Library of Congress > Collections with Manuscripts > American Colony in Jerusalem, 1870-2006

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.

    Portrait of Horatio Gates Spafford, ca. 1885.  Photo by G. Krikorian Studo, Jerusalem.  American Colony in Jerusalem Collection, Manuscript Division, LOC

  • 1842

    Birth of Olof Henrik Larsson in Sweden (d. 1919). As the leader of a Swedish evangelical sect in Chicago, Larsson will head a contingent of devout Swedes living in America to join the American Colony in Jerusalem in 1896.

  • 1842

    Mar. 16

    Birth of American Colony founder Anna Tubena Larsson (Anne Tobine Larsdatter Øglende), Stavenger, Norway (d. 1923). Anna’s father Lars Larsson (Bjarne Lars Larsen Øglende) is a farmer and skilled cabinet and violin maker.

    Anna Spafford, [Chicago, Illinois], ca. 1860s-1870s. American Colony in Jerusalem Collection, Manuscript Division, LOC

  • 1846

    Anna T. Larsson (Øglende) emigrates from Norway to the United States with her family. Landing in New York, the family travels to Chicago, Ill., the gateway to the West, to settle among other Scandinavian immigrants. Anna’s father Americanizes the family name to “Lawson.”

  • 1849

    Anna Lawson’s mother Tanetta and baby brother Hans die in a cholera epidemic in Chicago. Anna, age 7, remains in Chicago and attends Dearborn Academy at the generosity of family friend Sarah Ely. She excels at the school and is recognized for her musical ability. Her father homesteads in Minnesota with her ten-year-old half-brother Edward.

  • 1856-1857

    Anna Lawson moves to the family’s remote farm near Wanamingo, Minnesota, to keep house and care for her half-brother and their invalid father, who is dying from tuberculosis. After Lars Lawson passes away, Edward remains in Minnesota, while Anna returns to Chicago to live with her married half-sister Rachel Fredrickson. She finds work as a waitress.

    Business card of Spafford, McDaid  & Wilson, Chicago, Illinois. American Colony in Jerusalem Collection, Manuscript Division, LOC

  • 1856-1861

    Horatio Gates Spafford moves to Chicago. A Republican temperance and anti-slavery advocate, he supports Abraham Lincoln’s candidacy for the presidency and practices law in a private firm downtown. He is active in the Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA) in midtown, with its library, lectures, and literary clubs. He invests in real estate speculation, mining, and other ventures, and manages private trusts for clients as an executor.

  • 1857

    Anna Lawson comes to the attention of Presbyterian Sunday School teacher Horatio Gates Spafford when she attends his class with a friend. Spafford is impressed by the teenager’s maturity and deft abilities in debate, as well as by her beauty. He begins to court her.

  • 1857-1860

    Anna Lawson is schooled at Ferry Institute for Young Ladies in Lake Forest, Ill. with financial help from Horatio Gates Spafford. She graduates in 1860. In 1859, Horatio begins teaching medical jurisprudence classes at what later will be Northwestern University.

  • 1861

    Sept. 5

    Horatio Gates Spafford and Anna Lawson marry at the Second Presbyterian Church in the South Side of Chicago. They take up residence in a home in Lake View on the northern outskirts of Chicago, with plans to begin a family.

  • 1861-1865

    During the Civil War, Horatio Gates Spafford works with the Christian Commission arm of the YMCA, while Anna Spafford volunteers with other women in fund-raising for the U.S. Sanitary Commission.

  • 1862-1871

    Births of Spafford daughters Anna (Annie) (b. 1862); Margaret (Maggie) (b. 1863); Elizabeth (Bessie) (b. 1866) and Tanetta (b. 1871), all of whom will perish together at sea in 1873.

    Portrait of Tanetta Spafford. Image from photograph album owned by the Spafford Family. American Colony in Jerusalem Collection, Manuscript Division, LOC

  • 1862-1870

    Horatio Gates Spafford, from youth a poet and religious song writer, composes lyrics to hymns. He is part of a circle of evangelists and religious musicians in the Methodist tradition that includes composer P. P. Bliss, gospel musician Ira D. Sankey, and influential preacher and revivalist Dwight L. Moody. Spafford visits jails and hospitals as part of Moody’s group to offer evangelistic services. He observes revivalists in a trip to London, England, in 1870. Moody will play a part as a spiritual advisor and comforter when tragedy strikes the Spafford family in 1873.

  • 1871

    German colony founded by South German Protestants from Würtemberg in Valley of Rephaim, Jerusalem.

  • 1871

    October

    The Great Fire strikes Chicago, Ill., and destroys a large part of the city. Horatio Gates Spafford suffers serious financial reversals in his real estate and business investments, but the Spafford’s Lake View home is unscathed. The Spaffords offer refuge to friends fleeing the disaster.

  • 1873

    The Spaffords' already challenged financial standing becomes increasingly precarious with the economic downturn of 1873.

    Anna Spafford and her daughters depart for Europe from New York as passengers aboard the luxury ship Ville du Havre, while Horatio Gates Spafford stays temporarily behind to attend to business in Chicago. The pair plan to live abroad and educate the girls for a year in European schools. The Spafford traveling party includes a French governess for the children, Mlle Nicolet, and young William (Willie) Culver, the son of family friends from Chicago.

    The great fire at Chicago, October 8th, 1871. Lithograph. New York: Currier & Ives, ca. 1871. Prints & Photographs Division, LOC, LC-DIG-pga-00762

Next: 1873 to 1881
Back to top: Back to Top

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 Ville du Havre is sinking. After life boats prove too few or unuseable, the majority of those aboard the vessel die in the disaster. The four Spafford girls, their governess, and their family friends are lost. Anna Spafford is among those rescued from frigid water. In all, some 232 perish in the shipwreck.  Anna is among the 87 who survive, 60 of whom are officers or crew. She and other survivors are transported to safety aboard a passing cargo ship, the Trimountain.  Upon reaching shore in Cardiff, Wales, Anna  telegraphs the tragic news to her husband in Chicago that she among their traveling party is “saved alone.”

