The American Colony in Jerusalem, 1870-2006

Related Resources

The American Colony in Jerusalem collection is closely related to the John D. Whiting Papers and the G. Eric and Edith Matson Papers in the Manuscript Division of the Library of Congress, and to the corresponding Visual Materials from the Papers of John D. Whiting, Visual Materials from the American Colony in Jerusalem Collection and G. Eric and Edith Matson Negatives, as well as to the collection of paintings of Holy Land wild flowers created by Grace Whiting in Jerusalem, housed in the Prints and Photographs Division. Grace and John D. Whiting and G. Eric and Edith Matson were all members of the American Colony in Jerusalem.

Maps of the Middle East once used by colony member John D. Whiting in his capacity as a geographer, author, and tour guide, as well as a military intelligence officer during World War I, received as part of the American Colony in Jerusalem papers, are housed in the Geography and Map Division of the Library of Congress. Audiovisual materials, including early film footage depicting colony members, and a set of three related oral histories conducted  by Library of Congress historian Barbara Bair in Israel in 2005, are available through the Library of Congress Motion Picture, Broadcasting, and Recorded Sound Division.

The digital materials available on this Web site are closely related to the virtual exhibition presentation of The American Colony in Jerusalem, a physical exhibit on display at the Library of Congress in January-April 2005.

Read More About It

Published sources on the American Colony in Jerusalem, written from various viewpoints as to the history of the colony and its leaders, include:

Curtis, Verna Posever.  Photographic Memory: The Album in the Age of Photography.  New York and Washington, D.C.: Aperture and Library of Congress, 2011.

A study profiling selected photographic albums in various special collections of the Library of Congress, including a vignette on the locust-plague albums made by the American Colony Photo Department.

Dudman, Helga and Ruth Kark.  The American Colony: Scenes from a Jerusalem Saga.  Jerusalem: Carta, 1998.

An overview of the Colony written by Israeli experts in local and regional history.  Dudman is an independent writer who has published features in The Jerusalem Post.  Kark is a professor of historical geography at Hebrew University and the author of many scholarly works on the Middle East.

Edström, Vivi,  Inger Larsson, and Margareta Jonth. Bron mellan Näs och Jerusalem. Näs: Ingmarsspelen/Lagerlöfstudier, 1996.

A set of Swedish-language essays on the history of the connections between Näs, Sweden, and Jerusalem, and members and Swedish visitors to the American Colony.

Geniesse, Jane Fletcher.  American Priestess: The Extraordinary Story of Anna Spafford and the American Colony in Jerusalem.  New York; Doubleday/Nan A. Talese, 2008.

A stylish biographical rendition of the history of the American Colony, which traces the American founders and their Swedish counterparts through World War I, with focus on the colony’s principal female protagonists from the Spafford family: Anna T. Spafford and her daughter Bertha Vester.

Gröndahl, Mia, with Gösta Flemming.  The Dream of Jerusalem: Lewis Larsson and the American Colony Photographers.  Stockholm: Journal, 2005.

A history of Lewis (Hols Lars) Larsson and the dedicated photographers who worked with him at the core of the American Colony Photo Department, by a Swedish journalist and photographer. Illustrated with American Colony Photo Department photographs of the American Colony, Palestine, and the Middle East, including beautiful colorized images. In English and Swedish.

Kark, Ruth. “Post Civil War American Communes: A Millenarian Utopian Commune Linking Chicago and Näs, Sweden, to Jerusalem.”  Communal Societies 15 (1995): 75-113.

Kark, Ruth and Yaakov Ariel.  “Messianism, Holiness, Charisma, and Community: The American-Swedish Colony in Jerusalem, 1881-1933.”  Church History 65, no. 4 (1996): 641-57.

Scholarly articles on the religious and communal aspects of the American Colony and the participation of its Swedish members.

Lagerlöf, Selma.  Jerusalem and The Holy City (Jerusalem II), (1902-3) various editions and translations (Doubleday edition 1915).

A two-part novel by the Swedish author and recipient, in 1909, of the Nobel Prize for Literature. A fictional rendering of the religious, economic, and personal challenges faced by the residents of Näs, Sweden, who chose to come to Jerusalem in 1896.

Larsson, Edith.  Dalafolk in the Holy Land.  Stockholm: Naturoch Culture, 1957.

An interpretation of the American Colony from the viewpoint of the experience of dissident Swedish members. Written by the daughter of Swedish evangelical Olaf Henrik Larsson, who in 1912 became the wife of Lewis Larsson, American Colony Photo Department director and Swedish Consul in Jerusalem.

Vester, Bertha Spafford. Our Jerusalem: An American Family in the Holy City, 1881–1949.  Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, 1950.

A memoir by the daughter of American Colony founders Anna and Horatio Gates Spafford, written in part to counteract negative portrayals of the colony and its members propagated by officials of the U.S. State Department. Centers on the experience of the Spafford-Vester families and the history of the colony from the viewpoint of its founding members.

Vester, Valentine.  The American Colony Family Album.  Jerusalem: American Colony of Jerusalem, 2008.

A picture-book of scenes of American Colony life, introduced with an overview by the long-time doyenne of the American Colony Hotel, daughter-in-law of Bertha Vester, and widow of hotel manager Horatio Vester.  Valentine was a resident and leader at the Colony for some forty years and one of the principal donors of the American Colony in Jerusalem Collection.

For additional reading, see the bibliography of the Prints & Photographs Division G. Eric and Edith Matson Negatives Web site for other recommended published resources.