in Ohio, the Moravians of North Carolina, and the followers of German-born Wilhelm Keil, a Methodist minister heavily influenced by the pietist movement, who founded colonies in Bethel, Missouri, and Aurora, Oregon. Yet of all these utopian groups only the Amana Inspirationists developed and built a network of seven villages set in an agricultural region. They managed to survive by modifying their system into two distinct organizations, one secular and one spiritual. The Inspirationists of Amana founded their communities with an agricultural basis as did other communal groups in the United States. Both men and women labored, although in Amana women's work did not include trades and the ministry as it did in the Shaker communities. Among the Shaker communities, the only one to survive and remain active beyond the 20th-century is the Sabbathday Lake Shaker Community, in New Gloucester, Maine.

While the 20th century witnessed further experiments in communal living, the great wave which founded the 19th-century religious and secular utopian communities had begun to subside. Some of the 19th-century groups were established and depended on the strength of their leaders, those which survived into the 20th century had to alter their way of life significantly, as traditional rural life evolved due to the industrial, economic and scientific progress in the larger society. General causes relating to the demise of these utopian colonies have to be explained individually, as each utopian community faced different circumstances. Overall, the conflict that many of these agrarian or small craft communities faced in an increasingly industrialized world may have contributed to their demise, as did external hostility manifested in the larger, surrounding society, often seen in inflammatory newspaper articles attacking the utopian experiments. Generally, most analysts of utopian experiments, from Charles Nordhoff to Arthur Bestor, Jr., have found that religious utopian colonies possessed a longer life then their secular counterparts.

Shaker Style

The Shakers are universally admired for their architecture and handcrafts. Shakers believed that they served God by approaching every task with care. This care resulted in a distinctive Shaker style of architecture, furniture and decorative arts characterized by traditional Shaker values of simplicity, utility and fine craftsmanship. The Shaker sense of order and neatness is reflected in the clean lines and lack of ornamentation of their designs. Shakers were pioneers of the principles of form and function advocated later by architects and designers such as John Ruskin and Louis Sullivan.

Shakers understood the effects of the physical environment on the life of their communities. The society headquarters at Mount Lebanon established written orders and rules, or Millennial Laws, in 1821 (revised in 1845 and throughout the 19th century) which prescribed proper conduct of Shakers' lives. This doctrine included architectural standards that lead to commonalities of design throughout the geographically dispersed villages. This recorded doctrine clearly dictated the physical characteristics of an earthly paradise. Each community's location would include a site of great natural beauty for worship and rejoicing. Simple buildings were to be constructed in a linear arrangement with carefully tended walkways, roads and fields. Form and color were dictated by their Millennial Law that stated "odd or fanciful styles of architecture may not be used among Believers." Instead, Shakers focused on creating efficient and easily maintained buildings that would inspire a sense of serenity and grace--apropos for the "heavens on earth" they were striving to create. They turned to traditional, rural vernacular buildings as inspiration for their own buildings, the form and symmetry of which were representative of the Federal and Greek Revival styles of the late 18th and early 19th centuries. However, the distinctive Shaker settlements were set apart from neighboring communities in their layout, orderly landscapes and the clean profiles and details of their buildings.

Hierarchy was a central component of Shakers' lives. While male and female believers were considered equals, each community was governed by a ministry of Elders and Eldresses, who lived separately from the younger Brothers and Sisters. Each village was typically divided into three units or "families" of 30 to 100 individuals. The central and most significant family was the Church Family. The other two family units, North and South, were named after their geographic location relative to the central core, and each unit had distinct functions within the whole of the community. Typically the clusters of family buildings were located in a linear arrangement, not more than three quarters of a mile apart. This was a radical departure from the grid layout of typical New England communities. The major buildings in the community--the meeting house, office and primary elders' dwelling--were located within the Church Family complex. Other dwellings and some of the workshops were usually located in an orderly fashion radiating along the main road, while service buildings such as barns were arrayed behind this central axis. As villages grew so did their functions or tasks, which required specialized buildings such as tanning houses, broom shops, cooper shops and spinning shops. Their earliest buildings were wood and painted straw yellow with red shingle roofs, except for the meetinghouse, which was white as prescribed in the Millennial Laws. As the society grew and prospered, masonry materials were also used. Fine granite and marble-faced stone foundations were used for four-story brick buildings in many of the villages. Shaker buildings were often large to eliminate overcrowding and in anticipation of the future growth of each family.

Shaker buildings were void of fanciful architectural details as Millennial Law restricted the use of decorative "beadings, moulding and cornices." Elements such as door and window frames, lintels and chimneys, stairways and hardware were all executed with clean lines in the most basic forms. The design solutions for individual Shaker buildings were often devised in response to the demands of communal living. Buildings that were used by both men and women, such as meetinghouses and dwellings, incorporated separate entrances and stairways as their beliefs dictated the separation of the sexes. The interior space of Shaker meetinghouses had to include large, uninterrupted floor space to allow for their religious dances--requiring a huge truss to support the roof. At Mount Lebanon, an ingenious arched roof, or "rainbow roof," was designed for their meetinghouse. Dwellings included communal rooms on the ground floor but carefully segregated bedrooms on the floors above. These large dwellings also necessitated the introduction of interior windows to bring natural light into dark interior rooms. Wood peg rails were a feature of many rooms, built on all four walls for hanging garments, chairs, hats or baskets. One visually dominant building in every family complex was the barn--huge buildings that reflected the importance of agriculture to the Shaker economy. Barns were often built into hillsides, allowing ground-floor access on multiple levels, with hay and grain stored on upper levels and cattle below. Many of the other daily activities took place in large wooden buildings similar in size and form to the dwellings.

Shaker furniture and handcrafts were also influenced by the concepts of order, utility and durability. As with their architecture, the discarding of any unnecessary ornament resulted in distinctive furniture of simple forms and proportion, often colored with a thin Venetian red or yellow ochre wash. Craftsman did choose some of their most beautiful woods for their furniture such as maple, birch, chestnut, butternut and honey pine. Early Shaker furniture was based on rural English examples. By 1820, the second generation of Shakers unencumbered by other "worldly" influences, was creating pieces considered classic Shaker style--essential forms with clean lines, free of unnecessary detailing. After the Civil War, as Shaker communities were declining, popular Victorian tastes did seep into the designs of some Shaker craftsman as well. It is the classic style that most closely reflects Shaker ideals and dates to the society's most prosperous and creative years. Shakers made all of their own furnishings including chairs, cupboards, tables, beds, desks, bookcases, washstands, trunks, benches, clocks, stools, foot warmers, sewing boxes, brushes, brooms--a nearly endless variety of items crafted with simple elegance.

