Sunday, November 30, 2014

Victorian Picture Hangers

Decoration in the home was not supported much in early Amana so any small touch that could be added, was,  and very much appreciated. These small pieces of decor were Victorian Sandwich glass knobs and picture hangers. They were one piece artworks done around 1890. The hangers had glass heads that was left to be displayed above the picture while a long wire held the picture below the nail. They were curtain throwbacks as well.The glass designs were copies of English and Irish cut and pressed glass made in Sandwich, Mass. between 1825 and 1888. It was a simple way to show some color and creativity in the home.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Yarn, cord Winders and Swifts...

There were many wooden tools made by local woodworkers some of which were
the yarn or cord shuttle, garden sticks,  and the yarn swifts. . Each helped to keep yarns and cords from getting tangled, ready to make into balls and ready to use. The cord shuttles were usually made of bleached pine, while the yarn winders were made of walnut or other hard woods. A must for a knitter, weaver, crocheter, gardener and preparing the deadline or garden rows.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Mesquakie Bead Trading

The land that interested the Inspirationists upon their arrival in the Iowa River Valley was once fertile land that the Mesquakie Nation once had claim to but that claim expired in 1843 so there was no problem with conflict.  The Mesquakie people would visit or come to set up camp to harvest edible tubers of the American lotus on the area Lily Lake. They knew the land of 26,00 acres well as they used to hunt there in the 1840's later trading game and pelts for medical care and fine Amana woolens. West was the first Amana Village they would visit from Tama. Trades for fresh bread, flour, and grains were made with beads. Sometimes they traded items they made as bead trimmed pin cushions or coin purses of woven beads both transparent ( trade use) and opaque beads (tribal use). Historically the Plains Indians favored beads which were ready made trade goods that they used to decorate everyday and ceremonial objects, using thousands of pony and seed beads and quills for their complex tasks. (1830's). Later in the 1850's only beads and ribbon decorated objects. Until 1900 most bead designs were abstract and geometric- elegant, precise, and beautifully unified and colored, influenced by European designs and beads. The Mesquakie enjoyed a good relationship with German, Amana ancestors. My friend's aunt traded flour for a beautiful, zippered coin purse with a bead-colored, geometric design of diamond shapes on a white background of opaque beads! That flour must have been very important to the Meaquakie that day.

Monday, November 17, 2014

The Sundial..

The Sundial is a device used to tell the time of day by the position of the Sun. In this design which is a horizontal sundial, the Sun casts a shadow from its stylus onto a surface marked with lines, and some not marked, indicating the hours of the day by a thin rod known as a gnomon. On this sundial, as the Sun moves across the sky, the shadow-edge aligns with imagined numbers of the hour. All sundial must be aligned with their styles parallel to the axis of the earth' s rotation to tell the correct time throughout the year. The hour angle must be geographically and horizontally correct as well. There is a sundial located on the old church in High Amana, now the Amana Art Guild, and on the Lace Haus, the former Gene Leichsenring home, in Amana.

Sunday, November 16, 2014


In the 1850's pine seedlings were brought from Canadian forests near Ebenerzer, NY, because Iowa had no native pines. Wood was very important to the community, especially for buildings and crafts. Groves of white, spruce, and larch pines were planted and maintained by the school children in South Amana, East Amana, and Amana. These seedlings were from one of the Ebenezer, New York villages. These " school forests" or Schulwalden were special places where children played, families had picnics, and couples took long walks there. The last Amana Schulwald pine trees were downed during World War II,  but South and East Amana's still stand. Homestead has its own pine grove now, planted in the 1940's. In the 1970's a small grove was planted by a local teacher and her students on the banks of Price Creek, where one was originally planted in 1860's. These are all very stately groves. 

Friday, November 14, 2014

The Amana Style Bench...

Often outside Amana homes and businesses you will see a very comfortable bench on which to rest your weary feet and admire the surroundings. Built by local wood workers it seems it was a design of Mr A.T. Berger in Upper South Amana. Most were left to weather naturally, some were painted. The curved back and foot rest made it quite unique and comfortable. Berger was very talented and now many other wood workers make them.

