An Artist Among The Shakers

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“I had come to visit the people in that quiet Shaker village upon the mountain terrace,” Benson John Lossing wrote in August of 1856. This prolific author and illustrator, best remembered for his monumental Pictorial Field Book of the Revolution , planned to write an article about the New Lebanon community for Harper’s New Monthly Magazine . His sympathetic account, illustrated with engravings based upon the watercolors in the following portfolio, appeared the following year. Lossing was not among the scoffers. “Order and Neatness there held high court with a majesty I had never before seen,” he wrote. “The very dust in the road seemed pure. …” His descriptions and paintings of Shaker industry, customs, and worship were both exact and respectful. “Whatever may have been the scenes among the Shakers … of which many have spoken with contempt and ridicule, it can not be denied that their public worship at Lebanon is dignified, solemn and deeply impressive.” He was, he continued, “filled with new emotions, for I was in the midst of social and religious novelties. ” The painting above shows the entrance of the New Lebanon community, including the dwelling house of the “North Family.”