An essential handcraft at every Shaker village was basketweaving. Shaker baskets were noted for their quality craftsmanship, and were created in a wide variety of shapes and sizes as each basket was designed for a specific use. Shaker craftsman, unlike most other craftsman, designed a piece with the knowledge of its exact purpose and intended placement within a room. Built-in cupboards and drawers were used extensively, and high pine chests were found in nearly every room in dwellings or shops. Beds were made with short posts, as tall posts did not serve a useful function and would therefore be an unnecessary use of wood. These pieces were also popular with "the World" at the time they were being produced, as Shakers generated income by selling their crafts. Popular items included rocking chairs, rugs, brooms, dolls and capes.

In the late 19th century, the Shakers began mass-producing their ladder-back chair at Mount Lebanon. This chair was based on a common New England form, but refined by the Shakers to create a lighter, more comfortable version with simple finials. The Mount Lebanon ladder-back chair received a medal at the 1876 Philadelphia Centennial Exhibition for combining "strength, sprightliness, and modest beauty." This chair became so popular that the Shakers acquired a US Patent for their design to ensure continued profits from their production--affixing small, gold decals as trademarks to these chairs. They also obtained a patent for a wooden ball-and-socket chair-tilter--the precursor for that found in all types of chairs today. The Shaker's invention of the circular saw in 1810 transformed the production of furniture throughout the world, and their simple, function design influenced not only American furniture makers, but Japanese and European designs as well. Today, these antiques are revered and widely sought after, as well as copied by modern furniture manufacturers.

List of Sites

Sabbathday Lake Shaker Village -- New Gloucester, Maine
Alfred Shaker Historic District -- Alfred, Maine
Enfield Shaker Historic District -- Enfield, New Hampshire
Canterbury Shaker Village -- Canterbury, New Hampshire
Harvard Shaker Village Historic District -- Harvard, Massachusetts
Shirley Shaker Village -- Shirley, Massachusetts
Hancock Shaker Village -- Pittsfield, Massachusetts
Tyringham Shaker Settlement Historic District -- Tyringham, Massachusetts
Enfield Shakers Historic District -- Enfield, Connecticut
Mount Lebanon Shaker Society -- New Lebanon, New York
Watervliet Shaker Historic District -- Albany, New York
North Union Shaker Site -- Cleveland, Ohio
Whitewater Shaker Settlement -- New Haven, Ohio
South Union Shakertown Historic District -- South Union, Kentucky
Shakertown at Pleasant Hill Historic District -- Harrodsburg, KY

Alfred Shaker Historic District

What would become the first and largest Shaker society in Maine, the Alfred Shaker community had both a very humble beginning and an even more disappointing end. Receiving the faith from Mother Ann on May 26th, 1783, John Cotton became the first Shaker convert in Maine. While the birth of the Alfred Shaker society came in 1783, the physical development of the community did not get underway until 1793 with the construction of the Meetinghouse. Spread out over 300 acres, the Alfred Shaker Historic District includes a variety of significant religious buildings such as the community's Dairy/Bakery, Cow Barn, School, Trustee's Office, Sisters' Shop, and Brethren's Shop.

Not only a collection of buildings, the Alfred community also consisted of large tracts of land--agricultural fields used by the Shakers themselves. Focused on maintaining a productive economy, the Shakers of Alfred not only worked in agriculture, but also ventured into the realms of woodworking, textiles, and tanning. However, while this diversity proved beneficial for a time, the community failed because it was unable to excel in any one particular endeavor. In effect extending themselves beyond the community's capabilities, the Alfred Shakers brought about their own demise. Suffering from growing economic competition on both the mechanical and agricultural fronts, the Alfred Shakers abandoned their community. Rather than lose their faith, however, the devoted followers journeyed to New Gloucester and settled as part of the Sabbathday Lake society in March 1931.

The Shakers' legacy in Alfred was preserved by the Brothers of Christian Instruction, to whom the Shakers left their buildings and land, and who have effectively maintained the many agricultural fields once tended by Shaker hands. Equally devoted to the preservation of the history of the Alfred Shaker Historic District, the Friends of the Alfred Shaker Museum continue to educate interested individuals about the history of this religious society, through acts such as the current restoration of the 1875 Carriage House.

The Alfred Shaker Historic District is located in Alfred, Maine, along Shaker Hill Road near the intersection of Rtes. 202/4. The carriage house is currently being renovated to be opened as a Shaker museum. Several businesses within the Historic District are open to the public including a bakery, pick-your-own apple orchard, blueberry orchard and raspberry patch, and cross country ski trails. One of the Shaker barns contains an ice-skating rink, open winter weekends and holidays; there is a fee for skating. For more information contact the Brothers of Christian Instruction at 207-324-6612.

Canterbury Shaker Village

During the early 1780s, New Hampshire was subject to the revivalist revolution that would sweep the Nation over the following decades, inspiring and invoking change in a number of American communities. Caught up in this religious whirlwind, Benjamin Whitcher, a Shaker convert himself, chose to harbor and protect local followers of the United Society of Believers from persecution. In 1792, he donated the large tract of land upon which the Canterbury Shaker Village now stands. Canterbury was formally called to order the summer of 1792 with the construction of the community's Meeting House.* The Canterbury Shaker Village prospered over the following century due to solid endeavors in the fields of farming, livestock breeding, water-powered mills, and the production of seeds and herbal medicines. In addition, Elder Blinn established and headed a small print shop, effectively making Canterbury the publishing center for all the Shaker communities of the North.

The Canterbury site resembled most other contemporary Shaker villages. With its full complement of three Families, the village had all of the principle buildings required of a strictly utilitarian communal society: dwelling houses, shops, stables, a laundry, a school, and an infirmary. Also similar to most other societies, the Meeting House, designed by Moses Johnson, played a primary role in the day-to-day functioning of the community. The simple elegance of the three-story Main Dwelling, built in 1793, dominates its surrounding area. Today, the Canterbury Shaker Village includes 25 exceptionally well-preserved buildings surrounded by approximately 700 breathtakingly beautiful acres of gardens, fields, ponds, and forest.

