Page images
PDF
EPUB

The World

World In General.

The Amana Society.

BY

BERTHA H. SHAMBAUGH.

O

a

N the Iowa River in the heart of the fronted with the alternative of disbanding or

Hawkeye State, there is a commu moving. It was then that "the Lord re

nity of seven villages so foreign in vealed through his instrument Christian language, manners, dress and traditions that Metz that he would lead them out of this it forms literally a bit of Europe in America. land of adversity to one where they and This quaint spot is the home of the Amana their children could live in peace and libSociety, as it is "known in law,” or, as it is erty.” A committee of four was sent to called by its members, the Community of America to purchase land. The location True Inspiration. Of the many co-opera was made near Buffalo, New York, where tive and communistic societies that have their first village in America was laid out in sought to realize their ideals on American soil, the Amana Society is the only one whose history records continuous increase in its membership and in the valuation of its property. This interesting society has long since passed the experimental stage. It stands to-day as the realization of the Utopiasts' dreams of a community of men and women living together in peace, plenty, and happiness, far removed from the competitive struggle of this strenuous world.

Communism was not a part of the original plan of the Mystics and Pietists among whom the Community of True Inspiration took 1843. In all some eight hundred souls left its rise; but, being sorely persecuted the Fatherland to join the pilgrim colony by both Church and State for the and enjoy freedom of conscience in tolerant heresy of maintaining that the Lord speaks and democratic America, his will through man to-day just as he did After a twelve years' residence in the Emin olden times, their descendants banded to- pire State, the society decided to re-locate gether in the tolerant kingdom of Hessen on the frontier where land was cheaper and where they finally adopted a communistic the opportunities for development were life in order to give profitable employment greater. The present location in the State to each member of the group. When, how- of Iowa was selected by the committee sent ever, the policy of the Hessen government out by the society in 1855. Here during touching this freedom to worship God was the past half century the prophecy of the reversed, these Inspirationists were con far-sighted Christian Metz has been ful

1899

[graphic]

AN AMANA GARDEN WITH VILLAGE IN DISTANCE.

[graphic]

filled. The little handful of Inspirationists At one end are the village barns and sheds, in Germany struggling to pay the rent of at the other the factories and work shops. their first estate has developed into the pros- Each village has its own saw-mill, its genperous Amana Society of to-day with eight- eral store, its bakery, its meat market, its een hundred members owning twenty-six dairy, its school, and its church. At the thousand acres of Iowa's richest prairie railway stations there are grain houses and land and operating numerous mills and fac- lumber yards. tories whose products find a market from The establishment of hotels has been Maine to California.

made necessary by the hundreds of stranThe seven Amana villages popularly gers who visit the colonies every year. known in the West as the “German Colon- Some come for the outing; and some, ies” are: Amana, the capital and the old- interested in political and social science, est and largest of the villages; East Amana; come for purposes of "investigation”Middle Amana ; "Amana before the much to the amusement of the colonists

. Heights," or High Amana ; West Amana; But the greater number come out of sheer

curiosity, to find out, as Charles M. Skinner expresses it, "what there is so durned private goin' on here." Owing to the predominance of this last class, the colonists when interviewed often "forget their English and possibly their manners." It is their only means of defense. "I don' know" is one of the first English sentences the Amana baby learns to lisp. This he delivers automatically to every inquisitive stranger who ventures a question on the assumption of the old adage regarding children and fools. Each village has its water tower and fire engine, and every able bodied man in the village is ex-officio a member of the fire department. Although the loss by fire during the last twenty-five years has been between eighty and one hundred thousand dollars, the society still deems it a matter of economy to

rebuild rather than pay insurSouth Amania and Homestead. All of the

ance premiums. colonies are within a radius of six miles The Amana houses are two (sometimes from "Old Amana." It is this sistem of three) story structures of frame, brick or village life that has been the great conser a peculiar brown sandstone which is found vator of the society's purity and simplicity in the vicinity. It has been the purpose

of By this means the society, while taking ad the society to construct the houses as nearly vantage of every progressive step in the

alike as possiblemeach as desirable as any methods of agriculture and the processes of other. The frame houses are all unpainted

