Amana Colonies Anyone?

Sometimes I'm asked by people about the "Amana Colonies" in Iowa and how they are connected to the Amish.  The short answer: they're not.  From what little I know, the Amana Colonies were a communal society that had/has its roots in the Pietist movement.  The Amish-Mennonite-Hutterite religions have their roots in Anabaptism (adult baptismal).  Both movements were reactions against the reformation when Martin Luther split from Catholicism, but the pietist movement - while sharing similarites to the Anabaptists - was decidedly different.   Anyway, back to the Amana Colonies: The Amana Corp. recently hired a new CEO to oversee their the vast economic empire.  The Amana Colonies were a pietist, communal society up until the 1930s, but my understanding is that they then formed the Amana Corporation to oversee the colony's holidings and diversify economically.  The CEO oversees it just like a regular company.  Today, the Amana Colonies comprise a diverse economic base and are much different from their original agrarian, communal roots.  Have any of our readers been to the Amana Colonies?  What is it like?  Are there actually people still living communally there or is it pretty much all tourism/re-creation?

Amana Colonies

"Time is free, but it's priceless. You can't own it, but you can use it. You can't keep it, but you can spend it.  Once you've lost it, you can never get it back."

We get up towards Iowa City fairly often to go shopping (life's greatest pleasure Smile), and the Amana Colonies is on our way to the Williamsburg outlet mall.  So we did stop once.  I don't remember much about it, but you could walk through this little town and see different trades and there was tons of stuff to buy.  To the best of my recollection, it didn't remind me so much of the Amish as it did the early pioneer type people.  It felt like a reenactment kind of thing.  That was a long time ago, so I really don't remember much about it.  BUT... I can tell you as you drive through on the Interstate/Hwy/whatever it is, EVERYTHING from the gas stations to the restaraunts have an "Amana" associated name, so to me it really seems like quite the tourist area.  But I am sure there is something to be learned there if you were to take the time.  Me, I am usually rushing off to get as much shopping done before I have to get home Wink

Re: Amana Colonies Anyone?

I'm ashamed to admit that I have never been to the Amana Colonies while living here in Iowa for all these years.  My family had ordered Amana Ham from their catalog and the ham is really good.  About a month ago I Googled about the colonies and learned quite a bit.  I'm a very courious person so I'm always Googlin' wanting to learn just about everything :)

We're also in the process of getting iced and snowed in here at home also....just glad I stocked up from the Grocery Store earlier :)

Re: Amana Colonies Anyone?

Oh, I've been there many times. I live not far away. One thing to note is that there are seven (I think) separate colonies, and they're all different. I've mostly been to Main Amana. It's full of little shops and many excellent restaurants. If you visit, be prepared to leave five pounds heavier. :) There are also larger businesses that are open; you can visit the Woolen Mills and see cloth being made, or see furniture taking shape at the Furniture Shop. It being in Iowa, if you're interested, you can usually find someone to talk to you about it too; everyone's pretty friendly.

There is no communal living any longer, but they do have an excellent history center in Main Amana that tells about how the Amanas were before "the Change". There are also communal buildings preserved in several of the other colonies that are operated as museums.

There's certainly plenty for the casual tourist to see and buy without exploring the roots of the place, but for those who are interested in knowing more, there's a wealth of information in the museums and in the people. The Change (when the colonists voted to end communal life) only happened in 1932, so there are still people alive who remember life before, and their descendants. These are the people that make up the Amana Heritage Society (which operates the museums), and they want to present an accurate portrait of life as it was.

Re: Amana Colonies Anyone?

Emily, thank you, superb post!  I'm glad you brought up the term "The Change" because I forgot to in my post....but your point about there being people alive who remember the colonies before "The Change" is one I hadn't thought about....they'd, of course, be up there in age,but I'd love to talk to some of those people....there's no better record of history than someone who had actually lived it....How  I would have loved to have sat down and interviewed Albert Woolson....he was the last living Civil War vet who just died in 1956. Can you imagine being able to sit down with a Civil War vet in, say, 1952 and talk to someone who had first-hand experience in the war?  Wow. 

Re: Amana Colonies Anyone?

Kevin (and anyone else who might be interested),

THE book on living in communal Amana and the Change is called "A Change and a Parting". The author is a woman who was fifteen at the time of the Change. Her account of growing up in the communal society is very interesting and personal; it provides plenty of information on the Amana religion and lifestyle, but is never dry.

(I'm in the process of being snowed in at home, so I have a lot to say today. :) Forgive, please!)

Post new comment

The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Allowed HTML tags: <iframe> <p> <br> <br /> <a> <em> <strong> <cite> <code> <ul> <ol> <li> <dl> <dt> <dd> <img> <object> <param> </param> <embed> <span> <div>
  • You may post PHP code. You should include <?php ?> tags.

More information about formatting options

CAPTCHA
This question is used to make sure you are a human visitor and to prevent spam submissions.
Image CAPTCHA
Copy the characters (respecting upper/lower case) from the image.