Canterbury Shaker Village, a National Historic Landmark, is located at 288 Shaker Road, in Canterbury, New Hampshire. The Village is open daily from May 13-October, for large tour groups from April 1, and from Friday to Sunday in November; there is a fee for admission. The outdoor museum features guided tours, craft demonstrations and restored organic gardens. Among the buildings open for tours are the Meeting House, Laundry, Ministry, Sisters' Shop, School, Dwelling House, School House and North Shop. For more information call 603-783-9511 or visit the website.

* At Canterbury, the preferred spelling for the meetinghouse is Meeting House.

Enfield Shakers Historic District

Established in the 1780s, Enfield was the only Shaker community established in Connecticut. Not to be confused with the well-known Enfield Shaker Historic District of New Hampshire, the Connecticut Enfield Shaker village was a community of around 150 individuals and three families. Of the almost 100 buildings once part of the village, only 15 now remain, the majority of which comprised the South Family complex, which still resembles a Shaker village with its tightly grouped buildings. The few buildings that remain from the Church and North Families reflect the variety of Shaker architecture found within a community. Most of the remaining buildings were built at Enfield's peak during the mid-19th century. Of these, arguably the most important building is the South Family's Dwelling House. Built in 1852, this three and one-half story brick dwelling is topped by a gable roof and a wooden belfry that houses a bronze bell cast in New York. While the first floor has been renovated and is currently being used as a private residence, the top floors remain virtually unaltered. The Shaker emphasis on equality but stringent separation of the sexes is readily apparent at Enfield. Entering through gender-specific doors and relegated to distinct sections of the building, the Shakers of Enfield, and indeed all other Shaker societies, designed their buildings to reflect the traditions by which they chose to live.

All of the Enfield buildings exhibit the Shaker simplicity of repetitious facades, rectilinear motifs, and a tendency towards the austere. Typical of these traits is the 1827 Meetinghouse, once part of the Church Family complex. The clapboard building still retains its orignial rectangular form, regularly spaced openings, and minimal architectural details such as the simple pedimented roofs over the separate entrances. Another significant building at Enfield is the North Family Dairy. This small two-story clapboard building has been renovated since its construction in the mid-19th century; however, the exterior still reflects the simplicity of its Shaker design. The North Family Dairy produced 2000 pounds of butter and 2700 pounds of cheese in 1860. Enfield Shakers relied on their farms and gardens more than any other Shaker community, and today the dairy is a reflection of Enfield's agricultural-based economy. Abandoning the community in 1917, the Enfield Shakers left behind numerous buildings that would preserve their story for years to come.

Enfield Shakers Historic District is located along Shaker, Taylor and Cybulski Rds. in Enfield, Connecticut. The buildings of the district are private residences and are not open to the public.

Enfield Shaker Historic District

Lying on the western bank of Lake Mascoma, the Shaker community of Enfield was established in 1793. While the society was founded in the late 18th century, many of its significant buildings were not constructed until the mid-19th century. These buildings have been heralded for their sophistication and the dynamic use of stone masonry techniques, specifically the use of granite, previously not found in early 19th-century New England architecture.

The Enfield community, like all Shaker societies, was divided into separate groups--the Church, North and South families. Ranging anywhere from 30 to 90 people, each family had its own set of important communal buildings, such as dwellings or workshops. The largest Shaker residential building, the Great Stone Dwellinghouse, was built as part of the Church Family complex in 1837 and was the tallest domestic building north of Boston. The six-story building housed both genders of the Family, each relegated to their appropriate sectors of the building and entering through separate doors. While most members of the community resided in houses such as this, the religious leaders lived in the Ministry's shop, erected around 1870. Reflecting a stylistic convergence of Shaker and Victorian architecture, the Ministry shop is an unusually elaborate building within the community.

Like most Shaker villages, Enfield experienced a considerable decline in membership after the Civil War and the Believers found themselves swept away by the economic and social turmoil of the late 19th century. Consequently, much of the approximately 1200 acres was sold to the LaSalette family in 1927. In an attempt to preserve the history and religious fervor of the Shakers, the LaSalettes founded a religious mission at the site, dedicated to the traditions of communal and spiritual living. It was under the ownership of the LaSalettes that the Enfield society saw much of its growth. During the 20th century, many new buildings were erected, such as chapels, beach houses and chalets. Today, the Enfield Shaker Museum interprets this complex and multi-faceted site.

The Enfield Shaker Historic District is located at 447 NH Route 4A in Enfield, New Hampshire. Today, the Great Stone Dwelling functions as an inn, providing the rare experience of sleeping in a Shaker dwelling. Summer hours for the Enfield Shaker Museum are Monday-Saturday, 10:00am to 5:00pm, Sunday 12:00pm to 5:00pm; also open during the winter weekends Saturday 10:00am to 4:00pm and Sunday 12:00pm to 4:00pm; there is a fee for admission. For more information call 603-632-4346 or visit the website.

Hancock Shaker Village

Established in 1783, Hancock Village thrived as an active Shaker community during most of the following two centuries. Divided into six family groups along north-south and east-west axes, Hancock was a typical Shaker community with communal dwellings, craft shops, a meetinghouse, and barns. Like most Shaker communities, the design for the buildings at the Hancock village were driven by function and utility. No extra materials or time were wasted in their construction. Emphasis was placed on efficiency, and although architecturally conservative, at the same time they are quite intriguing. The Round Stone Barn, the most notable Hancock building, is an architectural gem and the only Shaker barn of its kind. Built in 1826, its circular design was a model of efficiency and a curiosity to Shakers and "the world's people" alike, including farmers and progressive thinkers such as Nathaniel Hawthorne and Herman Melville. The elegant beauty of its simple form and details typify Shaker design. In the past, the barn was a center of community activity. Hay was unloaded from wagons into a wooden lined central storage area on the top floor spanning 95 feet in diameter. One level down, 50 or more cattle were kept in stanchions, posts used to secure the animals, which radiated outward from a central manger. Finally, at the bottom level lay the manure pit, accessible by wagon. Unfortunately, this architectural model of efficiency succumbed to fire in 1864. The wooden interior and roof were quickly rebuilt thereafter, with the whole building undergoing complete restoration in 1968.

The largest Shaker museum in the east, Hancock opened as a living history museum in 1961. It contains 20 historic buildings, extensive gardens, and a significant collection of Shaker artifacts. The Round Stone Barn continues to impress visitors and scholars alike with the ingenuity of the Shakers. The village also includes Shaker craft demonstrations, historic breeds of livestock, and its restored 19th-century water system. The Center for Shaker Studies, opened in 2000, offers two exhibition galleries to the public, one dedicated to Shaker gift drawings.

