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Collection American Colony in Jerusalem, 1870 to 2006

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


    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


    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


    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.


    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


    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


    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.

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