, manufacture, has been able to sustain in its

the society believing it to be more economisocial, political, and religious life an insular

cal to rebuild when occasion requires than to

preserve the wood with paint. The style Each village is a cluster of from forty to

of architecture is the same throughout the one hundred houses arranged in the manner

entire community-plain, square structures of the German “Dorf,” with one long strag with gable roofs. In the summer time, gling street and several irregular off-shoots. when the houses are uniformly half-hidden

[ocr errors]
[graphic][merged small]

with vines, it is only with the aid of a of their several allowances. There is weather-beaten sign peeping out from a scarcely a family among them which does wreath of grape vines or a cluster of roses not subscribe for one or niore papers or that the stranger is enabled to distinguish magazines. But all literature which might the "hotel" or the "store" from the school, have an evil influence is forbidden. the church, or the private dwellings. Each Every woman makes her own clothes, house is surrounded by a yard brimful of and every mother makes the clothing for her flowers. Such masses of bloom! Such a own small children. The village tailor usudisplay of color! Such a collection of quaint ally makes the men's clothing. Utility and old-fashioned posies!

not adornment is the chief regard. The There is no crowding in the Amanas. dress of to-day is the same as it was at the The same spirit which led the society to founding of

founding of the society. Mothers and adopt the village system has led it to pro- daughters,

daughters, grand-mothers and grandvide plenty of room for its people. Each daughters dress alike, not in the sober grays family has its own house, and, in spite of the of the Quakers nor in the more brilliant strict communism of the society, each man's purples of the Amish, but in plain calicoes home is his castle. Here he is at liberty to of gray or blue or brown. The waist is indulge his own taste in decoration, pro short and very plain, while the skirt is long vided he does not go beyond his allowance. and full. An apron of moderate length, a Here each member of the family has his “shoulder-shawl," and a small black cap own room where he may ride his hobbies completes the summer costume. The only or store his keepsakes without being dis- headgear is a sun-bonnet with a long cape. turbed,

The winter dress differs from this only in The Society subscribes for various tech- being made of flannel ; while a hood takes nical and trade journals for the use of the the place of the sun-bonnet. different places of business in the commu Generations of right-thinking and rightnity. The members are left free to indulge living have produced a distinctive type in their own inclinations as to reading matter. the Amana colonists. Both the men and They purchase books, newspapers and women have strong faces and honest eyes. magazines, all of which are paid for out There is a gentleness in their demeanor that

sacred responsibility. What a paradise for the disheartened members of the Municipal Voters League! With Amana's political ethics what transformations might be wrought in the City Hall combines" and *Court House gangs" of some of our larger cities!

The inspirationists of Amana are lawabiding. Their business of a legal character is transacted at Marengo, the seat of Iowa county. In suits with outside parties they do not hesitate to employ counsel. But all

private differences, that is, disputes among AMASA KITCHES-For-E.

the members themselves, are settled by the

elders or trustees. reminds one of the Quakers, and a firmness

Each village is governed by a group of and a seriousness in their manner that be from seven to nineteen elders who are apspeaks their Pietist inheritance.

pointed by the Board of Trustees from the Here in Amana is one place in the l'nited older and more spiritually inclined members States where the “servant problem" dues not of the community. It is this group of vilovershadow the “trusts and the tariff." lage elders that assigns to each his apporThere is no cooking done by individual fam- tioned task. To them each member desiriles. Each village has from four to sixteen ing more money, more house room, an extra large "kitchen-houses" where the mea's are holiday or easier work must appeal: for prepared and served. From sixteen to forty these allotments are as occasion requires peress eat at one kitchen, the number de "revised and fixed anew." The system of pencing largely upon the location. The government is thus a sort of federation places are assigned by the trustees.

wherein each village maintains its local inThere is no prettier picture anywhere dependence, but is under the general superthan an Amana grandmother with her knit vision of a governing central authority-the ins, unless it is, perhaps, the homage she Board of Trustees. is paid by the younger members of the In accordance with the fundamental law household. The constitution of the each member of the community "is in duty ciety promises to its members “support and bound to give his or her personal and real care in od age, sickness and infirmity." property to the trustees for the common Unproductive members of the society enjor iund, at the time of his or her acceptance as at the privileges and the comforts that the a member, and before the signing of the Contenity has to give. It is doub:iul

It is doubiiul constitution." These contributions to the whether there are many places in the world common fund of the society have varied outside of Amana where more tender care irom $50.000, the largest sum paid into the and respectiul attention is given the aged treasury by any one member, to the bare as: inoon.