The Hancock Shaker Village, a National Historic Landmark, is located at Rte. 20, in Pittsfield, Massachusetts. The Village is open daily year round, but closed Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year's Day; there is a fee for admission. For more information call 413-443-0188 or visit the website.

Harvard Shaker Village Historic District

The Harvard Settlement was the second Shaker community in the United States and the first in Massachusetts. Following a period of religious unrest, a number of dissenters abandoned the Protestant Church of Harvard and constructed in 1769 what was to become known as the Square House. Seeking to establish relations with these idealistic zealots, Mother Ann visited the leaderless group in 1781 and quickly brought them into the folds of the United Society of Believers. Occasionally residing in the Square House herself, Mother Ann gradually cemented Shaker influence over the region and established a community of Shakers here over the next few years.

Similar to other Shaker settlements, the Harvard Shaker Village was developed following the standard Family layout, with the Church, North, South, and East complexes--only the latter two remain today. Laboring together, the members of the Families effectively reworked the landscape to the community's advantage. Digging drainage canals where necessary, the Shakers succeeded in turning the surrounding marshlands into productive, arable land, suitable for agriculture. Not only did they modify the flatlands, but the Shakers altered the nearby hills as well. Requiring a suitable place for their outdoor religious practices, the Believers leveled the summit of nearby Holy Hill and planted rows of maples in accordance with the layout mentioned in the Millennial Laws (Shaker regulations for everyday life). They toiled to reshape the world around them as they attempted to create a "heaven on earth."

To further the development of their utopian society, the Shakers put great care into their construction of buildings as well. The two most significant buildings of Harvard Shaker Village are not surprisingly located at the center of the Church Family complex. The design and placement of the Meetinghouse, built in 1791, signified that it was the most important building of the community--the center of social and religious interaction. With a clapboard-sheathed exterior, granite steps, and four entrances--separated both by gender and for the elders--the Meetinghouse adhered to the prescribed design established by the Society. Built about 50 years later, the New Office was the site of a number of important activities. A full 6 stories high, daily business occurred on the first floor while the trustees, guests, and office staff worked above. Today, the New Office interior still contains an exceptional example of Shaker-built cabinetry. Positioned near the South Family complex, the Harvard Shaker Village Cemetery offers a different look at Shaker history. With the first burial recorded in 1792, the cemetery is the final resting place of more than 300 members of the Harvard community. Walking among the cast iron grave markers, visitors can follow chronologically the life and times of the people of the Harvard Shaker Village and slowly piece together the past for themselves. In the 1850s, the population peaked at about 200 members and its landholdings totaled more than 2,000 acres. After the Civil War, many of the members left and the population plummeted to under 40 by 1890. The Shakers were forced to sell both the East and North Family areas. In the early 20th century, the remaining Eldresses sold Harvard's first office building, built in 1794, to preservationist Clara Endicott Sears who moved the building to Fruitlands Museum and opened it to the public.

The Harvard Shaker Village Historic District is located on Shaker Rd. in Harvard, Massachusetts. The buildings of the district are private residences and are not open to the public. The surrounding land is under a conservation easement. The Harvard Shaker Village Historic District is also featured in our Places Where Women Made History itinerary.

Mount Lebanon Shaker Society

The Mount Lebanon Shaker Society in New Lebanon, New York, was the largest and most industrious Shaker community from 1785 until 1947, and the spiritual center of Shaker society in the United States. In the wake of the death of Mother Ann Lee in 1784, the United Society of Believers came under the leadership of Father James Whittaker. In turn, Whittaker established a new era of Shakerism by founding an entirely original community, one which would ideally become the center of Shaker ideology in America. With construction beginning in 1785, the Shakers of Mount Lebanon soon developed into the society that Whittaker envisioned, a model for all other Believer Societies to follow. At its peak, Mount Lebanon consisted of 600 members and hundreds of buildings spread out over 6,000 acres. The community was know as "New Lebanon" (for the adjacent town of New Lebanon) until 1861 when the Federal government officially recognized it as "Mount Lebanon" and granted the Shakers an independent post office.

In addition to being a spiritual model, Mount Lebanon also became an architectural model. Father Joseph Meachum (Whittaker's replacement), developed Mount Lebanon and standardized his plans for subsequent communities. The first Meetinghouse, built in 1785, was not only the first building at Mount Lebanon, but also the first Shaker Meetinghouse in America. Construction expanded linearly from the Meetinghouse as multiple buildings were designed and erected to provide living and working quarters for the eight families that comprised the community. Setting the precedent for all other communities to come, Mount Lebanon buildings maintained a characteristic form based on simplicity and functionalism. One such example is the Second Meetinghouse, built in 1824. Designed to accommodate the peculiar requirements of the Shaker religion, the building had an arched roof and five entryways, with the left door for Brothers, the middle for Elders, the right for Sisters, and two on the East side for non-Shakers. Unusual Shaker architecture can also be found at Mount Lebanon. The Ministry House and the Main Dwelling, built much later than most Shaker buildings in 1875, reflect the external influence of the Victorian style. These buildings were unique within the Shaker society, and reflect the pervasive nature of this late 19th-century architectural style.

Mount Lebanon also set precedents for commercial and industrial activity. Seed production, patent medicines and chair manufacturing were among the many lucrative industries that supported the community. During Mount Lebanon's most active period, several hundred institutional buildings served the Shakers' domestic, industrial and agricultural needs. However, by the early 1930s, Shaker influence in the area had all but vanished, with the last Mount Lebanon Shaker dying in 1947. Over the following years, the village was broken into three sections and sold. Today, known as the Mount Lebanon Shaker Village, the site hosts walking tours and a museum. The impressive remains of the North Family's Great Stone Barn give testimony to the importance of the village's agricultural industry, its economic success, and the vision of the community.

The Mount Lebanon Shaker Society, a National Historic Landmark, is located along US Rte. 20, in New Lebanon, New York. Walking tours guide visitors to the North, Center and Church Family buildings, including the great arch-roofed Meetinghouse. For more information call 518-794-9100.

