From March to October 1915, a plague of locusts stripped
areas in and around Palestine of almost all vegetation. This
invasion of biblical proportions seriously compromised the
already depleted food supply of the region and sharpened
the misery of all Jerusalemites. Djemal Pasha, Supreme Commander
of Syria and Arabia, who mounted a campaign to limit the
devastation, asked the American Colony photographers to document
the progress of the locust hordes.
Photographic album documenting
the locust devastation, 1915.
Photograph 1 - Photograph
2 - Photograph 3
Hand-colored silver gelatin prints.
Manuscript Division (29)
The Colony created the "locust album" that documented
the course of the plague of 1915 at the request of
Djemal Pasha. On these pages, a fig tree photographed
just before and after the locusts attacked is graphic
proof of the destruction wrought by the insect invasion.
In his account of the devastation in The National
Geographic, Colony member John Whiting wrote that
the locusts were so voracious and numerous that they
could swarm over an unguarded infant and devour its
eyes within a few minutes.
Specimen of a Locust
This locust, from the 1915 invasion, is in its adult
winged stage. It has hung on the wall of the American
Colony Hotel for many years. After the locusts laid
their eggs, Djemal Pasha ordered all adults and youth
in and around Jerusalem to dig up half a kilo of locust
eggs in order to contain the next onslaught. This proved
an impossible task as the female locusts burrowed their
eggs into the hard stony soil.
Mounted locust specimen,
Manuscript Division (27)
John D. Whiting.
"Jerusalem's Locust Plague . . ."
in The National Geographic Magazine.
Vol. 28, no. 6 (December 1915).
Manuscript Division (28)
John Whiting Describes the Locust Invasion
Born in Jerusalem after his parents arrived with the
Spaffords in 1881, John Whiting spoke fluent Arabic
and was an expert on the topography, history, and local
customs of the Holy Land. He served as American Vice-Consul
of Jerusalem from 1908-1910 and from 1915-1917. The National Geographic published
several of his articles on Palestine including his
account of the locust plague of 1915. John Whiting
married Grace, a daughter of Horatio and Anna Spafford.
Djemal Pasha at the American Colony
Two-year-old Louise Vester sits on the lap of Djemal
Pasha and beside her mother Bertha and brother John.
The cordial relationship that existed between Djemal
Pasha, Supreme Commander of Syria and Arabia and military
governor of Jerusalem, and the Colony facilitated its
members' relief work during World War I.
Bertha Vester, John
Vester, Louise Vester, Djemal Pasha, (left
Silver gelatin print, ca. 1915.
Manuscript Division (26)