    The sinking of the steamship Ville du Havre.  Photographic copy print of lithograph. New York: Currier & Ives, ca. 1873. American Colony in Jerusalem Collection, Manuscript Division, LOC

  • 1873

    Horatio Gates Spafford writes the lyrics for the popular hymn of faith and consolation, “It Is Well with My Soul.”

  • 1874

    At Dwight L. Moody’s encouragement, and as an andedote to grief, Anna Spafford volunteers to do anti-vice work among Chicago’s poor as a volunteer with the Women’s Christian Temperance Union (WCTU).

     

    Draft manuscript of hymn “How Long, O Lord!” by Horatio Gates Spafford. American Colony in Jerusalem Collection, Manuscript Division, LOC

  • 1876

    November 16

    The Spaffords begin their family anew. A son, Horatio Spafford, is born at Lake View. The boy will die of scarlet fever at home,  Feb. 11, 1880.

    “It is Well With My Soul,” with music by P. P. Bliss, is copyrighted in 1876. It is first sung at Farwell Hall, Chicago, in November.

  • 1878

    Horatio Gates Spafford publishes Waiting for the Morning and Other Poems in Chicago, including the lyrics to “It is Well With My Soul”.

    Sisters Grace and Bertha Spafford, Jerusalem, 1880s. Image from portraits of the Whiting and Spafford families and other members of the American Colony (Jerusalem) photograph album (page 6, no. 6). Visual Materials of the John D. Whiting Papers, Prints & Photographs Division, LOC, DIG-ppmsca-18413-0006

  • 1879

    Mar. 24

    Birth of the Spaffords' daughter Bertha Spafford in Illinois (d. 1968). In her adulthood Bertha Spafford (Vester) will assume leadership of the American Colony in Jerusalem and become involved in social service work with women and girls in Jerusalem.

  • 1876-1881

    The Spaffords and friends Mary (Lingle) Whiting (1850-1931) and John C. Whiting (d. 1886) join others in splitting off from their Fullerton Avenue Presbyterian Church congregation. They begin to hold prayer meetings in Lake View. Their group of faithful stress the mercy of God and optimism in religious practice. They believe, with many others of their era, that the Second Coming of Christ is nigh. They are popularly dubbed “Overcomers.”

    Wedding of Edith and Lewis Larsson, American Colony, Jerusalem, 1912. G. Eric & Edith Matson Collection, Prints & Photographs Division, LOC, LC-DIG-matpc-23227

  • 1881

    Jan. 18

    Birth of the Spaffords' seventh and last natural-born child, a daughter, Grace Spafford in Illinois (d. 1964). Grace Spafford will travel to Palestine with her parents as an infant and grow up in the American Colony in Jerusalem. She will spend her lifetime as a primary member of the colony and die in Jerusalem. She works in her youth as a teacher, volunteer, and nurse.

  • 1881

    Birth of Hol Lars Larsson (Lewis Larsson) in Sweden (d. 1958). While an American Colony member Larsson will become a principal photographer of the Middle East.  He served for many years as the Swedish Consul in Jerusalem.

Next: 1881 to 1896
Back to top: Back to Top
Previous: 1828 to 1873

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 (d. 1915), Lizzie and Otis Page (Brother Samuel) and their daughter Flora (who would marry Fareed Naseef), and a young nanny, Annie Aiken. Captain William and Mary Sylvester join them in Great Britain. Upon arrival in Jerusalem, this group of eighteen men, women, and children take up residence in a house on the Old City wall in the Muslim Quarter, between Herod’s Gate and Damascus Gate. They soon found a benevolent utopian Christian Protestant community that becomes known as the American Colony. They pool their resources and live communally. Without actively seeking converts, they do benevolent works, forge ties with local Arabs and Jews, and promote interfaith appreciation and friendship.

    Sheep market outside Herod’s Gate, Jerusalem. Visual materials of the John D. Whiting Papers, Prints & Photographs Division, LOC,  LC-DIG-ppmsca-18903

  • 1882

    British Opthalmic Hospital founded in Jerusalem by the Order of St. John.

    June 10, 1882

    John D. Whiting (d. 1951) is the first baby born in the American Colony in Ottoman Palestine. After his birth the colonists move increasingly towards the observance of celibacy. Through prayer, Horatio Gates Spafford and the Whitings come to the conviction that community members should endeavor to focus on affairs of the spirit rather than of the body. They hope that practicing celibacy, as many religious orders do, will promote feelings of equality and brother-sister relationships among members of the colony, rather than special focus on particular family members, and that this discipline will help members achieve spiritual readiness for the coming Millennium.

    William Rudy, one of the original members of the American Colony. Image from portraits of the Whiting and Spafford families and other members of the American Colony (Jerusalem) photograph album (page 8, no. 8). Visual materials of the John D. Whiting Papers, Prints & Photographs Division, LOC, LC-DIG-ppmsca-18413-00008

  • 1882-1885

    Selah Merrill serves his first term as American Consul in Jerusalem. Though lacking personal observation of the community, Merrill is highly critical of the American Colony’s communal ethos and non-denominational religiosity. Conflict with the American Consul’s office and the State Department marks the colony’s formative years. Merrill serves additional terms as U.S. Consul in Jerusalem in 1891-93 and 1898-1907.

