History of The Shaker in The United States

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About this sample


Words: 1554 |

Pages: 3|

8 min read

Published: Mar 14, 2019

Words: 1554|Pages: 3|8 min read

Published: Mar 14, 2019

The Shakers, are members of the United Society of Believers in Christ's second appearing. They are one of many utopian farming communities of the early 1800's. The Shakers are more than a farming group, they were dedicated to a life of perfection. They invented many timesaving tools and machines, and created distinctive styles of architecture, furniture, and handicrafts.

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The Shakers began in England. The Shaking Quakers were a small branch of radical English Quakers. They were known for their liveliness, shaking, shouting, dancing and singing in their religious rituals. While living in Manchester the shakers were persecuted for their actions in their early years.

Soon a woman by the name of Ann Lees came to the Shakers, and joined soon there after. The death of her four children, three which had died as infants, and the fourth had died as a toddler had much to do with Ann deciding to join. Her past experiences with men had also strongly influenced her decision. After joining the Shakers Ann Lees became known as Ann Lee.

Ann had a strong belief in celibacy, which became the central nature of the Shakers. As time passed Ann became more and more outspoken, the meetings started to become livelier. The meetings were so extreme that Ann was sent to jail for profanement of the Sabbath. When she got out of jail Ann claimed to have visions of Christ. Ann and others of the Shakers believed that she was the second incarnation of Christ. Soon after this Ann Lee became known as Mother Ann. In 1774 Ann Lee along with nine of her followers moved to Niskeyuna, New York. In a few years it started to look up and Mother Ann finally started to recruit followers. In 1784 Mother Ann died. At the time of her death the Shakers society had approximately one hundred members. After Ann's death James Whittaker took over the organization.

Father James continued the Shaker community. He gathered the new shakers and isolated them in their own villages; here they were away from the evils of the world. Father James tried to make the rules more formalized, he introduced the gospel orders. The main ideas of the gospel orders were to separate the genders. The adult males, female, and children were each put their own "families". Gender separation was taken to the next level when males and females were required to exit through separate doors. All property was shared among the whole group.

Father James's leadership did not last very long he died in 1787. Elder Joseph Meacham and Eldress Lucy Wright became the new leaders of the Shakers. Their spiritual headquarters were in New Lebanon, New York. The Shakers grew and spread, created several villages in New England. During the Second Great Awakening, the Shakers sent out missionaries who started communities in Indiana, Ohio, and Kentucky. By the year 1826 eighteen Shaker villages were active. The height of the group's popularity was in the 1840's, when they had almost 6,000 members in their church. After that, the group began to dwindle as their celibacy prevented children from continuing the group. Their numbers shrank to about 1,000 by the early 1900's. Today, only a couple of survivors remain.

The Shakers were a very successful group of people. One reason they were so successful was because of their innovative innovations, which allowed them to work very efficiently. Along with their inventions, they created new markets for everyone. They sold packaged seeds, dried fruit, and excess fresh foods to outsiders. This resulted in surplus of food to sell.

The Shakers shared all their labor, and to make their lives easier, they made tools to help out in the fields to utensils in the kitchen. To help out in the fields they invented the hay rake the mower and a plow for working on the farm. They also found many uses for the circular saw and spinning wheel. They found a way to improve the washing machine and clothespins.

The Shaker's farms were laid out very logically, with areas for wheat, corn, potatoes, vegetables, and herbs. Some of the shakers communities had a place for orchards and strawberry fields. Most of the hard labor given to oxen and horses. The animals used the specially designed plow. The Shakers treated their animals with great care. The Shakers believed that a one's character was partly based on how well they cared for their animals. The animals were constantly cleaned. The Shakers provided good food and housing for their animals, and their animals were never overworked. Even the land was cared for well, by rotating crops and controlling pests naturally. Seed packages are a product that the Shakers are well known for. They were the first to pack their seeds in packets. The types of seeds were easily recognized from the package, and they were highly reliable. The shakers gained much recognition and prosperity this was due to their farms. High efficiency and innovative methods allowed them to be as successful as they were.

In the kitchen food for the whole community was made three times daily by a group of cooks. They wanted to get their job done quickly and efficiently, so they made many inventions, which would save time in the kitchen. Some of their more creative inventions include the apple corer, pea-splitter, cheese press, and double rolling pin. With use of the apple corer and the double rolling pin the Shakers could make sixty apple pies in the time it would take one housewife to make two or three pies. A revolving oven was another variation of theirs. The revolving oven could bake sixty pies at once. Many of the goods they sold were made from apples.

The Shakers created large quantities of food at one time. Their special style of cooking was unique to their communities. The Shakers cooked foods without pesticides or chemicals, ensuring the taste of their cooking. Also, the Shakers usually made very heavy foods. To balance out the taste, herbs and spices were used to liven up the food subtly. The shakers were one of the first to use scientific measurement, using specific measurements, lengths of time, and temperatures in their cooking. Their recipes were put together in cookbooks sold to people worldwide.

Shaker meals were simple. They did not use fancy tableware. Before each meal everyone would take fifteen minutes of quiet time to knee and say grace. In the early years of Shaker society, meals were eaten in silence. Later the talking ban was lifted. The dining tables were long and simplistic. Food was eaten on plain plates on the table, without any tablecloths or other fancy goods. The shakers did not waste food; any food that was left over was eaten in the meals for the next day.

The Shaker home was designed to be functional and easy to maintain. The Shakers were very clean people. The flat broom was an invented by the shakers. The sisters swept the whole house every morning before breakfast. In the afternoons the brothers cleaned the workshops. In order to make sweeping easier they put wooden pegs in the walls. Most of the furniture could be hung on them so that the furniture would not get in the way while the sisters were cleaning. Most of the furniture was built in to the wall this helped them to stop collecting so much dust. They did not like clutter at all. Everything was put in to drawers and chests so it would not be seen. The shakers believed that fresh air was very important and beneficial to their health. They had large windows, which allowed light and air to enter into the house.

The shakers would wake up at four or five o'clock the first thing they would do is pray. When they were finished praying they would begin to clean house. Afterwards, the sisters went to prepare breakfast while the brothers performed more chores in the workshop. After breakfast school would be in session. The schools were segregated. The boys would go to school in the winter and the girls would attend in the summer. After school was over the children had many chores to do. The sisters would make candles and make herbal medicines. The brothers either worked in the fields or worked in the workshop. In the workshops is where the furniture and tools were made.

Shaker life stressed the community and the family. Everybody chose to be celibate, this meant they would give up marriage and family. By living as brothers and sisters, in return the Shakers would be moral people. The lack of natural growth in population led to the eventual demise of the Shakers.

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The Shakers were very organized people. Each Shaker village was basically the same. Each had designated buildings for sleeping, eating, working, and worshipping. Community members were organized into families of fifty to one hundred brothers and sisters. The buildings that they shared had separate doorways and staircases for men and women. Even eating areas were separated by gender. The Shakers had two responsibilities, which were; being free from debt and celibacy and separateness. Children and partial Shakers lived separately from full Shakers in a group, which was known as the Novitate Order.

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History of The Shaker in The United States. (2019, March 12). GradesFixer. Retrieved December 4, 2023, from
“History of The Shaker in The United States.” GradesFixer, 12 Mar. 2019,
History of The Shaker in The United States. [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 4 Dec. 2023].
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