Change in the Amana Society

During the 1920s and '30s the Amana people experienced economic hardships. In 1932 the colonies changed from a communal to a noncommunal society.


We refer to the conversion in 1932 as the “Great Change.”

It became your obligation to go out and find employment. It became your obligation to clothe and feed your family and to pay your taxes. So this was the burden that was lifted off the old communal Amana society and assumed by the individual.

I can remember the change. I can remember what my father and mother had to do in order to compensate for the change. And it must have been a frightening thing for those people because most of them had never handled money, they didn’t know what a budget was. They had to buy—at that time—kerosene stoves and dishes and everything. And they had to break down recipes from the kitchen that had been in bushels and pecks to teaspoons and tablespoons. It was just like starting a society from scratch. The pay initially was relatively meager. And my father spent most of his winter months chopping wood for the community. Mom went out to the potato patch or onion patch to weed or to harvest. In the course of becoming a commercial corporation, services became available. People from the outside became aware of the fact that the amount of products were quality products. When the corporation saw how lucrative it was to make a dollar from the visitor, they started gearing in that direction.

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