Life in the Amana Colonies

Time Frame: 1855--present

The Inspirationalists established six villages that comprised the Amana Colonies in Iowa. They lived a communal life.
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The Amana Society would give you well, a house to live in and it was furnished so it became a home. And you also had a door income, an allowance, now this was not a cash, this was credit established for you. So this is what the old Amana colony did for you in a physical sense.

The driving forces in the colony were the Werkzeug. They selected the elders and together they ran spiritual and business affairs of the colony. Their churches were simple buildings with wooden benches, the people dressed plainly in dark clothing and the women kept their heads covered.

Oh we used to have a lot of fun. People worked together and they enjoyed it. Even with the kitchen, even cleaning onions and picking out potatoes, we had a heck of a good time. I think more than the kids do now. Just—you know—just plain simple things. Happiness meant more at that time then money.

The colonies were practically self-sufficient. They produced most of their own food. They had their own millers, tinsmiths, cabinetmakers, carpenters, black smiths and harness makers. Yet they did have a limited trade with the outside world. The woolen goods from their mills acquired a wide reputation for quality. They shipped out their woolen goods and farm produce by rail and they shipped in raw wool, machine parts and some dry goods. For several decades the communal way of life worked well. But as time went on, people discovered they were fed, clothed and sheltered whether or not they worked. When a terrible fire destroyed their woolen mills and the Great Depression struck America, the Amana Colonies found themselves on the verge of financial disaster.


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