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Shaker collection

Identifier: MC-259

Scope and Contents

The Shaker collection contains works by and about the United Society of Believers in Christ's Second Appearing from the Shakers' first theological treatise published in 1790 to the most recent scholarship concerning this utopian society. Most of the works are in print but some have been digitized. The manuscript portion of the collection includes account books, journals and photographs, and is especially strong in spirit communications and hymnals. There are several published books that are also part of the collection. The collection dates from 1781-1998.


  • 1781 - 1998

Conditions Governing Access

The Shaker collection is open for research. Researchers are encouraged to contact Special Collections staff prior to a visit. All items have been cataloged and are discoverable by searching the library catalog.

Conditions Governing Use

In consultation with Special Collections staff, reproductions may be made upon request. Material in this collection may be subject to copyright.


62 Linear Feet

77.9 Gigabytes

Language of Materials


Physical Location

L2 Storage, B19a, F5b, oversize drawers.

Other Finding Aids

Detailed inventories for 98 v.3, v.4, v.5 and 99 v.3 are filed with the the Shaker Collection File.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Gift of Edward B. Wight (Williams 1907), 1931, with subsequent additions.


The core of the Shaker Collection was donated to the Williams College Library in 1931 by Edward B. Wight, Class of 1907. In a 1937 letter to George J. Finney, Wight described his interest in the Shakers and his subsequent acquisition of Shaker material. ". . . I first became interested in the Shakers in my high school days, at Milwaukee, just an academic and casual interest. I had a Uncle and Aunt living in Troy, with whom I spent the Summer of 1902. The Shakers were then still numerous and prosperous, although few younger people among them. I visited that summer the Watervliet Shakers, at Niskayuna, between Troy and Schenectady . . . During my college life, which was from September 1903 to June 1907, I used to spend my short vacations, Easter, etc., bumming my way around New England and adjacent parts of New York State. I took occasion to visit the Shakers frequently, and was much impressed with the sanctity, efficiency, as well as the ultimate futility of their lives . . . I found [the Shakers] most cordial and hospitable, and their cooperation encouraged my budding desire to learn more about them and their history. The collection of their literature and manuscripts was a natural corollary. Almost all of the items by the Shakers I secured directly from their villages. They generally turned me loose and told me to help myself. Occasionally I found an old cupboard or trunk that had not been opened for fifty years. Those items against the Shakers (Dyer, Chapman, etc.), were very difficult to secure; they came mostly from book shops in New York City, Boston, Albany, Troy, Worcester and Hartford and Springfield . . . "
Shaker collection
Nash, Katie, Brown, Sylvia Kennick
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Describing Archives: A Content Standard
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Repository Details

Part of the Williams College Archives Repository

Sawyer Library
26 Hopkins Hall Drive
Williamstown, MA 01267