The Shakers

The Shakers are members of a religious community that reached its peak in the mid-nineteenth century. The Shaker faith was taken to America by an English woman named Ann Lee and a small group of followers, sailing from Liverpool and landing in New York in 1774 In 1776 they were able to buy a small tract of land in Watervliet, near Albany, New York and here they established their first community.

New communities grew from Maine to southwest Kentucky bringing the total to eighteen and between 1850 and 1860 the Shakers numbered as many as 6,000 members. Their belief in pruity, simplicity and unity filtered through into the items they produced in their workshops with a level of craftsmanship seldom attained.

Sadly the Shaker communities started to decline around the time of the Civil War and in 1875 the population had fallen to 2,500 falling even further to 1,000 in 1900. In 1960 the few members living in Hancock Massachusetts sold their properties to a historical society and the Hancock Shaker Village as it is now known was kept intact, leaving the remaining members living in the last two surviving communities at Canterbury, New Hampshire and Sabbathday Lake, Maine.