The United Society of Believers in Christ’s Second Appearing formed in 18th. Century England when a small group broke away from the Society of Friends. The Society were commonly known as Quakers, and the new sect were derisively called “Shaking Quakers” or “Shakers” in reference to the enthusiastic dancing that was part of their worship. (The term “Shakers” was so commonly applied that, in time, it came to be accepted by followers themselves.)
8 Shakers emigrated to America in about 1774, and established a community in upstate New York. They practiced celibacy, abstinence, pacifism, and aspired to both self-sufficiency and an austere, simple life. Through conversion and the adoption of unwanted children, the sect grew to encompass some 19 communities from Indiana to Maine by the mid-1800’s.
They took pride in their education and their industry, and produced tools and furniture that were both cleverly designed and highly functional. Sparingly decorated, but never lacking in their own distinctive beauty, Shaker tables, chairs and cabinets were made primarily from light, versatile pine and used innovative methods of joining.
The Shaker aesthetic was perhaps best symbolized by their distincitve pegboard system, which often ran the entire cicumference of a room and was used to hang not only coats, but anything that would hang, including their lightweight chairs and other furniture.
Able to produce their unique furnishings in large quantities, the Shakers were happy to sell them to the general population, who admired them for their sturdy quality and clever design features. Thus, Shaker furniture found its way into many homes in the Northeast and beyond, where it greatly influenced furniture-makers of all stripes.
Although genuine Shaker furniture is now entirely in the realm of antiques — today, there are approximately 3 practicing Shakers left — its classic designs are still emulated by modern artisans. Relaxed Cottage Living features a broad (and growing) Shaker Style Furniture Collection, made from American pine and in the traditional style, right down to the classic handmade drawer-runner systems.