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Jonathan Jeffrey and Donna Parker write of the three prevailing textile industries at South Union: flax/linen, wool, and silk. Surprisingly, the Shakers at South Union, Kentucky produced linen and woolen fabric using methods similar to their non-Shaker neighbors. Silk was the exception, as it process was rare in the region even in its day. You do, however, sense a drive and dedication behind the Shakers’ work not always found in that of the “world.” Because the motivation was a spiritual one, an effort to worship through even the most routine of tasks, the Shakers not only provided for their needs, but sought to please God through perfection in work. By examining the documentation related to the three South Union textile industries, the patterns of development and demise of the industries appear rather matter-of-factly, leaving us to only imagine the hard labor, frustrations, triumphs and personal gratification related to these important enterprises.

Publication Date



Shaker Museum at South Union


South Union, Kentucky


Cultural History | History of Religion


Jonathan Jeffrey, is the Department Head for the Department of Library Special Collections and the Manuscripts & Folklife Archives Coordinator. He is responsible for managing the department and for acquiring, accessioning, cataloging, and providing reference services for unique manuscript items as well as folklore collections.

A Thread of Evidence:  Shaker Textile Industries at South Union, Kentucky