Shaker Museum

Installation view, 2018.

Apple basket. Mount Lebanon, NY, ca. 1840-1860.

Shop basket lined with oil cloth. Canterbury, NH, ca. 1840-1860.

Rectangular carrier. Mount Lebanon, NY, ca. 1840-1860.

Field Basket. Mount Lebanon, NY, ca. 1840-1860.

Round carrier. Mount Lebanon, NY, 1858. Considering the initials that mark this leather-lined basket, it was apparently first used by Sister Emily P. Wilkinson (1831-1867) and later by Sister Catherine Van Houten (1817-1896).

Durable beauty: Baskets from Shaker Museum | Mount Lebanon (2018)

Online Exhibition

Shaker Baskets

The Shakers made it their mission to “honor right use, to seek tight form, to eliminate the necessary.”

Baskets came in two distinct styles: utility, and “fancy-work.” The basket-maker’s primary concern was function, not form. Utility baskets were hefty, working implements designed for heavy use in fields, orchards, barns, and workrooms.

The Shakers used a few simple forms which could be adapted by varying height, weight, and handles. In the mid-19th century, sales of utility baskets declined as factories produced baskets faster and cheaper than Shaker-made ones.

Changing styles forced the Shakers to adapt new methods although they only made things which could be put to good use. While isolated, Shakers were not unaware of goings-on around them, and throughout their history, new converts brought contemporary tastes and attitudes to the community.