    Amelia Gould (Sister Elizabeth), one of the original members of the American Colony. Image from portraits of the Whiting and Spafford families and other members of the American Colony (Jerusalem) photograph album (page 10, no. 13). Visual Materials of the John D. Whiting Papers, Prints & Photographs Division, LOC, LC-DIG-ppmsca-18413-00013

  • 1883

    Horatio Gates Spafford teaches English at the Alliance Israelite boys’ school  in Palestine.

  • 1882-1888

    American Colony member and Christian convert Jacob Eliahu (b. 1864)  is adopted by the Spaffords and takes their name. A Sephardic Jew from Ramallah, Jacob Spafford (Brother Jacob) is a student teacher at the London Jews Society mission school when he forms friendships with American Colony members. He continues to join relatives for Jewish holidays and observances while serving in a long and highly respected leadership capacity in the American Colony. He is particularly close to Anna Spafford, who relies on his stewardship and business acumen. Jacob Eliahu Spafford, who counted English, Spanish, Swedish, Arabic, and Hebrew among his fluent languages, will die in an automobile accident in Palestine July 19, 1932.

    Jacob Eliahu Spafford at the American Colony. Image from portraits of the Whiting and Spafford families and other members of the American Colony (Jerusalem) photograph album (page 11, no. 20). Visual Materials of the John D. Whiting Papers, Prints & Photographs Division, LOC, LC-DIG-ppmsca-18413-00020

  • 1885

    Sept. 10

    Horatio Gates Spafford’s young nephew and adopted son Robert (Rob) Eugene Lawrence (b. 1861), becomes the first of the original colony members to die.  Lawrence succumbs to sun stroke after working in high heat conditions in the desert, preparing ground to plant trees at an Arab village.

  • 1886

    Dec. 5

    Original colony founder John C. Whiting dies of liver congestion in Jerusalem, and is buried at the American Cemetery, Mount Zion.

    In Memoriam” card for Horatio Gates Spafford, 1888. American Colony in Jerusalem Collection, Manuscript Division, LOC

  • 1888

    Oct. 16

    American Colony leader Horatio Gates Spafford dies from “congestive chills” (malaria or a malaria-like illness). The grief-stricken Anna Spafford is criticized for the degree of joy and optimism she chooses to attach to her husband’s death, as she emphasizes his salvation and transition to heaven to their followers.

  • 1888

    Anna Spafford assumes leadership of the American Colony.

    American Colony youth, Jerusalem, Summer, 1896. Image from members and activities of the American Colony (Jerusalem) photograph album (page 23, no. 78). Visual Materials of the John D. Whiting Papers, Prints & Photographs Division, LOC,  LC-DIG-ppmsca-15830-000078

  • 1893-1898

    Edwin S. Wallace serves as American Consul in Jerusalem. Like Selah Merrill, he is suspicious and obstructionist in his views of the American Colony. In 1897-98 the colony members come to loggerheads with him over desecration of colonists’ graves in the American Cemetery on Mount Zion. The remains are disinterred without notice and bones intermingled under a change in administration of the burial yard.

  • 1895-1896

    With support from the American Consulate in Jerusalem, U.S. relatives of Mary Whiting challenge Whiting’s fitness as a parent. A custody case ensues over guardianship of  John D. Whiting and his older sister Ruth. With a $60,000 inheritance at stake, willed to the children by their maternal grandmother, a trial to determine the merits of the matter takes place in Chicago. The Whiting and Spafford families and other American Colony members travel to America. Anna Spafford gains newspaper publicity for her spirited testimony as to the religious beliefs in the community. The court finds in Mary Whiting’s favor and dismisses the petition against her. The Whiting children are free to return to Jerusalem. Meanwhile, Anna’s charismatic personality gains new converts to the American Colony enterprise among a group of Swedish-Americans who offer her hospitality during her stay in Chicago.

    Young American colonists visit Chicago, 1896. Image from members and activities of the American Colony (Jerusalem) photograph album (page 52, no. 184). Visual Materials of the John D. Whiting Papers, Prints & Photographs Division, LOC, LC-DIG-ppmsca-15830-00184

Next: 1896 to 1915
Back to top: Back to Top
Previous: 1873 to 1881

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 farmers from the village of Nås in Dalarna, Sweden, arrive in August. Like the original members, they are attracted by Anna Spafford’s spiritual leadership and embrace the idea of the impending nature of the Second Coming. The colony reaches a membership level of approximately 150 people.

    Members of the American Colony at the Tomb of Kings, Jerusalem, May 24, 1901.  Image from members and activities of the American Colony (Jerusalem) photograph album (page 38, no. 130). Visual Materials of the John D. Whiting Papers, Prints & Photographs Division, LOC, LC-DIG-ppmsca-15830-00130

  • 1896

    May-July

    In need of more living space for its many members, the American Colony leases and moves to the palatial former home of Rabbah al-Husseini, located off Nablus Road near the Tomb of the Kings, in East Jerusalem. The colony eventually purchases the property. It also retains the original building in the Old City.

    American Colony Harvest, 1904. Image from members and activities of the American Colony (Jerusalem) photograph album (page 30, no. 106). Visual Materials of the John D. Whiting Papers, Prints & Photographs Division, LOC,  LC-DIG-ppmsca-15830-00106

  • 1896-1930

    Swedish members contribute essential manual, professional, and domestic labor to the colony. Their skills in farming, animal husbandry, horticulture, photography, weaving and crafts, baking and other culinary arts, as well as the financial contributions they made upon joining the community, prove crucial to the economic health of the colony and the development of its various commercial enterprises.

    The American Colony sponsors meetings of various locally based social organizations and has its own arts club, drama club, literary club, and concert band.

