IDEAS home Printed from
MyIDEAS: Log in (now much improved!) to save this paper

Regional Specialization in Communal Agriculture: The Shakers, 1850- 1880

Listed author(s):
  • John E. Murray

    (University of Toledo)

  • Metin M. Cosgel

    (University of Connecticut)

When the Shakers established communal farms in the Ohio Valley, they encountered a new agricultural environment that was substantially different from the familiar soils, climates, and markets of New England and the Hudson Valley. The ways in which their response to these new conditions differed by region has not been well documented. We examine patterns of specialization among the Shakers using the manuscript schedules of the federal Agricultural Censuses from 1850 through 1880. For each Shaker unit, we also recorded a random sample of five farms in the same township (or all available farms if there were fewer than five). The sample of neighboring farms included 75 in 1850, 70 in the next two census years, and 66 in 1880. A Herfindahl-type index suggested that, although the level of specialization was less among the Shakers than their neighbors, trends in specialization by the Shakers and their neighbors were remarkably similar when considered by region. Both Eastern and Western Shakers were more heavily committed to dairy and produce than were their neighbors, while Western Shakers produced more grains than did Eastern Shakers, a pattern imitated in nearby family farms. Livestock and related production was far more important to the Eastern Shakers than to the Western Shakers, again similar to patterns in the census returns from other farms. We conclude that, despite the obvious scale and organizational differences, Shaker production decisions were based on the same comparative advantages that determined production decisions of family farms.

If you experience problems downloading a file, check if you have the proper application to view it first. In case of further problems read the IDEAS help page. Note that these files are not on the IDEAS site. Please be patient as the files may be large.

File URL:
Download Restriction: no

Paper provided by University of Connecticut, Department of Economics in its series Working papers with number 1997-02.

in new window

Length: 19 pages
Date of creation: Nov 1997
Publication status: Published in Communal Societies, 1999, pp. 73-84.
Handle: RePEc:uct:uconnp:1997-02
Contact details of provider: Postal:
University of Connecticut 365 Fairfield Way, Unit 1063 Storrs, CT 06269-1063

Phone: (860) 486-4889
Fax: (860) 486-4463
Web page:

More information through EDIRC

No references listed on IDEAS
You can help add them by filling out this form.

This item is not listed on Wikipedia, on a reading list or among the top items on IDEAS.

When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:uct:uconnp:1997-02. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Mark McConnel)

If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

If references are entirely missing, you can add them using this form.

If the full references list an item that is present in RePEc, but the system did not link to it, you can help with this form.

If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

This information is provided to you by IDEAS at the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis using RePEc data.