Wednesday, September 28, 2016

The Shakers

This has been my summer to encounter unusual museums and odd religions.  The stop in Canterbury, New Hampshire, a few miles north of Concord,  combined the two: an entire town converted to a museum that spotlights the vanishing 'Shaking Quaker' religion.

 The Founder of the Shakers was Ann Lee of Manchester England.  In a religious revival of the 17th Century there arose the 'Shaking Quakers' or 'Shakers' in 1754.  Nine persons from Manchester emigrated in May 1774 for the purpose of founding a Shaker Church in America.

At one time there were dozens of Shaker villages throughout the U.S. with a total of over 6000 members.  Today there is one village left--Sabbathday Lake Village in Maine--with only three members.

Canterbury, NH was once a very thriving Shaker community....

Canterbury Shaker Village was formed in 1792.  In May of that year the Meeting House was raised in one day, with such solemn reverence that scarcely a word was spoken during the framing and raising of the building, except in whisper.

By November of 1793 the massive Dwelling House was occupied and from then until 1860 not a year went by without another building being constructed or enlarged.  In addition, fields were cleared, stone walls built, a water power system constructed and production of goods for sale to the world was undertaken.

By the time of the Civil War, Canterbury was a thriving Shaker village where nearly 300 people lived, worked and worshipped in 100 buildings on over 4000 acres.

So what happened to all these 'Shakers' and why were they called 'Shakers'?  

Why they are disappearing is answered in their mutually agreed upon 'Basic Principles'...

The Basic Principles of the Shaker Order: Virgin Purity, Peace, Justice, Love
All expressed in celibate life, non resistance, community of goods and universal Brotherhood

They so completely supported the celibate life that even their buildings promoted it.  Every building had two entry doors--one for women and another for men.  If the building had two or more floors then there were two staircases to every floor--one for women and a second for men--sometimes side by side.  I couldn't resist and had to ask the Docent if any member ever 'climbed the other staircase?' As far as he knew, no woman had ever produced a baby in this community.  I am surprised that it took over 200 years for the community to die out.

How they got the title of 'Shaking Quakers' or Shakers seems due to a practice that is the antithesis of their cult standards of celibacy: Line Dancing! 

"Shakers Dancing" 
Lithograph c. 1830

During their worship service they would line up in seemingly rigid formations and express their religious ecstasy in a rhythmic and exuberant manner.  (I am surprised that it did not result in an end to that 'Basic Standard of Celibacy.')

The church floor had markings to guide the Shakers in their dances. 

The Docent said there is no one left that can demonstrate the actual dances but there are a number of drawings and writings that help explain the ritual and the energy of the dance.

 And they certainly had the music to Shake the building.

 Music, both secular and religious, played an important role in Shaker life.  Musical instruments were common by the 20th century and included pianos, cornets, saxophones, violins and harmonicas.  The Shakers formed small orchestras, including a quartette and harmonica band.  

I bet this group produced some toe-tapping numbers.

There were no adornments in any of the buildings--no elaborate paintings, no statues, no chandeliers, and very little in the way of color.  The furniture was all serviceable and of classic design.

It was communal living to the extreme with emphasis on equality...

Equality of the Sexes in all Departments of life
Equality of labor, all working for each, and each for all.
Equality in property.  No rich, no poor.


No hierarchy even at the dinner table. 

Both sexes shared in the cooking, housekeeping and work in the fields.

 I think I saw one of these at the Plumbing Museum.


Stretchers for the woolen sox.

Practices they supported...
 Freedom of Speech, Toleration in thought and religion,
Abolition of all Slavery
Temperance in all things.
Justice and Kindness to all living beings.
The Golden Rule: Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.
Purity in thought, speech and personal habits.
Freedom from debt, worry and competition.
Simplicity in dress, speech and manner.

(Not a bad code to govern by.)

I  admired the fact that this was neither a matriarchal nor a patriarchal organization.  Over the 200 years of its existence men and women shared equally in the leadership.


In 1992 the three surviving Shakers turned the village of Canterbury over to the state to operate as a museum then moved to Sabbathday Lake, Maine to live out their days.  The youngest is 58 and the oldest is 90. 

The most well-known of all the Shaker communes is now a very prosperous community in Ohio--Shaker Heights. No Shakers live there.

The official name of the sect: The United Society of Believers in Christ's Second Appearing.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

The Plumbing Museum

I have just spent two days without a WiFi signal and now I am way behind on my postings.  GRR!  
I know this is a posting you, my dear readers, have been waiting for with eager anticipation...

It is a place I  purposely sought out in Watertown, Ma, just outside Boston.  I can't remember where I first heard about it but it was on my list of 'Must See Museums'...

Tah Dah!!  I give you--The Plumbing Museum

It is located in what was, during the 1800s, an ice house.
In the 1950s Charles Manoog began collecting antique commodes, claw-foot tubs, ornate sinks and other plumbing items.  In 1979, his son Russell established the American Sanitary Plumbing Museum.  
Since that time the Plumbing Museum has attracted plumbers, engineers, inventors--and a few inquisitive retired travelers like myself.

Sasha was my very enthusiastic guide; she also manages the museum.

Ah yes, the wringer.  And isn't that double sink attractive?

This piece had me stumped. I could not make out what that second compartment with the motor at the bottom was for...

It was an automatic dishwasher dated from 1928 called the Kohler Electric Sink.

This was called "The Drape", it was made from hand blown glass.  It was exquisite.

The Hat Tub
I could not figure this one out.    I think you perch on the side but that looks rather risky.

The Hip Bath was used for therapeutic purposes.  But how does one sit in it?

Finally, The Antique Clawfoot Bathtub...

...with wood trim,  dating from 1891.  This one I knew how to use.

There were plumbing parts...

 ...and  plumbing tools

The Earth Closet
The Invention of the Earth Closet in the 1860s is widely attributed to Reverend Henry Moule, whose creativity stemmed from efforts to provide a sanitary option to keep his parishioners healthy.

This was an effort to get rid of the chamber pot and the outhouse.  It was a composting toilet and the compost was added to the garden.  I suspect that wasn't too healthy after all.

Marcel Duchamp Replica
Artist's mural and replica urinal display paying tribute to the "Toilet Art" of Marcel Duchamp.
(The original Urinal art piece really (!) was auctioned for $1.2 Million.)

Prison Toilet from 1996 to the Present
That is all one unit.  Water from the sink is used to flush the toilet.

A very early hand painted sink.

The seat lifted up and the chamber pot went into the compartment below the seat.  I remember one of these in my great Aunt Evelyn's house.

Finally there was this gem.   

It came with a remote control that lifted the lid, and also the seat if necessary, heated the seat, played opera music, flushed, provided a bidet...

...and turned on lights that changed from red to purple to blue to white.    The only thing missing was the applause.

(The items in italics are from the Plumbing Museum website.)