Shaker Museum

Sister Emma J. Neale posing in a Shaker cloak. This and a photo taken from the back were used on labels and marketing materials.

Rose wool cloak bearing label of E. J. Neale and Company, Mount Lebanon, NY.

E. J. Neale and Company label on rose cloak.

Photograph showing a sewing room at Mount Lebanon. Six unidentified sisters work on making cloaks.

Dark gray wool flannel cloak bearing label of "The Dorothy," Hart and Shepard, Canterbury, NH.

Label for "The Dorothy" cloak, Canterbury, NH.

Burgandy red wool flannel cloak with silk print lining and ties, bearing label of Sabbathday Lake, ME.

Detail of label on Sabbathday Lake cloak.

Painted wood sign reading “Store & Shaker Cloaks”, Church Family, Mount Lebanon.

Black silk knit gloves with scalloped edges, Canterbury, NH.

Doll dressed in Shaker costume by Sister Jennie Wells, Hancock, MA.

Gloves knit from yarn spun from silk and raccoon fur. Gloves, and mittens made from this material were labor-intensive to produce, but they are very soft and warm.

Bisque doll with pen wipe skirt, Mount Lebanon. The skirt is made of scraps of wool flannel left over from cloak-making. 

Shaker dress: “Plain, comfortable, economical, and comely” (online)

Online Exhibition

Made for the World

Unlike the “fancy goods” made only for sale, the clothing and textile items made for sale differed little or not at all from that made for the Shakers. Goods made for the Shakers’ own use such as stockings, gloves, and aprons were made in sufficient quantity to furnish enough to sell. Wool cloaks made for the sisters beginning in about 1870 became popular among the women of the world, and sisters produced them for sale until the 1940s.  

The cloak manufacturing industry proved especially rewarding for the communities at Mount Lebanon and Canterbury. The E. J. Neale Company, established by Sister Emma J. Neale of Mount Lebanon’s Church Family, helped rescue the family from catastrophic financial misjudgments and helped to keep the family stable for decades. These industries also gave the sisters greater status and leverage; their work provided needed income as the population of the Society grew older and fewer males stayed past childhood.  

Moreover, materials left over from the production of clothing items could be repurposed into attractive items for sale, so that the work of the sisters was doubly fruitful. Dolls were dressed in Shaker costumes made from fabric remnants. Scraps left over from the manufacture of cloaks were cut and fashioned into skirts attached to small bisque dolls to be used as pen wipes. Although Shaker fashion adopted worldly fashion very slowly, if at all, the quality of their goods held commercial appeal.