A History of Innovation

A History of Innovation

Founded in 1818, New Lebanon, New York has stood at the center of many important developments in American history.

It was here in 1787 that the Shakers, aiming to create heaven on earth, established their national headquarters and accepted leadership for efforts to bring the world closer to perfection, championing gender equality, abolition of slavery, free education, vegetarianism, temperance, natural healing and an unmatched tradition of perfectionism in their work and craft.

It was in New Lebanon that John Kendall invented the first calibrated thermometer.

In 1804, Jesse Torrey founded what is generally recognized as the nation’s first free lending library.

In New Lebanon in 1824, the Tilden Family founded the world’s first natural pharmaceutical factory.

It was here in 1827 that the great evangelist Charles Finney, insisting on leadership roles for women in the church and on the abolition of slavery, won over conservative churchmen.

In 1845  Dr. Joel Shew, founder of hydrotherapy in America, harnessed the famed New Lebanon springs to establish his world-renowned therapeutic baths and natural health center. He hired women’s health advocate Mary Gove Nichols to serve as physician.

Today, taking our cue from our forebears, the citizens of New Lebanon are again pioneering a new idea. Behold! New Lebanon is building the nation’s first museum of contemporary rural American life.  Honoring the techniques and know how of generations past, we are updating them to forge a sustainable future, one we would like to share with you.

You may have visited historic museums where costumed docents play characters from yesteryear and demonstrate skills of times long since past. But during “Behold! New Lebanon,” we will introduce you to the way we live and work today and offer you an opportunity to learn, appreciate, and try our way of life.

We invite you to Behold!