    Josef Larsson in field, Mount Scopus, Jerusalem.  Image from the American Colony in Jerusalem members and trips photograph album (page 38, left). Visual Materials of the John D. Whiting Papers, Prints & Photographs Division, LOC,  LC-DIG-ppmsca-18891

  • 1897-1904

    Bertha Spafford is recruited by Ismail Bey Husseini to direct the Moslem Girls School, in Old City, Jerusalem, along with veteran American Colony teacher Johanna Brooke. As co-director Bertha oversees westernized modernization of facilities for the school. As principal in subsequent years she emphasizes vocational training of Arab girls to help promote economic options and counteract traditional practices of early arranged marriages.

    Teacher Clara Johanna [Joanna] Brooke, American Colony member.  Image from portraits of the Whiting and Spafford families and other members of the American Colony (Jerusalem) photograph album (page 10, no. 16).  Visual Materials of the John D. Whiting Papers, Prints & Photographs Division, LOC, LC-DIG-ppmsca-18413-00016

  • 1898

    American John Dinsmore (called Professor Dinsmore or Brother John) (1862-1951) and his wife Mary Dinsmore (1868-1949) join the colony with their daughter. While Sister Brooke tutors the children of the colony and teaches painting, John Dinsmore, an accomplished botanist, becomes director of the American Colony school. As a resident scientist at the colony, Dinsmore will develop a renowned herbarium of Holy Land plants.

    Bertha Spafford holding gift of the Mohammedan Girls’s School to the Emperor (Turkish coat of arms for Wilhelm II). Image from members and activities of the American Colony (Jerusalem) photograph album (page 8, no. 26). Visual Materials of the John D. Whiting Papers, Prints & Photographs Division, LOC,  LC-DIG-ppmsca-15830-00026

  • 1898

    Consecration of the English Collegiate Church of St. George, neighboring the American Colony.

  • 1898-1933

    The American Colony Photo Department is established as a commercial enterprise of the colony. Over the next three and a half decades its photographers document key events and ceremonies as well as everyday life, travel, architecture, street scenes and landscapes of the Middle East, as well as pictorial allegorical images of the Holy Land and the events of World War I, the end of the Ottoman Empire and the administration of the early British Mandate. Staff photographers, photographic assistants, and darkroom and print production experts in the first decades of operation include American Colony members Elijah Meyers (1851-1930), Furman Baldwin, Lewis Larsson, Lars Lind, Erik Lind, Olaf Lind, and Fareed Naseef, and in later years, G. Eric Matson.

  • 1898

    Oct.

    American Colony Photo Department photographers headed by Elijah Meyers are hired by Zionist Theodor Herzl to document Jewish settlements. They also photograph the historic visit of Kaiser Wilhelm II to Jerusalem. The photographs are distributed internationally, and the American Colony Photo Department begins to establish a reputation among Jerusalem photographers.

    American Colony Kindergarten, 1902. At the Old House. Image from members and activities of the American Colony (Jerusalem) photograph album (page 21, no. 72). Visual Materials of the John D. Whiting Papers, Prints & Photographs Division, LOC, LC-DIG-ppmsca-15830-00072

  • 1899

    March

    Swedish author Selma Lagerlöf (1858-1940), who in 1909 will become the first woman to win the Nobel Prize for Literature, is among guests welcomed at the American Colony by Anna Spafford. She visits Jerusalem with her close companion, Sophie Elkan, to research the stories of Swedish migrants to the colony. Her resulting two-part novel Jerusalem (The Holy City) (1901-02) is a fictional account based on the experience of the Swedish members of the American Colony who came to Jerusalem from Nås. The popularity of the novel gives rise to an annual pageant in Sweden commemorating the spiritual and actual journey of those farmers who gave up their properties in Nås to make new lives in Jerusalem.

    Edward Baldwin with sons Norman and Furman Baldwin and family.Image from portraits of the Whiting and Spafford families and other members of the American Colony (Jerusalem) photograph album (page 23, no. 37).  Visual Materials of the John D. Whiting Papers, Prints & Photographs Division, LOC, LC-DIG-ppmsca-18413-00037

  • 1899-1902

    The American Colony begins operating as a hostel for visitors to the Holy Land. Over the next decades, the Colony hosts many visiting tourists from the United States and other countries, among them leading journalists, colonial administrators and politicians, diplomats, authors, archaeologists, religious scholars, and artists.

  • 1904

    March 1

    In the first wedding allowed at the American Colony, Bertha Spafford marries member Frederick Vester (1869-1942) after an extended courtship. Born in Jerusalem, Vester is the son of  German-Swiss missionaries with long involvement in the business community. The Spafford-Vester union brings to an official end the mandate of celibacy within the American Colony. In successive years young people of the colony, Swedish, Arab, Jewish, and American in origin, enter ties of matrimony.

    Camel caravan on Mount of Olives. Image from hand-colored photographs of Jerusalem and Palestine photograph album (page 57, no. 29). Visual Materials of the John D. Whiting Papers, Prints & Photographs Division, LOC, LC-DIG-ppmsca-18417-00029

  • 1904-1948

    Vester and Co.—The American Colony Store, managed by Frederick Vester and John D. Whiting, offers commercial goods, including antiques, rugs, Palestinian embroidery, costumes, and jewelry, and souvenir postcards and photographs to a tourist trade near Jaffa Gate in the Old City, Jerusalem. Whiting and other American Colony members provide specialized guided tours of the Near East to small parties of visiting scholars and archeologists.

  • 1904-1933

    Lewis Larsson follows Elijah Meyers as director of the American Colony Photo Department.

