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The Shaker Collection


These are materials related to the United Society of Believer's in Christ's Second Appearing, more commonly called Shakers. Non-digital printed materials can be found in the Special Collections Department of the Hamilton College Library.

Finding Aids

Background Information

Who are the Shakers?

The Shakers are one of the most successful communal societies in America. Established in New York in 1774 when Ann Lee and a small group of followers emigrated from Manchester, England, the Shakers developed a system of communal living with rules governing all aspects of life. Initially they established villages in New England and New York, but later spread into Kentucky, Ohio, and Indiana. The movement peaked with approximately 4500 members around 1840. Shaker numbers declined throughout the late 19th and the 20th centuries. Today there is one active community at Sabbathday Lake, Maine.


In the world today, "Shaker" is most commonly associated with a style of furniture. While Shakers were very industrious, innovative, and inventive, all of this was underpinned by their religion.  Shakers believe that the Christ Spirit returned to earth through the vessel of Mother Ann Lee. Converts to her message confessed their sins, practiced celibacy, and eventually community of goods. Living the "Christ life" according to these precepts is the goal of the spiritual resurrection of Shakerism. Shakers believe in a biune God, both male and female. They practiced gender and racial equality (for the most part) throughout their history. Many Shaker families were vegetarian, and some were early advocates for abolitionism and women's rights.


The Shaker collection at Hamilton College Library is rich in manuscript, printed, visual, audio/video materials, as well as ephemera and a few artifacts. Major additions, such as the collections of Scott and Elizabeth De Wolfe, Walter A. Brumm, Richard Brooker, M. Stephen and Miriam R. Miller, and Lauren and Julie Stiles, have greatly increased our holdings.


External Resources


Christian Goodwillie, Director and Curator of Special Collections and Archives
Telephone: (315) 859-4447


Special Collections
Burke Library
198 College Hill Road
Clinton, NY 13323

(Reviewed: February 20, 2014)



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