Shaker Museum

Youngs, Isaac Newton (1793-1865)

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Brother Isaac Newton Youngs, as did most Shakers, engaged in a large number of occupations but few, perhaps, did so many so well, or left behind such extensive documentation of his life and work. His father and siblings joined the Shakers at Watervliet, NY, after his mother left the family; Brother Isaac came to Watervliet in 1803 and was admitted to the Church Family of Mount Lebanon in 1807. As a teenager he apprenticed as a tailor and then, at twenty-one, began to work as a clockmaker. He was also an accomplished furniture-maker and woodworker. In 1833 he made a fine compartmented and dovetailed box to store the lettered and numbered labels to be attached to furniture and other objects so that they could be kept in the appropriate room. Later he planned and framed a schoolhouse, and designed the teacher and school desks as well. Brother Isaac also made pens and buttons, and was tasked with inscribing the text on the fountain stones used at the feast grounds of Mount Lebanon and Groveland. He created several devices including a sheet-music writing pen, a sort of metronome to make song rhythms uniform, a leveler for construction, and a machine to cut threads on pegs. He may be best known for his prolific output of writing and especially his journals, which richly detail his work and daily life among the Shakers, and constitute an intriguing account of a person who often questioned his faith and abilities. He would likely be pleased with this legacy, for as he once wrote, "I spend much of my precious time... writing to leave that which... I hope will edify those who follow after."


See Glendyne R. Wergland, One Shaker Life: Isaac Newton Youngs, 1793-1865 (2006). See also Grant, Jerry V. and Douglas R. Allen, Shaker Furniture Makers, Hanover, NH: University Press of New England, 1989, pp. 35-51.


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Shaker Museum Youngs, Isaac Newton (1793-1865). Accessed on February 5, 2023

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