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Dig Antiques - Real stuff without the fluff.

September 2012

The Challenge in Discerning Amish and Mennonite Differences

Amish and Mennonite antiques are highly collectible including quilts, rugs, baskets, cloth toys and sewing items. They have a reputation of being finely made. Often times the Amish and Mennonite label is used interchangeably. But there are differences between the two sects that are meaningful.

The Mennonites were a religious sect that grew from the Anabaptist movement that started in Switzerland in 1525 and spread throughout Europe. Menno Simons was a Catholic priest in Holland who joined the Anabaptists. He was an early church leader with significant teaching and writing. It is from his name that the term “Mennonite” comes.

Quilt Kalona Historical Museum

Quilt image from
Kalona Quilt & Textile Museum

The Amish were formed in 1693 as a split from the Mennonites when a young minister named Jacob Ammon from Switzerland felt that the Mennonites were not practicing some of the doctrines that were once taught, especially shunning. His followers were referred to as Amish Mennonites.

The first Mennonites came to the New World in 1683 to escape persecution and for religious freedom at the invitation of William Penn. Later, many came for economic reasons and also to escape the military draft in Germany. The Amish did not start arriving until the 1720s. The Mennonites first settled in the Germantown area, and then Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. The Amish settled in Lancaster Country and in areas north of Lancaster County. They also settled in Virginia. The earliest of Mennonite and Amish antiques come from these areas.

Many of the Amish and some Mennonites moved west soon after areas were deemed to be safe for settlement – in Belleville, Somerset Country Pennsylvania and Maryland. In the early 1800s many moved on to Ohio, northern Indiana and Illinois. By the mid 1800s, Amish moved to the area around Kalona, Iowa.

There are common beliefs including adult baptism and commitment to nonviolence that characterize both the Mennonites and the Amish. However, their social customs are very different. Mennonites generally are more liberal than Amish. Today, most Mennonites live in homes with electricity, own and drive cars, have televisions and attend movies and generally embrace technology. Amish still have no electricity in their homes, drive horse and buggy (although they will get into a car with an “English” driver) and do not have personal cell phones or other technology for their personal use.

As always, generalizations can be difficult since the more conservative Mennonite communities can be closer to Amish. Another complicating factor is that customs vary by location. But generally, we can say that Amish textiles are plainer and darker than Mennonite. So for instance, Amish quilts and clothing are generally made from solid, dark colors. Mennonites will use textiles with colorful patterns. But looking at a quilt that has red and assuming it is Mennonite, may not be accurate since some Amish communities have allowed red – especially ones from the early 20th century that may have been made specifically for sale. Also, the Pennsylvania Amish actually used red in some of their earlier quilts so you will see earlier quilts with red attributed to them. It just underscores how difficult it can be to determine if a quilt came from an Amish or Mennonite community.

See Amish and Mennonite available on Dig Antiques.

Additional Resources:

Kalona Quilt and Textile Museum
Amish, Wikipedia.
Mennonite, Wikipedia.
Those Folks in the Movie are Amish, not Mennonite,
I’m Mennonite, Not Amish: 7 Common Questions, The Femonite: Musings from a Mennonite Feminist


Rocking Chair Rapport
Written by Guest Columnist: Lyn Andeen

The weather here in southwestern Tennessee is just beautiful. 71 degrees and not a cloud in the sky; it’s a perfect fall day. There is no leaf color yet, but what a beautiful season. All this makes me very nostalgic.

I miss all those small church antique shows that used to crop up all season long!  The days of going to owner operated shops has certainly dwindled. There are still a few non group shops that you can go to and sit for a while and talk about the item you’re interested in. You know what I mean, the story! Where it came from, etc. Or compare stories about the last show you went to or set up at.

I could be melancholy about it or get with the program! The internet has become the new rocking chair. People are blogging, "liking", and skyping, oh my! We have developed rapport with internet shop owners and scout friends for finds.  Recently I was on the hunt for a pair of red children’s shoes. I made my wants known to a few close friends and received email pics. Mission accomplished. In an effort to keep up with the times I joined Dig Antiques. I have found it to be a great fit. I like emailing more details about inquiries and welcome "rocker talk", and enjoy writing these country ramblings articles. Isn't that why most of us are in the business? It’s because we love the stuff, the story, and of course buying and selling?

At a spring Country Spirit antique show I was so pleased with the comments of one of the customers. She loved that even though she was just browsing I was willing to give some history on a piece and share information. After almost 30 years as a dealer I am still excited to learn something new or share information. I was thrilled to have seasoned and new collectors craving country and develop more rapport and friendships. It is great to put a face to a name, and so shows are still a great way to connect.

It’s too bad those rocking chairs are so hard to pack. It would be nice to sit a while.

About Lyn Andeen
Lyn Andeen has been an avid collector and dealer for the past 28 years. She has been in group shops, setup at countless antique shows and has a true artistic eye. Lyn's passion is for quality 18th through early 20th century Americana, decorative arts, Shaker and folk art. You can find Lyn online through Andeen Antiques.


Learning Along the Way

Earlier this month we made our way from New York to California along the northern route, simply following Route 80. We like to try and stop for at least a day along the way to see and learn new things. This time we stopped in Kalona, Iowa staying at a B&B and learning more about the Amish and Mennonites. Like many too many of us "English", as the Amish call anyone that is not Amish, we knew very little about either sect. Kalona has a great historical village and also a quilt and textile museum. We thoroughly enjoyed viewing the separate Amish/Mennonite and "English" quilt rooms. The quilts were some of the most beautiful we have seen. Every three months they change the quilts on exhibit so a stop in the future will enable us to see different quilts.

Also in the same location is a Mennonite museum. In additional to general information, the museum was filled with cases from different Mennonite families in the area. Each family chose what to put in their case making them very personal stories. There was something so satisfying to know that we were viewing items with a real family connection.

We hope you enjoy learning just a small summary of what we were able to learn in our visit to Kalona, Iowa.

Check out the Shops on Dig Antiques. It's easy to open your own Shop or advertise your website through Dig Antiques.

Tom & Sheila Baker

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