IDEAS home Printed from
   My bibliography  Save this paper

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


  • 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.

Suggested Citation

  • John E. Murray & Metin M. Cosgel, 1997. "Regional Specialization in Communal Agriculture: The Shakers, 1850- 1880," Working papers 1997-02, University of Connecticut, Department of Economics.
  • Handle: RePEc:uct:uconnp:1997-02

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL:
    Download Restriction: no


    Citations are extracted by the CitEc Project, subscribe to its RSS feed for this item.

    Cited by:

    1. Chelsea Fisher, 2018. "Towards a dialogue of sustainable agriculture and end-times theology in the United States: insights from the historical ecology of nineteenth century millennial communes," Agriculture and Human Values, Springer;The Agriculture, Food, & Human Values Society (AFHVS), vol. 35(4), pages 791-807, December.

    More about this item


    Access and download statistics


    All material on this site has been provided by the respective publishers and authors. You can help correct errors and omissions. 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: . General contact details of provider: .

    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.

    We have no bibliographic references for this item. You can help adding them by using 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 RePEc Author Service profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: Mark McConnel (email available below). General contact details of provider: .

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

    IDEAS is a RePEc service hosted by the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis . RePEc uses bibliographic data supplied by the respective publishers.