Who are the Shakers?
The story of the Shakers provides great insight into Early American history. You can trace their origins back to Manchester, England in the 1740’s. The United Society of Believers in Christ’s Second Appearing soon became known as The Shaking Quakers or just Shakers because of their trembling and whirling during religious services.
In 1774, Mother Ann Lee made the decision to lead 8 converts to seek freedom in America. They dedicated their lives to creating a ” Heaven on Earth”, honoring the tenets of communal life, celibacy, freedom to worship and confession of sin. They also strongly believed in gender and racial equality, simplicity and pacifism.
Upon arriving in the new world, Mother Ann purchased land near Watervliet, NY and established the first Shaker community. She then led a series of missionary journeys to gather converts and grow their religious movement. Although she was very successful, she did not live long enough to realize the fruits of her labor as villages were established in New York State, throughout New England, Ohio, Kentucky and Indiana. Today, the last active Shaker community is at Sabbathday Lake in Maine. 2 living Believers remain.
Though the Shakers prospered while trading with the outside world, their main commodity became their furniture. To uphold their tenet of simplicity, their furniture was made to be functional and visually appealing without ornamentation. The clean, straight lines of their every day pieces are still relevant and coveted today.