About the donation of the Collection

The core of the Shaker Collection was donated to the Williams College Library in 1931 by Edward B. Wight, Class of 1907. In a 1937 letter to George J. Finney, Wight described his interest in the Shakers and his subsequent acquisition of Shaker material.

". . . I first became interested in the Shakers in my high school days, at Milwaukee, just an academic and casual interest. I had a Uncle and Aunt living in Troy, with whom I spent the Summer of 1902. The Shakers were then still numerous and prosperous, although few younger people among them. I visited that summer the Watervliet Shakers, at Niskayuna, between Troy and Schenectady . . . During my college life, which was from September 1903 to June 1907, I used to spend my short vacations, Easter, etc., bumming my way around New England and adjacent parts of New York State. I took occasion to visit the Shakers frequently, and was much impressed with the sanctity, efficiency, as well as the ultimate futility of their lives . . . I found [the Shakers] most cordial and hospitable, and their cooperation encouraged my budding desire to learn more about them and their history. The collection of their literature and manuscripts was a natural corollary.

Almost all of the items by the Shakers I secured directly from their villages. They generally turned me loose and told me to help myself. Occasionally I found an old cupboard or trunk that had not been opened for fifty years. Those items against the Shakers (Dyer, Chapman, etc.), were very difficult to secure; they came mostly from book shops in New York City, Boston, Albany, Troy, Worcester and Hartford and Springfield . . . "