The Amana Colonies were created, built and settled by radical Pietists, primarily from Germany in Iowa, comprising seven villages. Calling themselves the Ebenezer Society or the Community of True Inspiration, they first settled in New York State near Buffalo in what is now the Town of West Seneca. However, in order to live out their beliefs in more isolated surroundings they moved west, to east-central Iowa (near present-day Iowa City) in 1856. They lived a communal life until the mid-1930s. Due to this, the Amanas are sometimes mistaken for Amish.
A striking feature of the Amana Colonies is that for eighty years they maintained an almost completely self-sufficient local economy, importing very little from the wider, industrializing U.S. economy, and at the same time the level of physical comfort, housing, possessions, education, and social and cultural amenities were comparable to that enjoyed by average middle class American office workers, factory workers, and tradesmen of the time. The Amanians were able to achieve this independence and life style by adhering to the specialized handcrafts and farming occupations which they had brought with them from Germany. Master craftsmen passed on from one generation to the next the knowledge, techniques, and skills of the artisan iron and copper smiths, wood wrights, weavers, shoemakers, cheese makers, etc., in the old fashion. They used hand, horse, wind, and water power, and lived a sustainable, pedestrian community life.