    1905-1915

    Six children are born to Bertha and Frederick Vester. The eldest, Anna Grace Vester (Lind) (d. 1995), is born in the original Colony house in the Old City. Anna Grace in 1925 will marry Nils Lind, one of the Swedish migrants to the American Colony, a colony photographer and business man, and manager of the Colony’s short-lived New York store. Divorced in 1941, she returns to Jerusalem to help run the American Colony Hotel. At the end of her life she becomes director of the Spafford Children’s center and lives at the facility. Her brother Horatio is born in 1906, followed by Tanetta, John (Jock), Louise, and Frieda.

    Standing rear) Grace Spafford and John D. Whiting; seated (L to R), Bertha Spafford, Flora Page (Naseef), Ruth Whiting, ca. 1900. Image from studio portraits of members of the American Colony (Jerusalem), friends, and associates photograph album (page 17, no.12). Visual Materials of the John D. Whiting Papers, Prints & Photographs Division, LOC, LC-DIG-ppmsca-18411-00012

  • 1907-1910

    Thomas R. Wallace is American Consul in Jerusalem. He proves friendly to the American Colony, and to religious diversity in the city.

  • 1908-1917

    John D. Whiting is deputy U.S. Consul in Jerusalem from 1908 to1910 and again from 1915 to 1917. He specializes in geographic, agricultural, sociological and commercial policies.

    Aug. 11, 1909

    The Spafford and Whiting families are united through marriage as well as friendship, when John D. Whiting and Grace Spafford, the youngest children of original founders Mary and John C. Whiting and Anna and Horatio Gates Spafford, wed in Jerusalem.

    Wedding portrait of Frederick and Bertha Vester, March 1904 (first wedding of American Colony members). Image from members and activities of the American Colony (Jerusalem) photograph album (page 12, no. 36). Visual Materials of the John D. Whiting Papers, Prints & Photographs Division, LOC, LC-DIG-ppmsca-15830-00036

  • 1910-1918

    Four children are born to Grace Spafford Whiting and John D. Whiting. Three sons, all born in Jerusalem, live into adulthood: Spafford Whiting (b. 1910), David Whiting (b. 1912), and Edmund Wilson Whiting (1918-1975); a daughter, Grace Bertha (Baby Grace), born December 14, 1914, dies of illness while still an infant, September 30, 1915.

    1912

    Population of Ottoman Jerusalem has risen to near 70,000, in part from immigration. Suburban construction accompanies a shift in population density outside the Old City walls, with Jewish patterns of settlement along Jaffa Road in West Jerusalem and Muslim settlement north of the Muslim Quarter, in East Jerusalem.

  • 1913-1940

    John D. Whiting publishes a series of articles about the Middle East in National Geographic. The articles range in topic from travels to Aleppo, Bethlehem, Cappadocia, and Petra, to Bedouin life, religious practices, the 1915 locust plaque and aspects of the Holy Land. They feature photographs by American Colony Photo Department photographers.

    The Vester and Co.–American Colony Store, near Jaffa Gate, Jerusalem.  Image from portraits of the Vester and Whiting families and other members of the American Colony (Jerusalem) photograph album (page 21, no. 63).  Visual Materials of the Papers of John D. Whiting, Prints & Photographs Division, LOC, LC-DIG-ppmsca-18415-00063

  • 1914-1917

    British government declares war on Turkey.

  • 1914

    Samaritanernas päskfest I ord och bild–bibliska blodsoffer I våra dagar (Passover Celebrations of the Samaritans in Words and Pictures–biblical blood offerings in our time) is published by Lewis Larsson, in Stockholm. Features photographs by Lewis Larsson and John D. Whiting taken in the Spring of 1914, with accompanying text by Whiting, Selma Lagerlöf and Sven Hedin. Credited to be the first photographic work documenting the sunset to dawn Passover celebrations of the Samaritans on Mount Gerazim.

    March-October, 1915

    A locust plague decimates vegetation in Palestine. The American Colony Photo Department under Lewis Larsson documents the stages of locust development, the devastating “before” and “after” impact on the environment, and methods used to eradicate the invading insects. The locust attack is the subject for one of Whiting’s National Geographic articles, published in December 1915.

Next: 1916 to 1930
Back to top: Back to Top
Previous: 1881 to 1896

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 school and a women’s lace-making cooperative, to help Palestinian women whose husbands are absent during wartime to support their families.

    British Army officer T. E. Lawrence (Lawrence of Arabia) helps fuel the Arab Revolts against the Ottoman Turks in collaboration with Feisal, Abdullah, Auda Abu Tayi, and other Arab leaders who will feature in the leadership of Arab states after the war’s end. T. E. Lawrence is a familiar guest at the American Colony during his time in the Middle East. He is well-liked and known for playing ball with the children on the colony lawn.

    1917

    The American Colony Nurses corps is active in several hospitals in Jerusalem. They work with both the Red Crescent and the Red Cross. Many colony members volunteer, among them Olaf and Lars Lind, Bertha and Frederick Vester, and Grace and John D. Whiting.

    American Colony photographer Lewis Larsson serves as an official photographer of the Red Crescent. He travels with American Colony photography assistants behind lines of battle, and documents the campaigns in Palestine and Syria. The American Colony produces albums featuring scenes documenting the war and its political aftermath.

    1917-1918

    John D. Whiting begins service as an undercover intelligence officer with the General Headquarters Advance Field Intelligence, British Army. Fluent in Arabic and a frequent traveler, he works under Lieutenant Colonel Wyndham Deedes. Whiting will continue to work in British intelligence at various points in his later life.

    Bertha Vester, on the American Colony grounds, reading the names of welfare recipients, 1916. Image from photograph album, World War I in Palestine and the Sinai (page 73). American Colony in Jerusalem Collection, Manuscript Division, LOC

  • 1917

    November

    British dominate Turks in Gaza and Jaffa, and advance on Jerusalem.