Amana washboards and tubs

This item was useful in the community wash houses. These boards, with their grooved scrubbing surfaces, made it easier to wash clothes before machines were invented. The grooved surfaces were made of wood ( Scandinavia), zinc or copper or iron or glass  (American).They were framed in wood and usually factory made. The boards were placed in a hot tub of water, usually heated in the wash house, placed near a deadline and readied to wash on Mondays.  Soap was handmade at the local soap works. The wash was put in wooden baskets and carried to the clothesline, pinned to hang in the sunshine.



Thursday, November 13, 2014

The Washboard and Tub

This item was useful in the community wash houses. These boards, with their grooved scrubbing surfaces, made it easier to wash clothes before machines were invented. The grooved surfaces were made of wood ( Scandinavia), zinc or copper or iron or glass  (American).They were framed in wood and usually factory made. The boards were placed in a hot tub of water, usually heated in the wash house, placed near a clothesline and readied to wash on Mondays.  Soap was handmade at the local soap works. The wash was put in wooden baskets and carried to the clothesline where it was pinned to hang in the sunshine.



Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Die-Cut Calendars

Pressed cardboard, die- cut calendars were manufactured in Germany after World War 2 and some before, into the early 1950's. Through trade relations, many were exported to the US. Some were stamped where made, others not. They varied in size and used for advertising. The graphics were great, nice color, beautiful detailing, and intricate cut outs. Some of them were embossed or raised in the design. A calendar fit in the bottom slots. Some Amana Society businesses would give the clients or special customers a piece like this during the holiday season. They were very much admired and requested for their well made quality. Very collectible, they are small treasures.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Iowa Valley Byway

In 1998 an Iowa county committee of three developed a plan for a new Iowa Valley Scenic Byway. It was supported by the Iowa Department of Transportation. The prime time for the creation of these scenic roads was 1910-1926, now numbered instead of named. A new Byway logo and signage was created along with outreach programs to create an awareness of this new Byway. It runs from Tama, including the Native American Mesquakie Settlement,  to the Amana Colonies, focusing on the cultural and historical attributes of the trail towns.  It is 77 miles long and follows the Iowa River Valley including Iowa, Benton and Tama counties. It passes through the towns of Amana Colonies, Marengo, Kosta, Chelsea, Tama, and Montour. There are some incredible views and wildlife habitats to see along the Iowa River trail while bypassing the main traffic areas.

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Bell Tower

Each village in the Amanas had a bell tower near each end of the village. The bells inside rang four times daily, Monday to Saturday and three times on Sundays. During summer workdays the bells rang at 6 and 11:30 a.m. and 12:30 and 6:30 p.m. to end the day. On Sundays the bells rang at 8 and 11:30 a.m. and 6 p.m. A man that lived nearby was responsible for ringing the bells at the correct times, checking the accurate Regulator clocks at the railroad station or General store. Townspeople would set their home clocks and watches to the bell tower bell.  The sound of the bells ended with the close of the communal system in 1932.

Friday, November 7, 2014

The Pharmacy


In Amana, Homestead and Middle there were licensed pharmacies at one time. The quality of the drugs prepared for the outside market was not big, only special orders filled. Local doctors got supplies at these pharmacies. The Inspirationists of Amana were the first group west of Chicago to begin manufacture of pepsin and was considered one of the best on the market at that time. The chemist, Conrad Schadt,was instrumental in making it. The Amana pharmacies had an excellent reputation due to Amana ingenuity, inventive skill, dexterity, and general business saavy. The old buildings are now retail businesses. There is now a pharmacy/clinic located near the bank in Amana that serves many villages and nearby communities.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

The Meat Shop

The meat shops in old Amana used to supply the kitchen houses meat for the communal kitchens. Each village had one in business for most of the time, now only Amana meat market is Society owned and operational. The one in Homestead is private, owned by a nice couple that keep food natural. The one South Amana had an arched ceiling to smoke meat. It later was the Colony Market Place restaurant, now a studio.  Amana meat shop is largely a mail order business, especially at Christmastime. It is busy during the tourist season as well and still supplies locals.  It is well known for its made in house brats which are plain or smoked. Cheeses, salads, fresh meats, dried beef, pickled ham and other savory and sweet items are sold. Hams were once hung in the smoke tower all day long to preserve and cure it to the to the old world standard of Westphalia, Germany. Gift and kitchen items are also available for purchase in a meat market much the same in the interior as it was 50 years ago. Pictured are the late Carl Sontag and Carl Oehl.  AMS photos, my photos