a virtual fieldtrip - by Alan A. Lew

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Satellite image of Philadelphia (the large black splotch) on the Delaware River. New Jersey is to the east and Pennsylvania is to the west of the river. Trenton, NJ can just barely be seen at the top right of the image. The Piedmont Fall Line can be seen to rise just to the east of Philadelphia. Red = summer vegetation; White = lower density suburbs and smaller farms. Schuylkill River comes into the Delaware River from the west.


On the Piedmont west of Philadelphia


Amish farmlands of eastern Pennsylvania's Lancaster County

Agriculture in the Megalopolis region consists mostly of high value "Table crops", including dairy products, tomatoes, lettuce, apples. These are high priced food products that are also highly perishable. Their short distance to large markets helps to reduce the cost of transportation.

The Amish grow most of the food they eat themselves. Their main crops are hay, wheat, barley, rye and corn. Tobacco is grown in more southerly areas. Much of their farming is communal, including barn raisings and loaning equipment.


Typical Amish Farm -- large barn/farm buildings, often directly connected to main house

Plain Dutch (traditional, with suspenders) and Fancy Dutch farmers working together

William Penn advertised his land sales throughout Europe, which proved particularly attractive to disenfranchised peoples. Among them were the Amish, who settled throughout the rolling Piedmont hills between Philadelphia and the Appalachian Mountains, as well as in the Midwest region of the US. The Amish came from the Low Countries - Benelux, N. France& N. Germany - and they continue to speak an old form of German.

William Penn brought several hundred Amish over in mid 1700s because their beliefs were similar to those of the Quakers (Penn's religion). During the French Revolution (1789-1796) hundreds more fled to US, and by 1860 some 3,000 Amish had immigrated to the US. The typical Amish family has seven children and today there are over 90,000 Amish in 20 US states & Canada, though they reside mostly in Pennsylvania, Ohio and Indiana. Each home typically houses three generations at one time.

Covered bridge - found in this region and further north through New England; a few are also found in Oregon

Amish town of Intercourse, Pennsylvania, founded 1754. Some of the other Amish town names include: Bird in Hand, Paradise, Ninepoints, Strasburg, Soudersburg, Hessdale and New Holland.

Children ride in the back of a horse-drawn Amish carriage

The Amish religious sect came out of Protestant Reformation in Europe and their name comes from an early leader - Jacob Ammann (1690s). They are also know as Anabaptists. A former Amish settlement, the Ammana Colony in Iowa, founded the Ammana appliances company. When their religion was founded, soldiers were identified by their mustaches, so Amish men shave their mustaches to indicate antiwar sentiments. They were persecuted in Europe primarily because of their pacifist beliefs at a time of considerable turmoil.

Horse drawn ride for tourists

Amish youth pulled by horses past tourist shops

The Plain Dutch Amish consists of two sects: Old Order Amish (with 90 congregations in Lancaster County) have no cars, electricity or telephones. New Order Amish (with two congregations in Lancaster County) have no cars, but do have electricity and phones. Most today use propane due to requirements by the federal government for pasteurizing dairy products. Their houses are all painted white, though three colors are allowed inside: blue, green and brown, representing sky, grass and earth. . The mother makes all the clothes worn in the family by hand, except for men's Sunday suits. Fancy Dutch is the name given to those who have moved away from the traditional religion and have become modernized.

The Fancy Dutch are typically not Amish, but belong to various other religious sects and lead more modern lifestyles.

Amish tourism

The Amish have been very good at "Boundary Maintenance" -- keeping the public-tourist aspect of their communities separate from their private home life. All of the tourism in Lancaster County is managed by Fancy Dutch.

One Room School House with "Authentic Lifelike Scholars" -- [ almost like NAU ;-) ]

The Amish run their own schools and believe that the 'only education is that needed to farm' (for boys) and to be a good wife and mother for girls.

Tiles in the restroom of an Amish gift shop ("Please Stand Close and Be Care Ful")

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* All photos copyright by Alan A. Lew, (2002, All rights reserved), except those marked by an asterisk (*) which come from other sources.