December 29, 2010 American Colony in Jerusalem Is Subject of New Web Presentation

Press Contact: Audrey Fischer (202) 707-0022
Public Contact: Barbara Bair (202) 707-1097

Selected items from the American Colony in Jerusalem Collection are now accessible on the Library of Congress’ American Memory website at

In 1881, Chicago residents Anna and Horatio Spafford led a small American contingent to Jerusalem. There they formed a non-denominational utopian society known as the “American Colony.” Later joined by Swedish immigrants, the colony engaged in philanthropic work in Jerusalem and gained the trust of the local Muslim, Jewish and Christian communities. During and immediately after World War I, the American Colony played a critical role in supporting these communities through the deprivations of the eastern front by running soup kitchens, orphanages and other charitable ventures. Founded after the war, the Anna Spafford Baby Home still operates in Jerusalem as the Spafford Children’s Center. The East Jerusalem locale where the community was founded is the site of the modern-day American Colony Hotel.

The materials presented in the new American Memory site were donated to the Library in December 2004 by Valentine Vester and the board of directors of the American Colony of Jerusalem, Ltd. The bulk of the collection—received by the Library between 2005 and the present—comprises more than 10,000 items and is housed in the Library’s Manuscript Division. Related items are housed in the Prints and Photographs Division, the Geography and Map Division and the Motion Picture and Recorded Sound Division. The catalog record for the Manuscript Division holdings is accessible at and the finding aid for the collection is at

Taken as a whole, the collection of letters, diaries, scrapbooks, news clippings, writings, photographs and ephemera documents the history and work of this remarkable organization. It also sheds light on the broader history of the Middle East in the periods of the late Ottoman Empire and British Mandate in Palestine (ca. 1880-1948), the state of Israel (1948-ca. 2006) and of social reform and religious thought in the United States in the 19th and early 20th centuries.

An exhibition of selected items from the collection was mounted at the Library in 2005 and may be viewed online at The new web presentation will debut with these items and continue to expand in phases. Items will be searchable and downloadable and will be presented in a richly illustrated framework that includes essays about the colony and its members, related resources and a detailed time line.

Founded in 1800, the Library of Congress is the nation’s oldest federal cultural institution. The Library seeks to spark imagination and creativity and to further human understanding and wisdom by providing access to knowledge through its magnificent collections, programs and exhibitions. Many of the Library’s rich resources can be accessed through its website at and via interactive exhibitions on a personalized website at


PR 10-271
ISSN 0731-3527