Shakers and Shakerism
The Research Libraries of The New York Public Library collect extensively on Shakers and Shakerism, a religious movement formally known as the United Society of Believers in Christ's Second Coming.
The Research Libraries of The New York Public Library collect extensively on Shakers and Shakerism, a religious movement formally known as the United Society of Believers in Christ's Second Coming. This Christian body has received considerable scholarly and popular attention. Although initially related to elements of Quakerism, the Shakers developed an idiosyncratic religious expression which included communal living, productive labor, celibacy, and a ritual noted for its dancing and shaking. While the eclectic nature of Shaker theology has been the focus of scholarly attention, the distinctive craftsmanship and folk art of Shaker life--the results of an avowed commitment to a life of perfection--have attracted popular interest.
A significant aspect of Shakerism is its founding by a woman, Mother Ann Lee, who was regarded by her followers as the second incarnation of Christ. Although the movement began in England under Ann Lee in 1758, the small body of believers removed itself to America under her leadership in 1774. Shakerism's unique role in American social and cultural history has manifested itself in a significant literature, by members and outsiders alike, much of which has been collected by the Research Libraries.
Using the Catalogs
General instructions for locating materials are given in How Do I Find a Book?. The following information is specific to the topic at hand.
CATNYP, the online catalog which lists items acquired by the Library since 1972 (as well as most of the entries from the Dictionary Catalog) employs subject headings beginning with Shaker or Shakers. For example:
Shaker Decorative Arts
Shaker Drawing Shaker Furniture
Shaker Textile Fabrics
Shakers (the subject heading for general historical and pictorial works)
In addition the subject heading Shakers is also subdivided geographically as in Shakers New York
The subject headings for the Dictionary Catalog and CATNYP may also be employed as key word searches. In so doing it is necessary to place the conjunction and between the appropriate words. For example:
Shaker and cookery
Shaker and art
Shakers and dress
Shakers and history
The Dictionary Catalog , which lists the Library’s holdings through 1972, uses the following subject headings:
Shakers--Govt. and Discipline
The subject headings for Shakers begin in volume 658, page 540, of the Dictionary Catalog and conclude in volume 659, page 4. The vast majority of entries from the Dictionary catalog now appear in CATNYP.
NB: In recent years the Research Libraries have microfilmed some of the more fragile items which appear in the Dictionary Catalog. Since some of the materials on Shakerism have been microfilmed, the call number in the Dictionary Catalog may have been changed to reflect the film format. Check the item in CATNYP or consult a librarian.
Basic Reference Volumes
An excellent introductory essay (with bibliography) is "Shakers," by Lawrence Foster, in the Encyclopedia of Religion, 2nd ed. (Detroit: Macmillan Reference USA, 2005), volume 12, pages 8268-8269. *R-RMRR BL31 .E46.
A comprehensive bibliography of published sources by and about Shakers (listing the major repositories which hold each item) is Mary L. Richmond's Shaker Literature: A Bibliography (Hanover, N.H: University Press of New England, 1977), 2 vols. JXF 77-12.
Another important bibliography is Henry Francis du Pont Winterthur Museum. The Edward Deming Andrews Memorial Shaker Collection (New York: Garland, 1987). This catalog of a collection devoted to Shakerism includes printed materials by and about Shakers as well as manuscript materials and artifacts. There is an index arranged by author and title. (Although unavailable at The New York Public Library, this can be requested via inter-library loan.)
Andrews, Edward D. The People Called Shakers (New York: Oxford, 1953) ZXWC. In this history of Shakerism the author discusses the foundation of the church, its development in America, its doctrinal principles and polity, and its relation with the world. Bibliography, statistical appendices, and illustrations
Eastman, Harland H. Alfred, Maine, the Shakers and the Village ( Springvale, Maine: Wilson, 1986) IQB (Alfred) 87-29. This is a pictorial work on a Shaker community in Maine. This work and that by Thomas (listed below) are concerned with individual Shaker communities: these two sources, representative of similar studies held by the Library, portray through discrete examples the way of life common to the Shakers.
Kirk, John T. The Shaker World: Art, Life, Belief (New York: Harry N. Abrams, 1997) JFG 01-1008.
Morse, Flo. The Shakers and the World's People (New York: Dodd, Mead, 1980) JXE 81-30. A collection of writings, largely by outsiders, on Shakerism and Shaker life. Chronological bibliography and illustrations.
