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Amana Community


AMANA COMMUNITY, a society of German pietists whose founders immigrated to the United States in the mid-nineteenth century. The community had its roots in Germany, where a pietistic sect called the Inspirationists had established the Community of True Inspiration to protest the arbitrary rule of church and state. For mutual protection, the Inspirationists congregated on several large estates, but high rents and unfriendly governments forced them to seek a new home in America. Under the leadership of Christian Metz, the Inspirationists crossed the Atlantic in 1843 and founded Ebenezer, a settlement near Buffalo in Erie County, New York. Here, they formally adopted communism as a way of life and developed a complex of six villages with jointly owned mills, factories, and farms.

The rapid expansion of nearby Buffalo threatened the isolation that the Inspirationists had sought in North America, and in 1855 they moved to the frontier state of Iowa, an increasingly common destination for many nineteenth-century immigrant religious communities. They located in Iowa County, incorporated as the Amana Society, and once more built houses, churches, schools, stores, and mills, and continued their community life of "brothers all." Eventually, fifteen hundred people inhabited seven Amana villages and owned 26,000 acres of prime farming land.

By the early twentieth century, both neighboring communities and industrial capitalism had begun to encroach upon the Amana villages. As memories of the founding Inspirationists faded and the old idealism grew dim, the communities' characteristic spiritual enthusiasm waned. By unanimous vote, the community reorganized in 1932 on the basis of cooperative capitalism as a joint stock company in which both business owners and employees held stock. For nearly a century, the Amana Community conducted the most successful experiment in American communism and established itself as the nation's longest-lasting communal society.


Barthel, Diane L. Amana: From Pietist Sect to American Community. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1984.

Ohrn, Steven G. Remaining Faithful: Amana Folk Art in Transition. Des Moines: Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs, 1988.

Bertha M. H.Shambaugh/s. b.

See alsoMigration, Internal ; Pietism ; Utopian Communities .

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