Mount Lebanon Shaker Society
Backstory and Context
The first Shaker society in North America was not the Mount Lebanon Shaker Society, but was in fact a society based out of what is now the Watervliet Shaker Historic District, established in 1775. Though it was the first, the Mount Lebanon Shaker Society soon overshadowed it, despite being built ten years later. Founded by Father James Whittaker, the Mount Lebanon Shaker Society dedicated itself with religious fervor to their newly-renewed Shakerism, quickly becoming the spiritual center of Shakerism in the United States. This was further realized by the construction of the Society’s Meetinghouse, which was also the first Meetinghouse to be constructed in the United States.
As the Society grew in membership, it became highly active in industrial pursuits, such as producing seeds, manufacturing chairs, and making patented medicines, which helped the Society to flourish and support their lifestyles. Hundreds of buildings were built during the decades of the Society’s greatest periods of activity, but by the 1930s, the influence of the Shakers in the area quickly began to die out, with the last remaining Shaker of the Mount Lebanon Shaker Society dying in 1947. In the 1940s, the settlement was sold to the Darrow School, who maintained it for several decades. In 2004, part of the Shaker Society settlement was purchased by the Shaker Museum, and was transformed into a Shaker Society museum. Today, the area is known widely as the Shaker Museum | Mount Lebanon.