The Book of Shaker Furniture

The Book of Shaker Furniture

The Book of Shaker Furniture

The Book of Shaker Furniture


Of the more than one hundred experiments in communitarian living that proliferated in America during the nineteenth century, the United Society of Believers in Christ's Second Appearing, whose adherents are best known as 'Shakers, ' is certainly one of the most interesting, successful, and enduring. This book is a collection of furniture made by members of this remarkable American religious sect.


Interest in the United Society of Believers in Christ's Second Appearing, the "Shakers," has steadily increased during the past forty years. It began primarily with the books of Edward Deming Andrews, whose scholarly commentary and illustrations of the exquisitely simple and functional Shaker furniture introduced the American people to a design concept very different from the contemporary idiom. The photographs by William Winter displayed outstanding examples in their normal, stark room settings. Both rooms and furniture were a refreshing change from the fussy and overstuffed homes many of us grew up in and were familiar with.

There have been several attempts over the years to rebel against the pretentious and overcrowded interiors of Victorian homes-- the mission furniture styles of Gustav Stickley, and Elbert Hubbard's Roycrofters for example--but the Shaker tradition was so startlingly different that for many years it was of interest to only a knowledgeable few.

With other books and articles by Dr. Andrews and the building of collections and exhibitions by museums, the American public began to be seriously interested. More books and articles appeared and more collections were put together and opened to the public. As interest grew, so also did the desire to own original pieces of Shaker-made furniture. Antique dealers found themselves besieged with a demand for pieces; auctions were haunted; attics and barns were rummaged--"and still the wonder grew." As prices mounted (astronomically, as time went on), and as previously easily obtained originals became more scarce, increasing numbers of the public turned to cabinetmakers for reproductions and more and more home craftsmen made their own.

But where to find originals to study, compare, and measure? For the most part, desirable pieces were in museums, albeit some permitted physical examination and photography. The demand, however, far exceeded the supply of published examples. Articles began to appear in popular publications giving procedures and measured drawings--or what were said to be such. A few books have been published with poor photographs and drawings, and most are amateurish, inaccurate, and sketchy at best. These failed very properly to satisfy the home craftsmen or, for that matter, the professional cabinetmakers, especially when they found that when they followed (or tried to follow) the plans given, the results ended in outright failure, or frustration, or worlds apart from what they initially expected.

John Kassay, a professor of wood technology in, of all places, California--a continent removed from Shakerism and its works-- caught fire with what could only have been divine inspiration. Skilled in furniture design and construction, in the professional art of drafting, and also in the fine art of photography, he set for himself the goal of providing exquisitely drawn and meticulously detailed construction plans of all the various major forms of Shaker furniture. That he has succeeded in realizing this goal is amply proved in the following pages. To reinforce the drawings, he has supplied splendid . . .

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