Working capacity of the ordinary laborer. Tie permanec; ard prosperity of the In addition to his livelihood each member Amara Soie sees be due largely to its is allowed by the Board of Trustees an anwwlitical organization. The entire conduct of nual “sum of maintenance" of from twentyaffairs rests with

board of thirteen trus- five to forty dollars. As this allowance is trees who are elected annually by p pular made in the form of a credit at the village vite, and who in turn elect from their own

store, and is guarded by a pass-book and a number a presicer, a vice-president ani a day of judgment" at the close of the year, retary. There is no logrong, no bur; it is not likely to be spent in riotous living. irs oi votés, no subscurent distribution of

Members withdrawing from the society sos. Each office seeks its man: and are entitled to receive back the moneys paid wien by common corsen: he has been found.

by them into the common fund and to interhe is elected and then re-elected as long

est thereon at the rate not exceeding five as he retains faithful to his trust. The per cent per annum from the time of the adce-hoicer in turn accepts his office not

justment of their accounts until the repayis honors or its perquisities but as a

ment of their credits. Such a system is not

[graphic]

cars

are

[ocr errors]

particularly attractive to the American street, guided only by the "gee" and "haw"
spirit of commercialism; yet the number of of the driver, he finds it hard to realize that
applicants for admission is larger than one only twenty miles away street
might suppose. The standard of member- clanging and delivery carts rattling over the
ship, however, is so high that applicants are hot pavements, while street venders are
often rejected after the required period of screaming the merits of their wares.
probation.

Amana's mills and factories were among At one period in the history of the society, the first erected in the state of Iowa. Half celibacy was encouraged as being a more a century ago the two flouring and grist spiritual state, though it was not rigidly in mills were important centers for the pioneer sisted upon. When a youth and maid be farmers for fifty miles around. The society came betrothed they were sent to different is perhaps best known in the business world villages for a year. If at the end of that through its woolen mills which have been time they remained faithful to each other in active operation for forty-two years. and steadfast in their purpose, the marriage Over half a million pounds of raw wool are was allowed to take place.

This earlier op consumed in the woolen mills annually. It position to marriage is evidenced to-day by has always been the aim of the society to the large number of bachelors and spinsters manufacture "honest goods," and they have past middle life. To maintain the perpe found a ready market from the Atlantic to tuity of the society by accessions from the

the Pacific coast. mother country or from the outside world The hours of labor in the woolen mills proved to be impracticable; and so the so- during the greater part of the year are the ciety has shown wisdom in encouraging usual Amana hours of from 7 to II a. m. marriage among its youth. Without this and from 12:30 to 6 p. m. But during the change in attitude toward the institution summer months when the orders for the fall the family the Community of True Inspira- trade are being filled the mills run from half tion would probably have repeated the his past four in the morning to eleven at night tory of the Shaker societies.

(the factories are lighted throughout by It is a highly significant fact that Amana's electric light). In spite of the long hours broad acres are among the choicest in fer and the busy machinery there is a very untile Iowa, since mutual sympathy and com usual factory air about the Amana mills. mon beliefs without economic prosperity are

The rooms are light and airy. There is a not abiding bonds of union. Indeed the

cushioned chair or stool for every worker perpetuity of such a society as Amana de "between times." An occasional spray of pends ultimately upon the physical environ- blossoms on a loom frame reflects the spirit ment of which the soil is the most important of the workers. Here and there in different factor. While agriculture is not the chief

parts of the factory is a well equipped cupindustry, it is carried on with the German board and a lunch table where the different proneness for system in the most modern

groups of workers eat their luncheon in the and scientific methods.

middle of each half-day. In the villages

where the factories are located, the boys of The general plan of the field work is determined by the Board of Trustees, but a

thirteen, or fourteen years of age who are field “boss” or superintendent is responsible about to leave school are employed in the to the society for the proper execution of their orders. He sees that the farm machinery is kept in order, he appeals to the elders for more men to work in the field when necessary, and he obtains from the "boss” of the barns and stables the horses that are needed.

From fifteen to eighteen ox teams are used for the heavy hauling, it being the experience of the society that oxen are better than horses for work which requires heavy and steady pulling. When the worldly visitor watches these splendid animals as they come meandering down the flower-bordered

[graphic]

ICE CART, DRAWN BY OXEN.

« PreviousContinue »