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Image - Shaker Woman

A Shaker woman

Description of the Shaker Collection

The Shaker collection consists of digitized 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.


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

Research on site at Hamilton College

To schedule a research visit, please contact us in advance.

Christian Goodwillie, Director and Curator of Special Collections and Archives
E-mail: cgoodwil (at) hamilton (dot) edu
Telephone: (315) 859-4447

Special Collections
Burke Library
198 College Hill Road
Clinton, NY 13323
Regular hours: 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Monday through Friday.

Finding Aid


Manuscripts - on this website

The Current Record of Events from 1792 to 1885 is a community journal for Shaker Village, East Canterbury, New Hampshire, 107 pages. This presentation includes digital images of each page, transcription of the text, and TEI color encoding of all names and places.


Active despite her ninety-four years
Printed: ACTIVE DESPITE HER NINETY-FOUR YEARS; "Aunt John" was very deaf and it was hard to make her understand what I wanted, but she knew exactly what she wanted. When I tried to open a door wide in order to pose her, she said , "Oh nom, that door can't be opened." but when I explained the reason she amicably acquiesced. Though she lived all alone, she frequently was visited by nieces and nephew... [description clipped]
Ada Cummings and Lizzie Bailey at Childrens House
Ada Cummings and Lizzie Bailey at Childrens House, Alfred Maine about 1915, Donor: Item donated by Richard Brooker