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American Colony Jerusalem
Vintage Large Albumen Photo Jerusalem - House Of The "Rich Man"

1890-1920

$800

About

The Original American Colony was a colony established in Jerusalem in 1881 by members of a utopian society led by Anna and Horatio Spafford. Now a hotel in East Jerusalem, it is still known by that name today. After suffering a series tragic losses following the Great Chicago Fire of 1871 (see hymn "It is Well with My Soul"), Chicago residents Anna and Horatio Spafford led a small American contingent in 1881 to Jerusalem to form a utopian society. The "American Colony," as it became known, was later joined by Swedish Christians. The society engaged in philanthropic work amongst the people of Jerusalem regardless of religious affiliation, gaining the trust of the local Muslim, Jewish, and Christian communities.During and immediately after World War I, the American Colony carried out philanthropic work to alleviate the suffering of the local inhabitants, opening soup kitchens, hospitals, orphanages and other charitable ventures. Towards the end of the 1950s, the society's communal residence was converted into the American Colony Hotel. The hotel is an integral part of the Jerusalem landscape where members of all communities in Jerusalem still meet. In 1992 representatives from the Palestine Liberation Organization and Israel met in the hotel where they began talks that led to the historic 1993 Oslo Peace Accord. Panorama of Jerusalem, c. 1890-1920 The Colony moved to the large house of a wealthy Arab landowner, Rabbah Husseini, outside the city walls in Sheikh Jarrah on the road to Nablus. Part of the building was used as a hostel for visitors from Europe and America. A small farm developed with animals, a butchery, a dairy, a bakery, a carpenter's shop, and a smithy. The economy was supplemented by a shop selling photographs, craft items and archaeological artifacts. The American Colonists were embraced by the Jewish and Palestinian communities for their good works, among them, teaching in both Muslim and Jewish schools. Photography Around 1900, Elijah Meyers, a member of the American Colony, began taking photographs of places and events in and around the city of Jerusalem. Meyers's work eventually expanded into a full-fledged photographic division within the Colony, including Hol Lars (Lewis) Larsson and G. Eric Matson, who later renamed the effort as the Matson Photographic Service. Their interest in archeological artifacts (such as the Lion Tower in Tripoli pictured here), and the detail of their photographs, led to widespread interest in their work by archeologists. The collection was later donated to the Library of Congress. World War I When the Ottoman Empire entered World War I as an ally of Germany in November 1914, Jerusalem and Palestine became a battleground between the Allied and the Central powers. The Allied forces from Egypt, under the leadership of the British, engaged the German, Austrian and Turkish forces in fierce battles for control of Palestine. During this time the American Colony assumed a more crucial role in supporting the local populace through the deprivations and hardships of the war. Because the Turkish military commanders governing Jerusalem trusted the Colony, they asked its photographers to record the course of the war in Palestine. The Colony was permitted to continue its relief efforts even after the United States entered the war on the side of the Allies in the spring of 1917. As the German and Turkish armies retreated before the advancing Allied forces, the American Colony took charge of the overcrowded Turkish military hospitals, which were inundated by the wounded. Inner tensions within the American Colony led to the final demise of this utopian community in the 1950s. Since then the second home of the American Colony, outside the city's walls, has functioned as a hotel named American Colony Hotel. Selma Lagerlöf's novel Jerusalem made the colony famous. The book Osterlandet is a visual record of Algot Sätterström's (inventor, painter) interaction with members of the American Colony Photographic Division Lewis Larsson, Erik Lind, Furman Baldwin and Eric Matson.

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