Holding the Line: The Telephone in Old Order Mennonite and Amish Life

Overview

Among the Old Order Mennonite and Amish communities of Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, the coming of the telephone posed a serious challenge to the longstanding traditions of work, worship, silence, and visiting. In 1907, Mennonites crafted a compromise in order to avoid a church split and grudgingly allowed telephones for lay people while prohibiting telephone ownership among the clergy. By 1909, the Amish had banned the telephone completely from their homes. Since then, the vigorous and sometimes painful ...

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Overview

Among the Old Order Mennonite and Amish communities of Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, the coming of the telephone posed a serious challenge to the longstanding traditions of work, worship, silence, and visiting. In 1907, Mennonites crafted a compromise in order to avoid a church split and grudgingly allowed telephones for lay people while prohibiting telephone ownership among the clergy. By 1909, the Amish had banned the telephone completely from their homes. Since then, the vigorous and sometimes painful debates about the meaning of the telephone reveal intense concerns about the maintenance of boundaries between the community and the outside world and the processes Old Order communities use to confront and mediate change.

In Holding the Line, Diane Zimmerman Umble offers a historical and ethnographic study of how the Old Order Mennonites and Amish responded to and accommodated the telephone from the turn of the twentieth century to the present. For Old Order communities, Umble writes, appropriate use of the telephone marks the edges of appropriate association—who can be connected to whom, in what context, and under what circumstances. Umble's analysis of the social meaning of the telephone explores the effect of technology on community identity and the maintenance of cultural values through the regulation of the means of communication.

Johns Hopkins University Press

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Editorial Reviews

Harrisburg Patriot

Umble offers a historic perspective on how members of the close-knit communities and their leaders responded to the challenges posed by the intrusion of the telephone into long-standing traditions of work, silence, and visiting in the early 1900s... A book that is useful in fostering understanding of the origins, philosophy, and lifestyle of the Plain People and enjoyable for its often humorous account of what life was like in America before the telephone reached out and touched everyone.

Booknews
A historical and ethnographic study of how the Old Order Mennonites and Amish responded to and accommodated the telephone from the turn of the century to the present, analyzing the social meaning of the telephone, how technology affects community identity, and the maintenance of cultural values through the regulation of the means of communication. Includes b&w photos. For academics and general readers. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780801863752
  • Publisher: Johns Hopkins University Press
  • Publication date: 2/20/2000
  • Series: Center Books in Anabaptist Studies Series
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 192
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.50 (d)

Meet the Author

Diane Zimmerman Umble is an associate professor of communication and theater at Millersville University.

Johns Hopkins University Press

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Table of Contents

List of Illustrations
Preface
Acknowledgments
I Conceptual and Cultural Foundations
1 Wer Bischt Du? Who Are You? 3
2 Who Are the Old Order Amish and Mennonites? 20
3 Community and the Web of Communication 42
II The Coming of the Telephone to Lancaster County
4 We Want Telephone Connections 63
5 An Amish Mennonite Telephone Company: The Conestoga Telephone and Telegraph Company 73
6 Competition Heats Up: The Enterprise and Intercourse Companies Compete for Customers 88
III Divine or Sinful? Competing Meanings of the Telephone
7 Divine Service or Devil's Workshop? Meanings of the Telephone in the Early Twentieth Century 107
8 On the Line: Renegotiating the Telephone Rules 134
9 Drawing the Line: The Shifting Meaning of the Telephone in Old Order Life 152
Appendix 161
Notes 167
Bibliography 175
Index 185
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