Morse, Flo. The Story of the Shakers (Woodstock, Vermont: Countrymen Press, 1986) JFD 87-803. A popular introduction to the Shakers with some emphasis on their contemporary life. A brief bibliography and illustrations.
The Shaker Image (Boston: New York Graphic Society, 1974) JXF 75-16. A superb collection of photographs portraying life in several different Shaker communities.
Sprigg, June. Shaker--Life, Work, and Art (New York: Stewart, Tabori, and Chang, 1987) 3-MNE 87-6088. A profusely illustrated work (largely in color) which, although it explores all facets of Shaker life, concentrates on Shaker material culture.
Thomas, Samuel W. The Simple Spirit; A Pictorial Study of the Shaker Community at Pleasant Hill, Kentucky (Harrodsburg, Kentucky: Pleasant Hill Press, 1973) ITZ (Pleasant Hill) 75-433. The photographs and illustrations in this pictorial work are accompanied by excerpts from diaries, journals, and letters relating to the life of this settlement.
Brewer, Priscilla J. Shaker Communities, Shaker Lives (Hanover, N.H: University Press of New England, 1986) JXE 86-78. This is an historical analysis of the Shakers with a particular emphasis, according to the author, on "the Society within its own boundaries, as it was experienced by its members." This study is a valuable work for those wishing to understand the inner social and religious dimensions of Shakerism. Bibliography, descriptive notes, and demographic tables.
Campion, Nardi R. Mother Ann Lee: Morning Star of the Shakers (Hanover, NH: University Press of New England, 1990) JFD 93-13184. A popular biography of Ann Lee.
Duffield, Holley Gene. Historical Dictionary of the Shakers (Lanham, Md.: Scarecrow Press, 2000) JFD 00-7431.
Madden, Etta M. Bodies of Life: Shaker Literature and Literacies (Westport, Conn.; London: Greenwood Press, 1998) JFE 98-7242.
Melcher, Marguerite. The Shaker Adventure (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1941) ZXWC. An introduction to the history and thought of the Shakers. Bibliography.
Robinson, Charles E. A Concise History of the United Society of Believers Called Shakers (Westport, Conn.: Hyperion Press, 1975 reprint of 1893 edition) JXD 76-39. A late nineteenth-century history of the movement by a sympathetic observer. Illustrations.
Rokicky, Catherine M. Creating a Perfect World: Religious and Secular Utopias in Nineteenth-century Ohio (Athens, Ohio: Ohio University Press, 2002) JFE 02-17585. Analyzes Shakerism in the context of other movements such as the Mormons, the Separatists of Zoar, and secular groups.
Shakers. Testimonies Concerning the Character and Ministry of Mother Ann Lee and the First Witnesses of the Gospel of Christ's Second Appearing (Albany: Packard, 1827) ZXWC.
A valuable account of Ann Lee and the early Shakers.
A second edition published in 1888 with a slightly variant title
(Testimonies of the Life, Character, Revelations and Doctrines of Mother Ann Lee .) is available in microfilm under these call numbers: *ZAN-T3340, reel 484, no. 3642, and *ZAN-T3340, reel 463, no. 3438.
Stein, Stephen J. The Shaker Experience in America (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1992) JFE 92-8717. A comprehensive examination of Shaker history, thought, and practice.
White, Anna. Shakerism: Its Meaning and Message (Columbus, Ohio: Heer, 1904) *Z-4487, no. 4. This is an historical account of the Shakers with a description of their beliefs by a member of the community
Andrews, Edward D. Visions of the Heavenly Sphere: A Study in Shaker Religious Art (Charlottesville, Va.: University Press of Virginia, 1969) MAIH.
Cook, Harold E. Shaker Music: A Manifestation of American Folk Culture (Lewisburg, Penn.: Bucknell University Press, 1972) JNE 73-26 (in Music Division, Library of the Performing Arts)
Heavenly Visions: Shaker Gift Drawings and Gift Songs (New York: The Drawing Center, 2001) JQF 02-559.
Patterson, Daniel W. Gift Drawing and Gift Song: A Study of Two Forms of Shaker Inspiration (Sabbathday Lake, Maine: United Society of Shakers, 1983) 3-MNE 85-2498.