North Union Shaker Site

The North Union Shaker Site, near Cleveland, Ohio, was established in 1822 when Ralph Russell, a pioneer settler from Connecticut, persuaded his family and neighbors to convert to the Shaker religion. Today, all the buildings of this former village have been demolished, but the land on which it once stood is a rich archeological site. Ralph Russell's group began the North Union Shaker community by donating more than 1,000 acres. A few years later, the Shakers of North Union achieved one of their first monumental goals. In damming the Doan Brook in 1826, they were able to create a lake and establish both a gristmill and a sawmill. Consequently, the Mill Family was founded to operate the mills and provide for the community by refining grain and producing usable wood. At the same time the Mill Family and the community as a whole focused on reworking and strengthening the dam, completing the process by 1836. One year later a third family unit, the Gathering Family, was established.

Over the next two decades, the North Union community established more mills and by the early 1850s, they recognized the need for a second dam. Completed in 1854, this second earthen dam created the Upper counterpart to the previously established Lower Lake. Unfortunately, by 1889 the community disbanded, and sold their land to a pair of brothers interested in city planning and design. O. P. and M. J. Van Sweringen developed Shaker Heights as a garden-city suburb inspired by the rural beauty of Shaker landscapes. Today, public access to the site of the North Union Shaker Site is restricted to ensure its preservation and to allow further archeological investigation. Located on land that was once the North Union apple orchard, the Shaker Historical Museum interprets the history of the Shakers who once lived here, and referred to the area spiritually as "The Valley of God's Pleasure." The museum features furniture and artifacts from North Union and other Shaker communities, the Spirit Tree Museum Shop and the Nord Library.

The North Union Shaker Site is located in Shaker Heights, Ohio, and is not open to the public. Visitors can go to the Shaker Historical Museum, at 16740 South Park Blvd., open year round Tuesday- Friday and Sunday, but closed major holidays. For more information call 216-921-1201 or visit the website.

Shakertown at Pleasant Hill Historic District

Having established several communities in the northeastern United States throughout the last quarter of the 18th century, the Shakers began moving south in the early 19th century. They arrived in Kentucky by 1805, and quickly began to convert local citizens. At its peak, Pleasant Hill was one of the largest Shaker communities and by the mid-1850s was home to approximately 600 Shakers occupying 250 building and almost 2800 acres of land. Unlike many Shaker communities, the architecture of Pleasant Hill was strongly influenced by one individual, Micajah Burnett, who came to the society with his parents in 1809 at age 17. Six years later, he began laying out the village and providing the community with a meetinghouse, dwellings, barns, and craft shops. Burnett utilized whatever materials were readily available to him, specifically rock, clay, and wood. While adhering to architecture and layout guidelines prescribed by the Mount Lebanon ministry, Burnett was also heavily influenced by the popular Federal style, as were many Shaker builders. Focusing on the maximization of area and a minimization of cutting and supports, Burnett effectively created buildings with vast open spaces. The multiple Family Dwellings at Pleasant Hill are perfect examples of his approach with their particularly deep cellars and broad attics, living arrangements designed to be conducive to efficient domestic economy.

While the Family Dwellings were impressive, the clapboard Meetinghouse built in 1820 was the one building that required the most ingenuity in its architectural design. With its simple, classic Shaker exterior, the focus of the Meetinghouse design was the interior, as it needed to be free of any central obstructions to provide the Believers plenty of room to conduct their services. Built to withstand a considerable amount of vibration, due to the expressive nature of Shaker worship, the Meetinghouse is a technical marvel, revealing no considerable wear in its woodwork after years of raucous religious ceremonies, harsh weather, and shifts in the foundation. The Trustee House contains another unusual Shaker architectural element--a twin spiral stairway. This atypical, romantic expression of design was relatively unknown in the realm of Shaker architecture. Devoid of advanced tools with which to craft and bend the wood, Burnett and his workers were able to seamlessly wind the cherry rails up three flights of stairs.

Despite the Shaker community's achievements, the Civil War and the Industrial Revolution took a heavy toll on the Shakers in Pleasant Hill. The community dissolved in 1910, although some Shakers continued to live there. In 1961, a group of concerned central Kentucky citizens incorporated as a non-profit educational entity to begin the restoration process of the remaining Pleasant Hill buildings. Now known as the Shaker Village of Pleasant Hill, it is the largest restored Shaker community with 2,800 acres of farmland and a magnificent collection of Kentucky Shaker architecture.

Today known as Shaker Village of Pleasant Hill, Shakertown at Pleasant Hill Historic District is a National Historic Landmark located at 3501 Lexington Rd. (US 68) in Harrodsburg, Kentucky. The community is open daily from 10:00am to 5:00pm; from November through March some exhibition buildings are closed and tour hours and ticket prices are also reduced (closed December 24 & 25). For more information call 1-800-730-5611 or visit the website.

Sabbathday Lake Shaker Village

Founded in 1782, the Sabbathday Lake Shaker community was formally organized with the construction of its Meetinghouse in 1794. The central area where members of the families gathered to worship and pray, the Meetinghouse is a common element of all Shaker communities. Adhering to an austere and utilitarian architectural design, most buildings of the 18 other Shaker societies followed a similar pattern of strict uniformity and utilitarian architecture.

The most northern and eastern of all the Shaker Villages, Sabbathday Lake was forced to deal with the harsh elements of New Gloucester, braving the brutal winters of New England throughout the 1800s and into the 20th century. Undaunted, by 1850 this Shaker village blossomed to include 26 large buildings and innumerable minor buildings on approximately 1900 acres of land. Among these was the Brethren's Shop, which still houses a complete blacksmith and woodturning complex. In addition to the activities that allowed these Shakers to be self-sufficient, the Sabbathday Lake Shakers also established a Mill and Farm used to produce goods to sell to "the World"--a substantial source of income for the society. Along these lines, in the post-Civil War era, the Sisters began to produce a vast variety of "fancy goods," still being produced today. Persevering through several decades of financial instability, the community expanded during the 1880s and remained a stable presence in the Shaker world throughout the 20th century.

Of particular interest at Sabbathday Lake is the Central Dwelling House, built in 1884 during the community's late period of expansion. A large, five-story building, the Central Dwelling House consists of a number of sleeping rooms, chapel, music room, and a kitchen and dining room complex. Still inhabited by Shaker Sisters, this dwelling house reflects the communal practices of the United Society of Believers. Today, the Sabbathday Lake Shaker Community has been reduced to 14 buildings and three structures. It remains the only active Shaker community to date; holding Public Meeting (worship) services on Sundays in the historic 1794 Meetinghouse. The community has responded to increased interest and is open to the public, first welcoming visitors to their Shaker Museum and Library in 1926. The museum and library illustrate all phases of Shakers' daily life and practices.

