February 13, 2009

Amish Oxymoron

From the Religious News Service blog:

Amish oxymorons

You know those ads for "Amish" electric fireplaces? If you've read a national newspaper in the last year, ya do. We've kicked the idea of looking into them for a while, seeing if they're really Amish-made and all that. Well, the New York Times beat us to it.
Of course, most Amish families do not hook up to the electric grid, which makes an Amish electric heater seem a little oxymoronic.
That's not to say Amish homes and businesses don't have electricity, however. All but the most conservative Amish use portable electric generators, and hybridize common household appliances with diesel engines, hydraulic power systems, batteries, or other energy sources, as scholar Donald B. Kraybill relates in his book "The Amish Struggle with Modernity."
The NYT found that the "Amish man's new miracle idea" is, at least in part, made by the Amish (the "miracle" refers to the realistic fake flame). Amish craftsmen in Holmes County, Ohio (home to the largest Amish settlement in the world) make the wood mantles; the heater is "a work of engineering genius from the China coast," according to the ads.
David Baker, vice-president of Heat Surge, the company that makes the fireplaces and is based near Holmes in Canton, Ohio, told the NYT that: "It became clear through test marketing the American population is infatuated with - and understands the quality of - an Amish product."
But even Baker said he's surprised at how much attention his heaters have garnered: "I think a lot of it goes back to the irony of the Amish and an electric fireplace," he said. "How can that be? It's like skintight baggy pants. ...The Amish are bringing us new ideas every day."
(The pretty picture is by the NYT)

Posted by Daniel Burke at 3:04 pm