Winner of the 2008 Honor Book Award sponsored by Historic New England.

Reaching an apogee of 6,000 members in the years just before the Civil War, the Shaker movement was the most extensive, enduring, and successful utopian society ever established in America. Leaving Manchester, England, in 1776 to avoid persecution, the Shakers crossed the Atlantic and during the next 50 years established 19 villages from Maine to Kentucky.

The Shakers were guided by the principles of utility, honesty, and order in both their work and worship, and this belief system influenced the physical expression of the goods they produced for use at home and for sale outside their communities. This lovely book presents a wide array of extraordinarily fine examples of Shaker furniture, household objects, textiles, religious drawings, and items made to sell to the “world’s people” (non-Shakers). The book’s expert contributors discuss Shaker design in relation to the furniture they constructed, the products they sold, their gift drawings and spirituality, and their rejection of American Fancy design. The book also considers the powerful inspiration Shaker design has provided for diverse modern and contemporary designers, including George Nakashima, Roy McMakin, Thomas Moser, and Scandinavian furniture makers.

Jean M. Burks is senior curator, Shelburne Museum. She is the author of three definitive books on Shaker furniture, including most recently The Shaker Furniture Handbook.

Table of Contents
Susan Weber Soros

Stephan F. F. Jost

Jean M. Burks

Earl Martin

The Shaker World

1. Shaker Villlages and the Landscape of “Gospel Order”
Robert P. Emlen

2. Faith, Form, and Finish: Shaker Furniture in Context
Jean M. Bunks

3. Designed for Sale: Shaker Commerce with the World
M. Stephen Miller

The Spiritual World

4. The Problem of Female Leadership in Early Shakerism
Jean M. Humez

5. “Given by Inspiration”: Visionary Expressions in Shaker Life and Art (1837 to 1859)
Gerard C. Wertkin

The Fancy World

6. Plain Shakers, Fancy World
Sumpter Priddy

The Contemporary World

7. In the Spirit?: Twentieth-Century and Contemporary Shaker-Inspired Design
Kory Rogers

Exhibition Checklist
Jean M. Burks