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The "Blue Gate" Myth

One of the most famous (and incorrect) myths about the Amish is that of the "Blue Gate." The story goes that when an Amishman has a daughter eligible for marriage, he paints the gate blue. But drive through the countryside as much as you wish, and youíll probably never see a blue gate on an Amish farm.

Perhaps the earliest know printed references to the story was in the February 1937 issue of Esquire magazine. In the same year, Berenice Steinfeldt wrote her booklet "The Amish of Lancaster County" that "the sign of a blue painted gate grew to be the advertising sign of an Amish daughter ready to marry."

Only recently, a box of notecards for sale locally showed an Amish boy and girl by a blue gate, with the following captionÖ "When a Dutch girl feels fer courtiní, (At least they say itís true), Her Pop chust take a can of paint, And makes the front gate blue!"

How did this tale get started?

According to Steinfeldt, the blue gate story got started around the turn of the century when a trolley ran from downtown Lancaster east along the Lincoln Highway, now Route 30. A well-known Amish bishop lived on the road, and he often received visitors from many areas. The bishopís home had a blue gate and, since this was the most simple way to spot it, people were told to tell the trolley conductor to drop them off at the blue gate. Apparently the reason the gate was blue was because the bishop was fond of the color.

Amish historian David Luthy, in discussing the blue gate myth, refers to a 1980 letter from a Lancaster Amishman, which seems to support this explanation. In it the writer noted that in the old days people had picket fences around their yards and gardens, and they were often whitewashed every spring. He felt the gate might have been painted blue so dirt wouldn't show as much, since the gate was handled more than the rest of the fence. He writes, "Yes, some Amish did paint their gates blue, and our Bishop Benjamin F. Beiler had a blue gate probably longer than most people. When people came from the West and didnít know where to go, they were told to take the Coatesville trolley and get off at the blue gate, which of course was the Bishopís."

Today there is a roadside stand on Route 30, and a sign marking it as the "Blue Gate Farm." Is there a blue gate there today? No, weíre afraid not. Today both the gate and the fence are wire. If you do find a blue gate on an Amish farm, be sure to let us know. We havenít seen one yet; nevertheless, there seem to be plenty of Amish weddings every year!

Amish Country News Article by Brad Igou, (1991)

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