The Sabbathday Lake Shaker Village, a National Historic Landmark, is located at 707 Shaker Rd., New Gloucester, Maine. Today, known as the Sabbathday Lake Shaker Community, it is open to the public Monday-Saturday, from Memorial Day to Columbus Day, closed Sundays. For more information call the Sabbathday Lake Shaker Community at 207-926-4597 or visit their website.

Shirley Shaker Village

Of the 26 original buildings, only 13 remain to tell the story of the Shirley Shaker Village in Massachusetts. Begun in 1793, the community received most of its land from a group of four generous benefactors. Affluent landowners of that region, Nathan Willard, Elijah and Ivory Wildes, and John Warren, donated hundreds of acres to the fledgling community. Blossoming around the houses of these principal land donors, the Shirley Shaker society developed into three separate families: the Church, North, and South families. Surviving into the 20th century, the community continued to expand, with a membership of 150 individuals by 1853.

Typical of most Shaker architecture, the buildings of Shirley consisted of either clapboard or brick construction. The yellow and white clapboard structures preceded those of brick, which appeared only after the founding of a local brick factory in the 1840s. In addition to exterior façades, the interiors, especially those of the dwellings, were prototypically Shaker. In 1875, visitor William Dean Howells described the "the unpapered walls, the scrubbed floors hidden only by rugs and strips of carpeting, and the plain flat finish of the wood-work. Each chamber accommodates two brothers or two sisters, and is appointed with two beds, two rocking chairs, two wash stands, and a wood stove with abundance of rugs.there were few tokens of personal taste in the arrangements of the rooms."

With abundant apples trees, the Shirley Shakers utilized their natural resources and maintained a profitable applesauce industry throughout the 19th century. At times, however, the Believers ventured into broom-making, jelly-making, mop manufacturing, and herb preparation. However, similar to the plight of the Alfred Shakers, the plethora of economic enterprises failed to sustain the Shakers of Shirley, finally forcing the community to dissolve in 1908. Leaving their homes and land behind, the remaining members migrated to the Harvard Shaker Village to continue practicing their religious devotion and live out the rest of their lives.

Shirley Shaker Village is located south of Shirley, Massachusetts, on Harvard Rd. It is now part of the Massachusetts Correctional Institution complex. Periodic tours of the village are offered and private group tours for 8-12 people can be arranged; there is a fee. For more information call the Shirley Historical Society Saturdays from 10:00am to 1:00pm at 978-425-9328, visit the musem's website or email them at

South Union Shakertown Historic District

The longest-lived Shaker community in the West, South Union Shakertown in Kentucky, was active from 1807 to 1922. Comprised of 225 buildings and 6,000 acres of land, the architecture of this Shaker village reflects a regional Southern influence, quite distinct from the villages of the eastern United States. South Union's Centre House has been recognized as one of the finest Shaker buildings in existence with its simple refined details--the curves of its limestone gutters and its many elegant arches. This three and one-half-story, T-shaped dwelling for the Church family was built with handmade brick and a hand-hewn limestone foundation between 1822 and 1833 and became the central building of the South Union village. Although it incorporated separate spaces within the dwelling, the Centre House did not include the typical gender-separated main entrance, but had a double stone stairway leading to a single main doorway instead.

Another unusual building at South Union is the 1869 tavern and hotel. The building contrasts sharply with the reserved, conservative appearance of the more traditional buildings found elsewhere in the community. Built close to the railroad junction, the hotel reflects the influence of the outside world on this community with its mid-Victorian arcade and balcony, perhaps used to appeal to potential visitors (and customers) to the community. South Union was visited by several influential figures during the 19th century including President James Monroe, General Andrew Jackson, Henry Clay and Sam Houston. Today, the Shaker Museum at South Union owns and manages eight Shaker buildings and 600 acres of original farmland, and houses the largest collection of Southern Shaker furniture in the United States.


South Union Shakertown Historic District is located along US Hwy. 68 in South Union, Kentucky. The Shaker Museum at South Union is open for tours March 1-November 30, 9:00am to 4:00pm Monday-Saturday, and 1:00pm to 4:00pm Sundays (closed Thanksgiving). For more information call 1-800-811-8379 or visit the website.

Tyringham Shaker Settlement Historic District

The fourth United Society of Believers community established in Massachusetts, Tyringham Shaker village was begun in 1792. The leaders of Tyringham followed the very successful model of previous Shaker settlements, such as Watervliet and Hancock. In doing so, the members of Tyringham followed the archetypal model of Shaker perfection. Shaker historian Dolores Hayden described the motivation for the layout of Tyringham and other Shaker communities. "Buildings were designed to be overcapacious, eliminating crowding, anticipating the future growth of each family. their forms, however were forbidden to be odd or fanciful, and their siting was deliberately methodical and antipicturesque." In a sense, "just as they decried the arts of music, drama, and painting, the Shakers denounced architecture." In accordance with this understanding of Shaker design, the North, Church, and South Family complexes at Tyringham were spaced evenly in half-mile increments along the main axis of the settlement, Jerusalem Street.

The undisputed center of the entire community, the Church Family complex contains the greatest number of historical buildings today. The Great Barn, built in the 1790s, is a quintessential Shaker building, replete with post and beam structure, gable roof, stone foundation, and a clapboard exterior. Adhering to the Shaker architectural format, the Elder's Dwelling, built in 1823, reflects the Shaker adaptation of rural Federal architecture with its gabled roof and a simple entablature on the East and West facades. Interesting to note, the South and North Family complexes effectively utilized dams to provide power for the Tyringham community as a whole. Blocking nearby springs, the Shakers impounded water and provided turbine power to a number of machines located on the upper floors of the Red House, constructed in 1842. The list of machines used by the Shakers includes lathes, planers, saws, and even a cider press. Unfortunately, while the foundations and power system of the Red House maintain their historical integrity, the exterior of the shop was demolished in 1947.

Suffering from a mass departure prior to the outbreak of the Civil War, the Tyringham Shaker Settlement began to steadily lose support from its congregation in the mid-19th century, so that by 1874 the community could no longer serve a useful purpose. Resigned to failure, the community leaders departed Tyringham and went to live among the Shakers of Mount Lebanon, Hancock, and Enfield. Nevertheless, their history lives on through the sites and scenes of Tyringham, Massachusetts.