    December, 1917

    The occupation of Jerusalem by the British Army and proclamation of martial law by Field Marshal Edmund Allenby signals the beginning of British administration in Palestine that will continue until 1948. The surrender of Jerusalem by the Turks December 9, and the public reading of the proclamation December 11, are documented in photographs by Lewis Larsson and in the writings of American Colony members.

    T. E. Lawence, Herbert Samuel, Amir Abdullah and others, Amman, 1921. Image from meetings of British, Arab, and Bedouin officials in Amman, Jordan, 1921 photograph album (page 27, no. 13). Visual Materials of the John D. Whiting Papers, Prints & Photographs Division, LOC, LC-DIG-ppmsca-19413

  • 1918

    July 4

    Allenby and staff attend a 4th of July celebration at the American Colony.

    The Mayor of Jerusalem Hussein Effendi el Husseini [al-Husseini], meeting with Sergts. Sedwick and Hurcomb of the 2/19th Battalion, London Regiment, under the white flag of surrender, Dec. 9th [1917] at 8 a.m., 1917. Image from World War I and the British Mandate in Palestine photograph album (page 5, no. 11).  Visual Materials of the John D. Whiting Papers, Prints & Photographs Division, LOC, LC-DIG-ppmsca-13291-00011

  • 1918

    July 24

    The Vesters attend ceremonies on Mount Scopus dedicating Hebrew University. They have become a part of the formal social world of British military officials and diplomats, their wives and staff. Bertha Vester will befriend Edmund Allenby, Ronald Storrs, Lord Herbert Samuel, Brigadier General Sir Wyndham Deedes, and others, and welcome them to receptions and events at the colony.

    General Allenby's Proclamation [of martial law in Jerusalem] being read in English. December 11th, 1917. Image from World War I and the British Mandate in Palestine photograph album (page 13, no. 36). Visual Materials of the John D. Whiting Papers, Prints & Photographs Division, LOC, LC-DIG-ppmsca-13291-00036

  • 1918

    September-December

    British forces advance to Nablus, Damascus, and Aleppo. The Turks surrender December 31.

  • 1918-1922

    Bertha Vester administers an orphanage and foster system for Greek Orthodox Christian and Muslim Palestinian impoverished girls who had lost one or both parents to poverty, illness, or warfare during World War I. It is supported primarily by donations of Americans through the Christian Herald.

    General Allenby at American Colony reception, July 4th, 1918. Image from World War I and the British Mandate in Palestine photograph album (page 29, no. 85). Visual Materials of the John D. Whiting Papers, Prints & Photographs Division, LOC, LC-DIG-ppmsca-13291-00085

  • 1918-1927

    The American Colony runs a playground in the Old City adjacent to the Spafford Baby Home.

  • 1919

    May

    Gertrude Bell (d. 1926) visits the American Colony and is introduced to members of the Arab Palestinian community by Bertha Vester. Bell praises John D. Whiting’s intelligence after meeting him for tea at the American Colony with Bertha Vester and Jacob Spafford. Bell’s niece, Valentine Richmond, will in 1939 marry Horatio Vester, Bertha and Frederick Vester’s son, in England.

    Page from photograph album of the Christian Herald Orphanage, ca. 1918-1922. (Page 21). American Colony in Jerusalem Collection, Manuscript Division, LOC

  • 1920

    Lewis Larsson begins his service first as Vice Consul and then as Swedish Consul in Jerusalem.

    Herbert Samuel becomes High Commissioner. British civil administration begins in Jerusalem, and will last until 1948.

    Religious and ethnic violence marks Easter and Nebi Musa festivals.

  • 1921

    March 28

    Frederick and Bertha Vester attend reception for Winston Churchill during his visit to Jerusalem.

    Playground of the American Colony orphanage, 1918. Image from World War I and the British Mandate in Palestine photograph album (page 42, no.122).  Visual Materials of the John D. Whiting Papers, Prints & Photographs Division, LOC, LC-DIG-ppmsca-13291-00122

  • 1921

    John D. Whiting and T. E. Lawrence are among those who participate in the ceremonial meeting of Emir Abdullah and other Arab leaders with Herbert Samuel in Amman. The event is captured by American Colony photographers.

  • 1921

    July 7

    Ruth Whiting marries Maurice Goldenthal, a Romanian Jew who worked in the House of Industry of the London Jews’ Society before joining the American Colony in 1899. The marriage will prove rocky and the Goldenthals will leave the American Colony community with their children in 1926. After a brief attempt to run a store in Los Angeles, California, they return to Jerusalem in 1928. At the time of her mother’s death in 1931, Ruth Whiting is a resident of the German Colony in Jerusalem.

    Emir Abdullah, Mr. & Mrs. Winston Churchill, Bertha and Frederick Vester at reception, 1921. G. Eric and Edith Matson Collection, Prints & Photographs Division, LOC, LC-DIG-matpc-08803

  • 1922

    Bertha Vester visits the United States with her children, including scenes of her youth.

    June

    The League of Nations approves the British Mandate administration in the Middle East.

  • 1923-1929

    The Vester & Co.—American Colony Stores, Inc., is established as a partnership of Frederick Vester and John D. Whiting. The American Colony looks to expanding business ventures with a branch store in New York City, which Whiting and Nils Lind are involved in organizing.

    Unidentified staff member of Emir Abdullah (left), Emir Abdhullah (center) and John D. Whiting (right), Amman, 1921. Image from meetings of British, Arab, and Bedouin officials in Amman, Jordan, April 1921 (page 7, no. 3). Visual Materials of the John D. Whiting Papers, Prints & Photographs Division, LOC, LC-DIG-ppmsca-15304-00003

  • 1923

    Bertha Vester begins keeping a diary and continues the practice until her death in 1968.

    Apr. 17

    Matriarch Anna Spafford dies after a long decline in health.  Bertha Vester assumes leadership of the American Colony.

