It’s always a joy to see an Amana display, especially when it includes toys. Toys are one of those wonderful things I write about! When in Amana Colonies for the Prelude to Christmas, I stopped at the Amana Heritage Museum to see the exhibit: A Century of Dolls and Toys at Christmastime. It was fascinating to note this exhibit reflected the Amana way of life.
The Amana Colonies are a National Historic Landmark. The Colonies are one of America’s longest-lived communal societies. In Germany beginning in the early 1700’s, a group of religious Pietistes believed that God, through the Holy Spirit, inspired individuals to speak.
The group known as the Community of True Inspiration were led by Christian Metz. Fleeing Germany they hoped for religious tolerance in America. According to Amana history, “Leaving in 1843-44, community members pooled their resources and purchased 5,000 acres near Buffalo, New York. By working cooperatively and sharing their property, the community, now numbering some 1,200 people, was able to carve a relatively comfortable living. They called their community the “Ebenezer Society” and adopted a constitution that formalized their communal way of life. When more farmland was needed for the growing community, the Inspirationists looked to Iowa where attractively priced land was available. Land in the Iowa River valley was particularly promising. Here was fertile soil, stone, wood, and water enough to build the community of their dreams. In 1855 they arrived in Iowa”.
Communal Way of Life
After the Amana Villages were established, the villagers lived communally. There were over 50 communal kitchens that provided three daily meals. In these kitchens they offered a mid-morning and mid-afternoon snack to all Colonists. These kitchens were operated by the women of the Colony. The communal kitchens were supplied by the village smokehouse, bakery, ice house and dairy. The huge gardens, orchards and vineyards offered the needed food for the kitchens and they were all maintained by the villagers.
Communal Kitchen Display
I was fascinated to see among an Amana display the doll house exhibits Michael Hofer’s display of a communal kitchen dollhouse. He built this for his younger daughter Catharina around 1900. There is also a neat black and white photo of a young girl playing with the doll house circa 1910. A second communal kitchen dollhouse was built for Hofer’s older daughter Susanna in the 1890’s. These treasures offer a wonderful insight into the communal way of life.
In the Amana Heritage Museum, which is located in the original village schoolhouse, doctor’s residence there is another wonderful display by Ferdinand Zscherny. He made a communal kitchen dollhouse and wooden furniture for his daughters in the 1870’s. George Erzinger, the Amana tinsmith made the tinware accessories.
Everyone that loves Barbies will enjoy the variation of Barbie dolls on display along with a United airplane. This is something I had never seen before. The Barbie plane offers an interesting pairing .
Stables and more
The display is open through the rest of December and included a few cool stables and variations of other toys as well.
The Amana Heritage Museum is just one of the Museums that shares the fascinating Amana Heritage History! I enjoy stopping and taking in displays and learning about cultures in corners of the world whenever I can. Read about other fun times in Amana we often find ourselves in this amazing area!