The Tyringham Shaker Settlement Historic District is located along a mile and a half along Jerusalem Rd. between Shaker Pond and Breakneck Rd., in Tyringham, Massachusetts. The buildings of the district are private and are not open to the public.

Watervliet Shaker Historic District

The Watervliet Shaker Historic District, in Colonie, New York, was the first Shaker settlement in America and where Mother Ann Lee lived her final days. Leaving behind their native England, Lee and a small group of seven followers arrived in New York City in 1774 to establish a purer form of the United Society of Believers. The utopian-minded religious group established Watervliet in Albany County, New York, only two years later. While Watervliet was the first settlement of Shakers, the first "formal" organization was established at Mount Lebanon, where the first Shaker building was erected in the mid-1780s. Although the center of authority shifted to Mount Lebanon, Watervliet grew to include four families and prospered in the early 19th century by focusing on agricultural and commercial production. Specifically, the Watervliet Shakers concentrated on garden seeds and corn brooms, two very profitable items in the early 1800s. The monumental three and one-half story West Family broom shop testifies to the broom-making activity that once took place here.

Architecturally, Watervliet adhered to the model established at Mount Lebanon. From dwellings, to barns, to the Trustees' Office, all buildings were constructed out of either wood or brick, with functional design, simple forms and clean lines. The 20th-century decline of this Shaker village resulted in some deviation from Shaker standards, such as a non-Shaker superintendent hired to manage the South Family farm. Architectural evidence of these deviations is seen in the porches added to several Watervliet buildings. By 1926, the Church Family site was purchased by Albany County, which demolished all but eight buildings. In 1977, the Shaker Heritage Society was formed to educate the public about the influence of the Shakers on the region, and to restore and use the remaining Shaker buildings. This site is extremely important among Shaker villages as it is America's first Shaker settlement and the place where Mother Ann Lee, Father William Lee, Mother Lucy Wright and 442 other Shakers are buried.

The Watervliet Shaker Historic District is located near Albany International Airport, in Colonie, New York. Operated by the Shaker Heritage Society, the site is open Tuesday-Saturday 9:30am to 4:00pm, closed major holidays and the entire month of January. For more information call 518-456-7890 or visit the website. Watervliet Shaker Historic District is also featured in our Places Where Women Made History itinerary.

Whitewater Shaker Settlement

The Whitewater Shaker Settlement, in New Haven, Ohio, was the fourth and last Shaker community established in Ohio--preceded by Union Village, Watervliet, and North Union. Whitewater was established with 18 people on only 40 acres of land in 1825. Comprised of the North, South, and Center families, Whitewater was a typical Shaker village. While the first buildings were originally made out of logs, these cabins were gradually replaced with typical Shaker clapboard and brick buildings. The first brick building, the Meetinghouse, was built in 1827. With a smooth ashlar foundation, the Meetinghouse served multiple functions in this small community. It was used for grain storage on the first floor, dwelling space on the second floor, with the third floor reserved for the ministry.

Unusually, the South Family Dwelling House was not built by the Shakers but by a locally prominent family. Inherited by a woman who later joined the Shaker society, she contributed the building to the village when she entered the society. However, most buildings at Whitewater were built by the Shakers. At the turn of the 20th century a visitor to the village, A. D. Emerich, proclaimed it to be "the best collection of Shaker buildings in private hands in America." With a standard economy based on seed production and the manufacture of brooms and mats, the members of the Whitewater Shaker Settlement led devoted lives, while managing to accrue enough income to provide suitable living standards for the community as a whole. Whether it was in the Milk House, the barns, or the Laundry House, each member had to fulfill their duty as a part of the religious whole. In turn, these industries allowed the Whitewater Shaker community to practice and prosper into the early 20th century.

The Whitewater Shaker Settlement is located along Oxford Rd. in the vicinity of New Haven, Ohio. Owned by the Hamilton County Park District, the buildings are currently not open to the public. The Friends of White Water Shaker Village are currently working with the park district to raise funds to open the buildings for interpretation. Find more information at their website and in their online brochure.

Learn More

By clicking on one of these links, you can go directly to a particular section:
Bibliography for the Shaker Historic Trail
Children's Literature
Links to Shaker and Other Utopia Websites
Travel and Preservation Web Sites for States featured in this itinerary

Bibliography for Shaker Historic Trail

Adams, James Truslow, ed. Dictionary of American History. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1940.

Arndt, Karl J. George Rapp's Harmony Society: 1785-1847. New Jersey: Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, 1975.

Andrews, Edward Deming and Faith Andrews. Masterpieces of Shaker Furniture: A Book of Shaker Furniture. New York: Dover Publications, 1999.

Barzun, Jacques. From Dawn to Decadence: 500 Years of Western Cultural Life, 1500 to the Present. New York: Harpercollins, 2000.

Becksvoort, Christian and John Sheldon (photographs). Perspectives on an Enduring Furniture Style. Newtown, Connecticut: The Taunton Press, 2000.

Burns, Amy Stechler, Ken Burns (Photographer), Langdon Clay (Photographer), Liebling, Amy Stechler, Bertha Lindsay. The Shakers: Hands to Work, Hearts to God: The History and Visions of the United Society of Believers in Christ's Second Appearing from 1774 to the Present. New York: Apeture, 1999.

Evans, Frederick William. Shakers: Compendium of the Origin, History, Principles, Rules and Regulations, Government, and Doctrines of the United Society of Believers in Christ's Second Appearing : with Biographies of Ann Lee, William Lee, Jas. Whitaker, J. Hocknell, J. Meacham, and Lucy Wright. New York: D. Appleton and Company, 1859.

Garner, Carl J. The Utopian Alternative: Fourierist in Nineteenth-Century America. Cornell: Cornell University Press, 1991.

Gestate, Edwin Scott. A Religious History of America, New Revised Edition. San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1966, 1970.

Hide, Robert V. California's Utopian Colonies. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1983.

Knoedler, Christiana F. The Harmony Society: a 19th Century American Utopia. New York: Vantage Press, 1954.

Land and Community Associates, in cooperation with the Amana Historic Landmark Committee and Iowa Division of Historic Preservation. Culture and Environment A Challenge for the Amana Colonies, an Inventory and Plan for the Amana Colonies, Iowa County, Iowa. Charlottesville, Virginia, 1977.

Meader, Robert F. W. Illustrated Guide to Shaker Furniture. New York: Dover Publications, 1972.