  • 1923-1925

    Bertha Vester begins the Anna Baby Home in her mother’s honor. The children’s facility will develop over time into the Anna Spafford Baby Nursing Home and Infant Welfare Center, then the Spafford Children’s Hospital, and finally the Spafford Children’s Center, Jerusalem, offering pediatric care and social services. The facility is based in the original building in the Old City first occupied by American Colony founders upon their arrival in Jerusalem.

    Anna Spafford in the courtyard of the American Colony. Image from photographs of Jerusalem and the Middle East photograph album (page 141, no. 70). Visual Materials of the John D. Whiting Papers, Prints & Photographs Division, LOC, LC-DIG-ppmsca-18419-00070

  • 1925

    April 1

    Dedication of Hebrew University, Mount Scopus.

  • 1926-1946

    Dr. Helena Kagan (d. 1978), who is of Russian Jewish descent and received her medical education  in pediatrics at the University of Bern, heads the medical staff of the Spafford Baby Home, with the services of Arab, Jewish, and Armenian doctors and nurses.

  • 1927

    Earthquake in Jerusalem damages the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, the Al Aksa mosque, and the Augusta Victoria Hospice, as well as other buildings and religious and charitable facilities.

  • 1928-1929

    Bertha Vester travels to America to fund-raise for the colony’s programs and visit her children who are studying in private schools.

    August, 1929

    Arab-Jewish riots in Jerusalem.

    Looking at comics, Anna Spafford Baby Home, ca. 1920-1935. Image from American Colony in Jerusalem members and trips photograph album (page 40, left). Visual Materials of the John D. Whiting Papers, Prints & Photographs Division, LOC, LC-DIG-ppmsca-18893

  • 1929-1930

    Stock market crash and the beginning of the Great Depression.

    The American Colony is organized into a corporation, the American Colony of Jerusalem. The business arrangements and control of colony finances is a last straw in tensions between some of the prominent and most outspoken Swedish residents of the Colony and their American counterparts. The new business model imposed under the leadership of Bertha Vester results in a split in the group and the departure of many of the Swedish members. The dissenters, who depart with small severance payments, are referred to in Vester’s writings as the “minority.”  After the split in the colony membership, forty-seven residents remain.

Next: 1930 to 1980
Back to top: Back to Top
Previous: 1896 to 1915

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.

    Women making lace, Jerusalem. American Colony in Jerusalem Collection, Manuscript Division, LOC

  • 1931

    Bertha Spafford Vester and others operate the American Colony Aid Association, a charitable organization with financial supporters in Palestine and the United States.  The American Colony School of Lacemaking and Handicraft is one of its beneficiaries.

    View of Jerusalem from the roof of the Anna Spafford Baby Home/American Colony Aid Association, ca. 1938. G. Eric & Edith Matson Collection, Prints & Photographs Division, LOC,  LC-DIG-matpc-03429

  • 1933-1945

    With the rise of power of Adolf Hitler in Germany and in the course of the events of World War II, tens of thousands of European Jews fleeing persecution and death migrate to Palestine, primarily from Eastern Europe, or attempt to relocate to the United States. Some six million will die in the systematic anti-Semitic holocaust of the Nazi regime.

  • 1934-1946

    G. Eric Matson (b. 1888), who was as a boy among the Swedish migrants to the American Colony in 1896, takes charge of the photo department and Lewis Larsson departs from colony membership. Palestinians Hanna Safieh (1910-1979) and Joseph H. Giries, both earlier apprentices in the American Colony Photo Department, work as photographers with Matson, as does John D. Whiting. Eric and Edith Matson leave Jerusalem amidst rising violence. They run the Matson Photo Service in the United States, utilizing many American Colony Photo Department images.

    Swedish group, those from Dalarna remaining in the colony, May 10, 1946. G. Eric & Edith Matson Collection, Prints & Photographs Division, LOC, LC-DIG-matpc-12938

  • 1936

    April-Oct.

    Palestinian general strike.

  • 1936-1939

    Arab revolts in Palestine.

  • 1939-1945

    World War II.

    Clinic examination, Anna Spafford Baby Home, Jersualem.  G. Eric & Edith Matson Collection, Prints & Photographs Division, LOC, LC-DIG-matpc-13968

  • 1942

    Jan. 2

    Frederick Vester dies suddenly of a heart attack at the American Colony. He is stricken during a American Colony reception for nurses and social workers doing war relief work in Jerusalem.

  • 1945

    Arab League established.

  • 1946

    July 22

    Bombing of the King David Hotel, home to British administrative offices in Jerusalem.

    The American Colony main building, ca. 1950. G. Eric & Edith Matson Collection, Prints & Photographs Division, LOC, LC-DIG-matpc-22831

  • 1947-1948

    Civil violence ensues over the partitioning of Palestine. The American Colony endeavors to maintain neutrality; is damaged by mortar fire.

  • 1948

    May-October

    The state of Israel is proclaimed May 14. The Arab-Israeli War soon commences.  Mary Franji (b. 1927), (Nurse Mary) of the staff of the Anna Spafford Baby Home and wife of Hanna Franji, door man of the American Colony, nurses wounded at the American Colony International Red Cross Emergency Clearing Station.

    American Colony main building, courtyard, ca. 1950.  G. Eric & Edith Matson Collection, Prints & Photographs Division, LOC, LC-DIG-matpc-22832

  • 1948-1949

    East Jerusalem and the West Bank placed under the administration of Transjordan (Jordan) under Abdullah ibn Hussein. Hundreds of thousands of Palestinian Arabs become refugees from Israeli-occupied territory. Armistice agreement between Israel and Transjordan of April 1949 divides Jerusalem along north-south lines. The American Colony is located at the border of No Man's Land, which stretches to Mea Shearim, in the area administered by Jordan until 1967.

