Drawings of Shaker buildings from 'Shaker Village Views' by Robert P. Emlen.

Education and Schools among the Shakers in New York State

November-December 2014

In conjunction with the NYS Museum's Shaker exhibit, which opened on November 15, 2014, the NYS Library's seventh-floor exhibit for November and December highlighted some of the NYS Library's Shaker collections, particularly those related to education. The items in the cases included information about school taxes, textbook purchases, teacher salaries, and a ciphering book showing arithmetic exercises. The books in the cases around the elevators were from a list of books in the library at Hancock Shaker Village. They included books used by the Shakers in both Watervliet and New Lebanon.


left display case

From 1787-1947, Mount Lebanon Shaker Village in New Lebanon, NY was a thriving agricultural community. The Shaker School for Boys and Shaker School for Girls were schools which accepted pupils who were not Shakers, provided the children took part in Shaker religious activities. The Shaker School for Boys opened there in 1932. In 1939, it became the Darrow School, which exists on the same site to this day. The Shaker School for Girls was also at the North Family section of the Mount Lebanon Shaker Village. The school year was from October 1 to July 1, with two weeks recess at Christmas.

center display case

Items on display in the center case included "reward of merit" certificates presented to Isaac Anstatt in the 1850s (one is dated March 13, 1855). Anstatt later became a teacher himself, and copies of some of his Albany County Teacher's Certificates and Teacher Testimonials from the late 1860s were also on display.

right display case

Early information about the first appearance of Shaker schools and libraries is scant. In the writings of Brother Isaac Newton Young, of New Lebanon, he says "A public school was instituted (in 1817) …and the class of children taught in it, there was a great increase of books…And as this class arrived to adult years, a portion of them…obtained books in a disorderly manner. This made it necessary for the Lead to interfere, and impose some restriction, which resulted in establishing a library, composed of the books that has been accumulated in various ways."

The New Lebanon, NY School District No. 12, established in 1819, incorporated the school already being operated by the Shakers at that time. The district consisted of the four different village areas (called Church, Second, South, and North Families) and operated under Shaker trustees. These schools provided instruction for girls during the summer months and boys during the winter season.

Other NYS Library Resources:

  • Shaker Collection, 1784-1992 -- This finding aid to the NYS Library's Shaker collections reflects the reorganization of the Shaker manuscripts and many printed items, bringing together over 400 items that had been previously catalogued separately, or not at all, to form one collection.
  • Warren Broderick's J.E. West's New Lebanon Shaker Community Photographs -- A finding aid to a collection composed of photos and negatives made by Warren Broderick by re-shooting photographs originally taken by James E. West at the Mount Lebanon Shaker community.
  • Shaker Bibliography -- This bibliography includes titles of original copies of Shaker publications in the book collection as well as titles of the microform copies of the holdings of the Western Reserve Historical Society’s Shaker Collection. Although it does not include all the Shaker-related items in the NYS Library’s collection, it is a convenient starting point for research on the Shakers.

Exhibit curated by Stephanie Barrett and Samantha Brown.

Last Updated: February 3, 2015