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The turn of the 19th century was a period of optimism, especially among citizens of the new United States. Americans expressed their exuberant faith in their political institutions and society by founding countless reform movements and associations. A series of religious revivals that became known as the Second Great Awakening also encouraged people to believe that they could and should work to establish God's kingdom here on Earth. Some Americans channeled the perfectionist impulses of the Second Great Awakening into utopian societies. These cloth and wooden shoes belonged to a member of the Dorrellites, a utopian society located in Leyden, Massachusetts. The Dorrellites refused to consume or use animal products of any kind, and believed in free love. As with many Utopian groups, their leader, William Dorrell, claimed semi-divine powers. Dorrell (1752-1846) had fought for the British army during the American Revolution. He escaped after being taken prisoner at Saratoga and settled in Leyden, Massachusetts. Dorrell proclaimed himself a new Messiah but later recanted, dying in poverty at the age of ninety-five.


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Shoes of William Dorrell (1752-1846)

creator   Unidentified
date   c. 1800
location   Massachusetts
process/materials   cloth, wood
item type   Personal Items/Clothing - Footwear
accession #   #MH.0309

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