Buckminster Skeeter: Wanna buy a watch?

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Amish Furniture

While driving back from out of town last week I took notice of a billboard advertising Amish Furniture. It's really nothing new as there are many furniture and knick knack stores who sell Amish furniture. Take a look online, you'll see hundreds of sites selling the stuff. I started wondering about the Amish. It seems to me that the stereotypical Amish use no electricity, motorized devices, or otherwise 'advanced technology' (developed after the 1800's). So this is old world craftsmanship producing a hand made, long lasting piece of furniture. Sounds great! By the way, I applaud the Amish for their success in furniture making. It's great for a religion to have a product that it is known for other than it's doctrine.

Then I started thinking - There sure is a lot of "Amish" furniture for sale in this country. There must be millions of Amish men lined up somewhere cranking out Adirondack Chairs and picnic tables. So I did a little research.

There are approximately 190,000 Amish in this country. That's it. Not a lot.
The Amish have several 'branches' - some are more progressive (worldly) than others. The largest are Swartzengruber, Old Order, Andy Weaver, and New Order Amish. I think it'd be really cool to have a branch of religion named after you - Andy Weaver Amish!!!. I haven't had time to research Mr. Weaver yet but I bet it's a fascinating story. I don't know if I could get used to describing myself as Andy Weaver Amish. Buckminster Skeeter Amish - has a nice ring to it.

Anyway, the Swartzengruber are the most conservative and the New Order are the most progressive. The New Order, although only a small percent of the total Amish, partake in pneumatics tools, skidders, and many kinds of machinery which can make production easier. They still shy away from your day to day electricity, cars, etc...

According to Mark Nordstrom at BOWLING GREEN STATE UNIVERSITY the Amish have, in recent years, been entrepreneurial. Although farming still provides the majority of the income for the Old World Amish, only about 1/3 of New Order Amish make their living from crops. Many have branched out to provide services to theirs and other Amish communities while some have reached out to non-Amish consumers.

It is my guess that it is a very small portion of these New Order Amish who have built factories to mass produce Amish Furniture. I see no other way that a few thousand Amish men (when you take 190,000 population and subtract out females, children (7 per family average) , and farming men) could produce the numbers of Amish furniture hitting the market. Before, I would see a piece of Amish furniture and imagine Eli and Jebadiah working a hand planer over the raw oak. Their calloused hands guiding the hand tools which have been in their families for generations. Now when I see one I will think of a full scale, semi-modernized factory complete with machinery and advanced production technology.

I hope I am wrong. I hope there is not a handful of men exploiting the respectable image of the Amish. Then again, they are Amish. I guess it's not really an outright lie.

I'm reminded of a quote by the hilarious Dave Atell. "I love making fun of the Amish. You know why? Because they're never gonna find out."

2 Comments:

Blogger Dr. Metal said...

I bought pickles off an Amish guy once. He was on the side of the road--but not sitting. He must have sold his chair earlier in the day.

8:25 PM  
Blogger mugwump said...

The women bake well. You haven't lived until you've had some of their pound cake.

4:14 AM  

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