I was lucky enough earlier this evening to come across the email address of the last remaining Shaker community in the United States, so I sent them a polite note to express a modicum of admiration and find out how they were getting along. They replied within a couple of hours to report that there were now five Shakers, aged between 38 and 74, that they continue to be open to new members, that the most recent arrival became a Shaker in May of last year, and that they continue the traditional Shaker way of life, farming cattle, sheep and pigs, and growing various vegetables. It is excellent to hear from them.

The Shakers are, of course, the oldest communal association in the United States, with a history of over two hundred years of utopian socialism in action. You may have come across their furniture, of course, which is fine (if a little expensive these days); and the tune of the classic hymn “Lord of the Dance” is an old Shaker tune, which Aaron Copland appropriated for his Appalachian Spring, and for which Sydney Carter supplied a new set of words. There were once many thousands of Shakers across the North and East of the United States — and now, we learn, there are five; but from the evidence of this message, they still seem to be in good spirits, and we all wish them well.

For more on the Shakers, try or the Sabbathday Lake community.

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