Bibliography G. Eric and Edith Matson Negatives www.loc.gov/pictures/collection/matpc/bibliography.html Library of Congress Resources Electronic John D. Whiting Papers hdl.loc.gov/loc.mss/eadmss.ms008123 G. Eric and Edith Matson Papers hdl.loc.gov/loc.mss/eadmss.ms010210 Visual materials from the papers of John D. Whiting www.loc.gov/pictures/item/2008676355/ Visual Materials from the American Colony in Jerusalem Collection lccn.loc.gov/2010646709 G. Eric and Edith Matson Negatives www.loc.gov/pictures/collection/matpc/ Geography and Map Division of the Library of Congress www.loc.gov/rr/geogmap/ Motion Picture,...
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A Community in Jerusalem
The story of the American Colony in Jerusalem begins with Anna and Horatio Spafford of Lake View, Illinois, and the involvement of their family in the 1873 shipwreck of the luxury steamer, the Ville du Havre. The majority of passengers traveling aboard the Ville du Havre lost their lives in that catastrophe in the mid-Atlantic. Among the drowned were the Spaffords' four young daughters.
Soon after he came to Chicago from Troy, New York, in 1856 to practice law, Horatio Gates Spafford became an intimate part of a circle of evangelical Protestants who centered around his friend, the influential revivalist Dwight L. Moody. He and Moody met in programs at the Young Men’s Christian Association in midtown Chicago, where Horatio availed himself of the advantages of the library,...
Enterprise and Social Service
The Vester and Co.-American Colony Store was just one of the enterprises operated by members of the American Colony that had a significant impact in Jerusalem. In its first five decades of existence, the American Colony developed important auxiliary functions in the realms of commercial photography, business, and medical and social services.
The travelers from America took up residence in a house on the Old City wall, located in the Muslim Quarter, between Herod's Gate and Damascus Gate. Among them were regulars from the house meetings at the Spafford's home in Lake View. There was Mary and John C. Whiting, and their small daughter Ruth; Amelia "Elizabeth" Gould, a well-to-do widow; William Rudy, a business man...
As time progressed, many colonists distanced themselves from the colony’s more overtly religious origins. Death or disappointment surprised some of the most pious members, and original founders aged into secondary roles. Many who had grown up as children within the colony left to seek education or work abroad, or preferred a different kind of life as adults. Several younger members who remained became engaged...
On a clear night in November 1873, days into a trans-Atlantic voyage, the Ville du Havre was inexplicably rammed at sea by a passing vessel, the Loch Earn. Among the passengers who were startled from their sleep were Anna Spafford and her children. They were on their way to Europe with family friends. Horatio Spafford had stayed temporarily behind in Chicago to see to...
The Pasha's Palace
The arrival of the large influx of Swedish members in the spring and summer of 1896 meant that the colony had outgrown their original living quarters in the house on the Old City wall. The colony retained the Old City building. It would become home to a photography laboratory and sewing rooms, and be used as a school and eventually as a baby home,...
In the decade of the 1890s, the colony grew more ethnically diverse and attracted new members locally and through immigration. The colony as a whole expanded in membership and in economic self-sufficiency. By the turn of the century, the colony essentially functioned as a settlement house and as a hostel for foreign and regional travelers.
While accepted and admired in many quarters of the city, the colony was not without its detractors. American consuls with more conservative religious beliefs served as long-term critics of the colony’s less-than-traditional organizational structure and practices. They were, in effect, diplomatic thorns in the side of the colony, clashing over issues as disparate as custody rights and cemetery usage. Some leaders of foreign missionary...
1828 to 1873
1828 Oct. 20 Birth of American Colony founder Horatio Gates Spafford, in Lansingburgh (North Troy), N.Y. (d. 1888). His father Horatio Gates Spafford, Sr., (b. 1778) was born in Vermont, in a family originating in Yorkshire, England. Named for the Revolutionary War general Horatio Gates, the elder Spafford was an inventor and writer, author of a popular gazetteer of the state of New York.
1873 to 1881
1873 Nov. 22 - Dec. 1 While progressing across the Atlantic ocean in the middle of the night, the luxury steamer Ville du Havre is mortally damaged in a shocking collision with another vessel, the Loch Earn, under starlit skies. The Spafford party and a group of ministers who befriended them on the ship are among the passengers who gather on deck as the...
1881 to 1896
1881 August 17 - September The Spafford family and a core group of their millennialist "Overcomer" friends depart the Chicago area and travel to the Holy Land. The travelers includes Mary and John C. Whiting and their young daughter Ruth (b. 1880), Horatio Gates Spafford's visionary sister Margaret Lee (d. 1891), well-to-do Chicago widow Amelia Gould (Sister Elizabeth) (d. 1914), business man William Rudy...
1896 to 1915
1896 April and August The American Colony increases dramatically in size and ethnic diversity as groups of Swedish millennialists migrate to Jerusalem to join the community. Members of the Swedish Evangelical Church of Chicago, Ill., led by Olaf Henrik Larsson arrive in Jerusalem in April, after becoming impressed by Anna Spafford during her time in Illinois. Other Swedes, including Tipers Lars Larsson and many...
1916 to 1930
1916-1918 The population of Jerusalem drops significantly in war time, as residents are deported, drafted into military service or labor, and suffer from famine and disease. American Colony members engage in relief efforts and public health and social welfare activities for the local populace during World War I, including operation of a volunteer nursing corps and a supper kitchen. Bertha Vester organizes a sewing...
1930 to 1980
1931 As the economic Depression deepens, the struggling Vester and Co.—American Colony Store in New York is sold to Nils Lind, son-in-law of Frederick and Bertha Vester.
The Bertha Vester Diaries
By the first part of the 1900s, first-generation founders of the American Colony in Jerusalem had passed away or grown elderly. Esteemed matriarch Anna Spafford continued to offer inspiration to followers, but she focused primarily on religious guidance of the polyglot American Colony community of Americans, local converts, and Swedes. Second-generation members who had come to Jerusalem with their parents as children or teenagers,...
The Locust Plague of 1915 Photograph Album
Witnesses to the locust invasion that befell Jerusalem and the nearby Syrian region in 1915 agreed that they had seen nothing to equal it in their life-times. It was truly a natural disaster of biblical proportions.