  • 1949

    Feb.

    First Israeli Parliament meets in Jerusalem. David Ben Gurion is the first prime minister of Israel.

    Bertha Spafford Vester, John D. Whiting, Grace Spafford Whiting, Jerusalem, 1951. Image from photographs of members of the American Colony (Jerusalem) and Middle East locations (page 3). Visual Materials of the John D. Whiting Papers, Prints & Photographs Division, LOC, LC-DIG-ppmsca-18908

  • 1950

    Israeli Parliament proclaims Jerusalem the capital of Israel. The Jordanian Parliament proclaims annexation of East Jerusalem, with Amman as capital of the expanded state.

  • 1950-1960

    Dr. Hassan Dajani and Dr. Mahmoud Dajani are among the physicians on the Spafford Children's Hospital medical-surgical staff.

    1950

    Bertha Vester publishes the American version of Our Jerusalem: An American Family in the Holy City, 1881-1949. New York, Doubleday & Co., with introduction by Lowell Thomas. She departs on a book tour to the United States to fund raise for the colony's charities and promote the publication at women's clubs, churches, and other venues. She will work on the English edition of the book while in New York City, and return to Jerusalem in the summer of 1951.

    Gameli and baby Anna, Anna Spafford Baby Home. G. Eric and Edith  Matson Collection, Prints & Photographs Division, LOC, LC-DIG-matpc-13964

  • 1951

    Feb. 28

    American Colony teacher and botanist John Dinsmore dies in Jerusalem.

    July 20, 1951

    King Abdullah of Jordan is assassinated in Jerusalem, at the Al-Aqsa Mosque.

    Oct. 3, 1951

    John D. Whiting dies in Jerusalem after suffering a heart attack earlier in the year.  He is buried in Ramallah. Grace Whiting will make a trip to the United States after his death to visit her children, including Edmund Wilson Whiting, recently the father of a baby girl.

    Anna Grace [Vester] Lind at American Colony bazaar, 1954, with Edith Larsson in the background. Image from American Colony bazaar photograph album (p. 13, bottom). Visual Materials of the Papers of John D. Whiting, Prints & Photographs Division, LOC, LC-DIG-ppmsca-18906

  • 1952

    Spafford Baby Home refurbished as the Spafford Children's Hospital. Anna Grace Lind returns to Jerusalem after living in the United States and begins to help her mother manage the American Colony hostel and grounds.

    May 12, 1952

    Helen Keller visits the American Colony while in Jerusalem for a lecture tour.

  • 1953

    New Child Welfare Center wing of the Spafford Children's Hospital. The hospital includes an X-ray Department, surgical facilities, an out-patient clinic, and the Mother Craft Training Center.

    Mrs. Bertha Vester listening to Mr. Hanna Atalla at an American Colony bazaar, 1954.  Image from American Colony bazaar photograph album (p. 13, bottom). Visual Materials of the John D. Whiting Papers, Prints & Photographs Division, LOC, LC-DIG-ppmsca-18905

  • 1954

    The American Colony loses the last vestiges of its once productive farm with the closing of the piggery, as the municipality develops around the colony's formerly pastoral property.

  • 1954-1958

    Deaths of Swedish American Colony members Christina Larsson Levy (b. 1875), Nellie Olson (b. 1861), Annie Larson, and Charlotte Johanssen.

    October-November, 1956

    Sinai Campaign.

  • 1960

    Vester and Co., Ltd., established.

  • 1962

    Bertha Vester publishes Flowers of the Holy Land. Kansas City, Mo., Hallmark Cards.

    Bertha and Frederick's son, Horatio Vester (d. 1985), a barrister in England, moves to Jerusalem to manage the American Colony Hotel with his British wife, Valentine Vester (d. 2008). Bertha and Frederick's eldest daughter, Anna Grace Lind, joins her sister Frieda Ward in administering the Spafford Children's Hospital. Lind assumes full directorship in 1973, when Ward returns to England.

    Spafford Children's Center pamphlet, Jerusalem, Old City. American Colony in Jerusalem Collection, Manuscript Division, LOC

  • 1963

    Bertha Vester is awarded the Jordan Star by King Hussein of Jordan. 

  • 1964

    Bertha Vester publishes a new and enlarged edition, Flowers of the Holy Land. Kansas City, Mo., Hallmark Cards

    Grace Whiting dies, Jerusalem.

  • 1967

    June

    The Six-Day War. The American Colony Hotel is damaged by mortar fire and foreign correspondents and the Red Cross use it as a gathering place. The outcome makes for the American Colony's third change of country. It has been part of Syria, Jordan, and Israel, while occupying the same East Jerusalem land.

  • 1968

    Dr. Jantien Dajani joins the staff of the Spafford Children's Hospital. She will later become the director of the Spafford Children's Center.

    June, 1968

    Official reunification of Jerusalem and removal of barbed wire barriers and road blocks allows increased freedom of movement for residents after twenty years of Israeli-Jordanian restrictions.

    June 27, 1968

    Bertha Vester dies, Jerusalem.

  • 1970

    The Spafford Children's Hospital becomes the Spafford Children's Center, providing social and psychological services, public health and preventative medicine to a primarily Palestinian clientele of women and infants, children, and youth.

  • 1978

    September

    Camp David peace accords signed by Egyptian president Anwar Sadat and Israeli prime minister Menachem Begin.

  • 1980

    Management of the American Colony Hotel shifts to Gauer Hotels of Switzerland following the retirement of Horatio Vester. The shareholders and board of directors of the hotel primarily remain descendants of the early founders and members of the American Colony.

Back to top: Back to Top
Previous: 1916 to 1930