Meagher, Paul Kevin, Sister Consuelvo Maria Aherene, SSJ, Thomas C. Brien, ed. Encyclopedic Dictionary of Religion. Washington, DC: The Corpus Publications, 1979.

Morse, Flo. The Story of the Shakers. Vermont: Countryman Press, 1986.

Needleman, Jacob. The American Soul Rediscovering the Wisdom of the Founders. New York: Putnam, 2002.

Nicoletta, Julie, Bret Morgan (photographer), with a forward by Robert P. Emlen. The Architecture of the Shakers. Woodstock, Vermont: The Countryman Press, 1995.

Procter-Smith, Marjorie. Women in Shaker Community and Worship: a Feminist Analysis of the Uses of Religious Symbolism. Lewiston, New York: E. Mellen Press, 1985.

Robinson, Charles Edson. A Concise History of the United Society of Believers called Shakers. 1893; reprint ed., Westport, Connecticut: Hyperion Press, 1975.

Sanchez, Anita. Mr. Lincoln's Chair- The Shakers and Their Quest for Peace. Granville, Ohio: McDonald & Woodward, 2009.

Whitson, Robley E. (Editor) and Peter Lamborn Wilson (Photographer), Fakhr Al-Din Ibrahim 'Iraqi. The Shakers: Two Centuries of Spiritual Reflection (Classics of Western Spirituality). Mahwah, New Jersey: Paulist Press, 1988.

Whitworth, John Mckelvine. God's Blueprints: A Sociological Study of Three Utopian Sects. London and Boston: Rutledge & Kegan Paul, 1975.

Children's Literature

Bial, Raymond. Shaker Home. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Co, 1994.

Bolick, Nancy O'Keefe and Sallie G. Randolph. Shaker Villages. New York: Walker, 1993.

Capek, Michael. Personal Tour of a Shaker Village (How It Was). Minneapolis: Lerner Publications Company, 2001.

Coleman, Wim, and Pat Perrin. Sister Anna: A Story of Shaker Life. Carlisle, MA: Discovery Enterprises, 2000.

Morse, Flo and Vincent Newton, (eds). A Young Shaker's Guide to Good Manners: A Facsimile of a Juvenile Guide, or, Manual of Good Manners, Consisting of Counsels, Instructions & Rules of Deportment for the Young. Woodstock, Vt.: Countryman Press, 1998.

Williams, Jean Kinney. The Shakers (American Religious Experience). Franklin Watts, Incorporated, 1997.

Links to Shaker and Utopia Websites

Shaker Museum and Library, Old Chatham, New York
The first public museum of Shaker culture, housing the premier collection amassed by John S. Williams in the 1930s and 1940s.

Amana Colonies Convention and Visitors Bureau
The official website of the Amana Colonies, this site contains further information on Amana's historic sites, visitor services, special exhibits and events. Also visit our Amana Colonies Travel Itinerary

New Harmony, Indiana
Find information about this utopian community of Rappites, as well as visitor information

Oneida Mansion House, New York
Discover more about the small Oneida Community, a communal group that believed perfection was attainable in this lifetime.

Harmony Historic District in Butler County, Pennsylvania
Mennonites settled in several areas of the county, including Harmony, PA, where a local museum has been established:

The Shakers, an online documentary
This 30 minute film traces the growth, decline, and continuing survival of the Shakers through the memories and rich song traditions of Shakers themselves, including performances by Eldress Marguerite Frost of Canterbury, New Hampshire, and the Sister R. Mildred Barker, a leading singer and spiritual leader of the Shaker community at Sabbathday Lake, Maine.

Preservation and Tourism websites for states featured in this itinerary

State Historic Preservation Offices

Northeast Regional Office of the National Park Service
The Northeast Region proudly carries out the National Park Service's mission in 13 northeastern states. Home to a third of all National Park Service museum collections, a quarter of all historic structures, and more than 50% of the country's National Historic Landmarks, the region clearly reflects an extraordinarily rich American heritage.

National Trust for Historic Preservation
Learn about the programs of and membership in the oldest national non-profit preservation organization.

National Scenic Byways Program
This website, maintained by the U.S. Department of Transportation, Federal Highway Administration, includes information on state and nationally designated byway routes throughout America based on their archeological, cultural, historic, natural, recreational, and scenic qualities. Visit the America’s Byways Connecticut River Valley website for more ideas.

Historic Hotels of America
A feature of the National Trust for Historic Preservation's Heritage Traveler program that provides information on historic hotels and package tours in the vicinity of this itinerary.

Tourism Websites

National Park Service Office of Sustainable Tourism
National parks have been interwoven with tourism from their earliest days. This website highlights the ways in which the NPS promotes and supports sustainable, responsible, informed, and managed visitor use through cooperation and coordination with the tourism industry.


The Shaker Historic Trail was produced by the National Park Service (NPS), U.S. Department of the Interior, National Register of Historic Places and Northeast Regional Office, in conjunction with the Shaker communities and museums of the east coast and the National Conference of State Historic Preservation Officers (NCSHPO). It was created under the direction of Carol D. Shull, Keeper of the National Register of Historic Places, National Park Service, Patrick Andrus, Heritage Tourism Manager, and Beth L. Savage, Publications Managing Editor. The Shaker Historic Trail is based on The Shaker Historic Trail, a previously published brochure, as well as information in the files of the National Register of Historic Places and National Historic Landmarks collections. These materials are kept at 1201 Eye St., Washington, D.C., and are open to the public from 8:00am to 12:00pm and 1:00pm to 4:00pm, Monday through Friday (although the collection is currently closed, click here for more information).

The 2001 brochure, The Shaker Historic Trail, was published by the National Park Service's Northeast Regional Office, guided by Lisa Kolakowski Smith, funded in part by the Challenge Cost Share Program, and designed by Think Design, Bedford, New Hampshire. Scott Swank, President of Canterbury Shaker Village, was instrumental in this brochure's production, and granted permission for the use of many of the photographs within the Shaker Historic Trail travel itinerary. The Massachusetts Historical Commission also contributed photographs. National Register web production team members included Jeff Joeckel, who designed the itinerary, Rustin Quaide, and Shannon Bell (all of NCSHPO). Property descriptions were written by Mike Chin, Student Conservation Association intern, and contextual essays were written by Rustin Quaide and Heather Cushman (The Shakers), Rustin Quaide (Utopias in American), and Shannon Bell (Shaker Style).




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