White Water Shakers — History Online


Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division, HABS OHIO,31-WHIT,6-1

I’ll never forget the time my sister and I used a free 10-hour AOL CD to dial into the Internet. Even though I consider myself a “child of the Internet” I have never bought into the hype of 20 years ago:

“The Internet will replace books, it will be the best place to access information” etc. Some events this week, however, have given me pause to reconsider.

I’m editing a video tour of the meeting house in White Water Shaker Village. At the start of the video, Jim Innis, vice president of Friends of White Water Shaker Village, gives a brief history of the Shaker settlement. This is a perfect place to insert some historic photos of the site, so I immediately reach to contact Jim to request some photos.

But on a hunch I think, “What the heck, I’ll see what’s on Google.”

I was shocked at the wealth of information, all free, that was available from a simple Google search.

After typing “White Water Shaker Village” and making a few clicks, the rabbit hole led to the Library of Congress web site, where I was directed to the Historic American Buildings Survey.

In 1933, the National Parks Service established this program to document America’s architectural heritage through photographs, text and scale drawings. All of this collected data is housed at the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C.

Today, this wealth of information is available to anyone with an Internet connection , all free of charge, and all within the public domain.

So here’s my list of online resources that I discovered thanks to the Library of Congress web site:

Whitewater Prints & Photographs Collection , This is the collection of photographs taken of Whitewater, OH as part of the Historic American Buildings Survey. Most of these photos were taken in 1974. If you’re having trouble with the above link, visit the Historic American Buildings Survey homepage and in the search box enter “whitewater shaker.” That will bring up the same results.

Union Village Measured Drawings
, Many of the White Water Shakers settled from Union Village near Lebanon, Ohio. This survey page contains detailed scale drawings of the architecture of a Shaker dwelling house. The last two drawings give details of doors, hinges, latches, pegs and stairs that were located in the house. Many of the construction details mirror those found at White Water.

“Origin, Rise, Progress and Decline of the Whitewater Community of Shakers Located in Hamilton County, Ohio” , My search of the Library of Congress brought up this book published in 1904 , and it can be read in its entirety on Google Books.

Now, I will never think that the Internet will replace books, but I can say I haven’t been this excited about the web since I first logged in 20 years ago.

, Drew DePenning

One thought on “White Water Shakers — History Online

  1. Larry Chenoweth

    Drew,
    My wife and I recently visited the Minello museum in Orlando, Fl. On display there were pencil drawings of rural scenes all over America during and just after "The Great Depression". The drawings were part of the many public works projects such as the WPA, CPA, or others referenced by a series of letters. The program sent artist out to document the rural landscapes, buildings, and lifestyles. Not only did they put artist to work but they also hired photographers to take pictures as you said to document and archive the architecture of this great country of ours. Some of the pictures you found at the Library of Congress surely were created as part of one of the afore mentioned programs to put people to work. If you check back at the Library of Congress you may be able to find some pencil sketches of these buildings. I remember my grandfather telling me something when I was a little kid and had no idea what "The Great Depression" or the WPA were. He said that driving down the road during the time of those programs, you could always tell a WPA job from a private sector job. The WPA job always had about five or ten times the number of men required to actually get the job done, as the mission was to put men to work not efficency. I know this later part has nothing to do wih the Shaker communitty but it allowed me to pass on some knowledge handed down to me many years ago from a man I loved and dearly miss.

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