Patterson, Daniel W. The Shaker Spiritual, 2nd ed. (Mineola, N.Y.: Dover Publications, 2000) JMF 01-122. (in Music Division at Lincoln Center
Proctor-Smith, Marjorie. Women in Shaker Community and Worship: A Feminist Analysis of the Uses of Religious Symbolism (Lewiston, N.Y.: Mellen, 1985) JFE 86-698.
Promey, Sally M. Spiritual Spectacles: Vision and Image in Mid-nineteenth-century Shakerism (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1993) JFE 93-5903.
Sasson, Diane. The Shaker Spiritual Narrative (Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 1983) JXE 84-18.
Andrews, Edward D. Shaker Furniture, the Craftsmanship of an American Communal Sect (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1937) MOF.
Andrews, Edward D. Work and Worship: The Economic Order of the Shakers (Greenwich, Conn.: New York Graphic Society, 1974) JLF 75-1362.
Beale, Galen. The Earth Shall Blossom: Shaker Herbs and Gardening (Woodstock, Vt.: Countryman Press, 1991) JFE 92-2255.
Gordon, Beverly. Shaker Textile Arts (Hanover, N.H.: University Press of New England, 1980) 3-MON 81-1309.
Miller, M. Stephen. From Shaker Lands and Shaker Hands: A Survey of the Industries (Hanover: University Press of New England, 2007) JFF 07-1340.
Shea, John G. The American Shakers and Their Furniture (New York: Van Nostrand, 1971) MOF.
Comparative Studies of Shakerism with Other Religious Groups
Foster, Lawrence. Religion and Sexuality: The Shakers, the Mormons, and the Oneida Community (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1984) JFE 87-4233.
Foster, Lawrence. Women, Family, and Utopia: Communal Experiments of the Shakers, the Oneida Community, and the Mormons (Syracuse, N.Y.: Syracuse University Press, 1991) JFE 92-2930.
Kern, Louis J. An Ordered Love: Sex Roles and Sexuality in Victorian Utopias: The Shakers, the Mormons, and the Oneida Community (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1981) JFE 81-1197.
Whitworth, John M. God's Blueprints: A Sociological Study of Three Utopian Sects (London: Routledge and K. Paul, 1975) JLE 76-2028.
Researching Shakerism in Electronic Resources
Much of the scholarly literature on Shakerism is to be found only in periodicals, the indexes to which are available electronically. To gain access to this literature, it is necessary to consult the following:
ATLA Religion Database with ATLA Serials This resource contains citations to articles, books, and book reviews from journals specializing in religion, church history, and theology; the full text is supplied for many articles. Coverage varies according to publication, although most date from the twentieth and twenty-first centuries; articles are mainly in English with some in other major European tongues. This is an essential research tool for those studying the Shaker experience in its many ramifications.
America: History and Life An index to scholarly periodicals in American history.
JSTOR A resource which provides the full text for articles from scholarly journals. Since the scope of this resource includes many disciplines, one is able to research Shakerism from various perspectives, including historical, religious, sociological, artistic, feminist, etc.
Researchers in Shakerism are also advised to consult various other online periodical indexes available in the General Research Division; especially appropriate are: America’s Historical Newspapers; EBSCO Research Databases; American Periodical Series Online; Readers’ Guide Retro; 19th Century Masterfile (which includes Poole’s Index to Periodical Literature, 1802-1906); Art Full Text; Art Index Retrospective; Avery Index to Architectural Periodicals; and the electronic databases for newspapers.
Those pursuing advanced work in this field may wish to consult the Library's manuscript holdings on Shakers and Shakerism in the Manuscripts and Archives Division; permission to use these materials is granted only by the Special Collections Office, Room 316.
Selected Internet Sites on the World Wide Web
The following are the web sites of Shaker communities or museums:
Enfield Shaker Museum (http://www.shakermuseum.org/)
Shaker Heritage Society, Albany, New York (http://www.shakerheritage.org/)
Shaker Museum and Library (http://www.shakermuseumandlibrary.org/)
Sabbathday Lake, Maine, Shaker Village (http://maineshakers.com/)
Canterbury Village (http://shakers.org/)
Hancock Village (http://www.hancockshakervillage.org/)
Shaker Village of Pleasant Hill (http://www.shakervillageky.org/)
Shaker Museum at South Union, Kentucky (http://www.shakermuseum.com/)