Shaker Furniture Makers

Jerry V. Grant, Author, Douglas R. Allen, Author, Douglas R. Allen, Joint Author University Press of New England $35 (208p) ISBN 978-0-87451-488-9
In this thoroughly researched, generously illustrated study, Grant--assistant director at the Shaker Museum in Old Chatham, N.Y.--and writer Allen offer portraits of the 19th-century Shaker craftsmen who designed and constructed the simple yet sophisticated wooden beds, benches, chests and desks so admired today. Craftsmen are presented in a case-by-case format: we learn when one began making bedsteads, when another invented a taboo musical instrument. Viewed as a whole, the case studies do much to reveal the sociology of daily Shaker life--the tightly enforced communal order, the rejection of individual ego, and the relentless focus on keeping ``hands continually at work.'' Through this dense web of detail, a group portrait of a sect in decline emerges, with many case studies ending in the craftsman's ultimate disillusionment and final abandonment of Shaker precepts. Though the volume succeeds in lifting the mantle of anonymity from Shaker craftsmen, it will ultimately appeal mainly to a small, specialized audience. (Oct.)
Reviewed on: 10/01/1989
Release date: 10/01/1989
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