Shaker craftsmen were highly skilled and their products were an expression of their worldview. Labor was a form of worship and it was the duty of each believer to live purely and to strive for perfection in everything they did.
Baskets in particular are coveted for their simple, utilitarian forms and durable construction. Shakers manufactured both utility baskets and “fancy-work” baskets; fancy baskets were sold in their shops alongside other everyday items such as brooms, bonnets, and chairs.
At its peak in 1867, Mount Lebanon produced 3,866 baskets in a single year. Basketmaking began to decline towards the end of the 19th century. The last basket woven by Shaker hands was made in 1958.
Today, basketmakers carry on the tradition of practical simplicity embodied in the Shaker style.
Durable beauty was an exhibition held at, and co-curated by, the Columbia County Historical Society, Kinderhook, NY, 2018.