Shaker workshop at Mt. Lebanon, New York, 1920s
The Shakers are a small Protestant religious denomination founded in Manchester, England in the mid-1700’s as a dissident group of the Society of Friends (Quakers). Derisively called “Shaking Quakers” because their meetings included both singing and dancing, they were joined by a young woman, Ann Lees [later shortened to “Lee”] (b. 1736 – d. 1784), who was, according to those who knew her, at times filled with visions and revelations of God. The light and power of God revealed in Ann caused her fellow believers to acknowledge her as the first spiritual Mother in Christ and to give her the title of Mother Ann. However, the Shakers’ manner of worship stirred up rage and the Shakers decided for their own safety to leave England.
The first group of Shakers, five men and three women led by Mother Ann Lee, arrived in America from England in August 1774. Within a few years, they had settled at Watervliet, New York, a tiny hamlet near Albany. After the American Revolution, many people were converted to the new faith and nine Shaker communities were founded in New York state and throughout New England.
In the early 1800’s, the movement spread west into Ohio, Kentucky, and Indiana. By 1824, the Shakers had 19 self-sufficient communities from Maine to Indiana. Each community was a “society” and as a group they called themselves the United Society of Believers in Christ’s Second Appearing. At their peak in the mid-19th century, they were the largest and most successful utopian group in existence. Today, one Shaker community remains at Sabbathday Lake, Maine.
Simplicity was the hallmark of the Shakers. They cared little for worldly goods. Their environment and what was in it was unadorned, functional, and well made. They believed that home was the nearest equivalent to heaven on earth, that beauty rested on utility. Using local woods - cherry, walnut, maple, and pine - Shaker carpenters fashioned trestle tables, chairs, clocks, desks, sewing tables, cupboards, chests of drawers, and stands. Order was an important concept in Shaker communal life. '' Go home and take care of what you have,'' Mother Ann had said. '' Provide places for all your things, so that you may know where to find them at any time, day or night.''
Our Shaker oval boxes are hand made in America by the only workshop to supply the official Shaker museum shops.
They work from the original forms and templates used at the Mt. Lebanon Shaker community during the mid-19th century. The Shaker numbering system: No.11 is the smallest box and No.1 is the largest.
The boxes feature uniformly slender sides, symmetrical joints, and tight-fitting lids. Handcrafted using select Pennsylvanian cherry and secured by copper tacks. The tops and bottoms are fastened using wooden pegs.
To finish they are hand rubbed with several coats of oil and are buffed until they ‘glow’.