The American Colony in Jerusalem, 1870-2006

About This Collection

The physical American Colony in Jerusalem Collection at the Library of Congress is comprised of more than 10,000 manuscripts, maps and visual materials stemming from approximately a hundred years of the American Colony in Jerusalem, of which this Web presentation offers a digitized selection.

The American Colony in Jerusalem Collection was gifted to the Library of Congress by Valentine Vester and the board of directors of the American Colony of Jerusalem, Ltd., beginning in 2004-2005. It is made up primarily of documents created in English, as well as in Turkish, Arabic, Hebrew, and Swedish. The papers in the collection span the years circa 1786-2006, with the bulk of the material dating from 1870 to 1968. The photographs, telegrams, letters, scrapbooks, pamphlets, invitations and broadsides, news clippings, book manuscripts, diaries, and ephemera contained within the collection document the experiences of the members and the life and events of the colony. They reveal as well information and perspectives about the broader history of Palestine and the Middle East in the periods of the late Ottoman Empire and British Mandate (ca. 1880-1948) and the state of Israel (1948-ca. 2006), and of social reform and millenarian Protestant Christian religious thought in the United States in the 19th and early 20th centuries.

This Web site represents the full digitization of all items from the collection which were originally displayed as part of the Library of Congress exhibition on the American Colony in Jerusalem presented at the Library January 12 to April 2, 2005. These items constitute the entirety of Part I of the physical American Colony in Jerusalem collection housed in the Library of Congress Manuscript Division.  Included are a miscellaneous single photographs, a Spafford family photographic album, a photographic album of an orphanage administered in Palestine by the Christian Herald, and two photograph albums featuring photographs by Lewis Larsson and the American Colony Photo Department: one of the 1915 locust plague in Palestine, and one of the World War I era in the Middle East.

Also included in this site is a special feature about the Bertha Vester diaries. The forty-eight diaries were written by Vester (author of the memoir Our Jerusalem: An American Family in the Holy City, 1881-1949 in 1950) during the period when she was the principal leader of the American Colony from 1923 to 1968. Varying in size and content, and written in Jerusalem as well as during travels to the United States and other areas of the world, they date from 1920 to 1968. The Bertha Vester diaries make up a section of Part II of the physical collection.

The physical collection as a whole includes Bertha Vester’s working files used in the writing and manuscript preparation for Our Jerusalem; the Bertha Vester diaries; files regarding American Colony members, including Swedish and American members; business and legal files regarding the colony’s operation and the Vester & Co.-American Colony store; chronological files beginning with the Spafford family in the United States and documenting the history of the colony; papers of John D. Whiting related to antiquities and other topics; and oversize materials.

A finding aid for the American Colony in Jerusalem Collection is available in the Manuscript Division of the Library of Congress.