THE favorite catchword of modern design—"Form follows function"—is nothing new, but the craftsmen of an old American religious sect put it more logically. To the Shakers it was: "Every force evolves a form."

Their leader, "Mother Ann" Lee, reached the colonies from England in 1774, with her own mystical version of the Protestant faith. Mother Ann insisted on strict communal life, with all property held in common, equality of the sexes combined with absolute celibacy, and simplicity and directness in all things. "Be hand-minded," she would urge. "Put your hands to work and your hearts to God." Soon there were 19 self-contained...

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