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The "American Colony" in the Holy Land in 1866, "Shamefully Humbugged by their Prophet"
Forthcoming publication
The second half of the 19th century saw many missionaries, adventurers and tourists from the United States visiting the Holy Land. They were aided by the invention of steam engine ships and the new invention of photography that provided pictures of the Holy Land that spurred their interests.

Photograph of the colony founder, George
Jones Adams, c. 1841 (Library of Congress)

One eccentric missionary was George Jones Adams of Maine who attempted to establish an "American Colony" in Jaffa.  He failed miserably, even at one point appealing to American government officials and the Governor of Maine for assistance.

Two contemporary writers described Adams and his colony.  One was an extraordinary writer and actress from Jerusalem named Lydia Mamreoff von Finkelstein Mountford (1855-1917) whose clippings we discovered in a New Zealand archives.

The other writer was an American humorist named Mark Twain.  He met some of the colony's survivors on his return from his "Innocents Abroad" voyage in 1867 and described their travails.

According to von Finkelstein -

Lydia Mamreoff von Finkelstein (Flickr,
public domain)

In the year 1866 a large American colony came out, and settled in Jaffa. It was called the American Adams colony. The colonists held their estate under great disadvantages. Mr Adams, either through design or in ignorance of the laws, possessed no title deeds; neither were the colonists, who purchased lots, provided with the necessary documents — all holding the property under bills of sale and purchase, whose legality and validity could have been questioned at any moment. Consequently interested parties took advantage of their position, and the best and the largest portion of the land they had paid for was lost, and all the trees out of a fruit plantation cut down, rooted up, and carried away because they whose duty it was to protect the colonists against such legalised frauds, either from interested motives or through gross negligence, omitted to secure for the purchasers the title deeds, which documents also were only rendered legal under certain conditions.

The American Colony encampment on the sea shore near Jaffa
(with permission of the Maine Historical Society)
Foreigners, or their agents, should be thoroughly acquainted with what perhaps at the first may seem to be the minor details of the laws of purchase and tenure before they buy real estate in Syria or Palestine ; otherwise they run a risk of paying the price many times over in bribes and lawsuits to substantiate their claims. The several American colonies proved failures through a number of causes, jealousies of and ill-will towards such enterprises existing in many quarters.

The American Colony, picture courtesy of the Library of Congress
First, the Ottoman Government never was, nor is it at the present day [1888], capable of appreciating the motives of foreigners in colonisation, and cannot see, any reason, beyond a political one, for the settlement of Europeans or Americans in the country. Secondly, besides having in the local authorities a positively hostile government to struggle against, the colonists received no proper support from their consular representatives, a circumstance perfectly well known to the native and other residents, who were not slow to avail themselves of the opportunities thus afforded them, not only to encroach on the rights of the colonists, but to overreach and wrong them in all transactions, great or small. Thirdly, the difficulties of colonists have always been increased by the jealousies of the Latin Convents....  Aroha News (New Zealand), October 24, 1888, "Palestine Fifty Years Ago and Palestine Today." 

Mark Twain, 1867 (Library of Congress,
Photo taken by Abdullah Frères in

According to Mark Twain --

...But I am forgetting the Jaffa Colonists. At Jaffa we had taken on board some forty members of a very celebrated community. They were male and female; babies, young boys and young girls; young married people, and some who had passed a shade beyond the prime of life. I refer to the "Adams Jaffa Colony." Others had deserted before. We left in Jaffa Mr. Adams, his wife, and fifteen unfortunates who not only had no money but did not know where to turn or whither to go. Such was the statement made to us.

Our forty were miserable enough in the first place, and they lay about the decks seasick all the voyage, which about completed their misery, I take it. However, one or two young men remained upright, and by constant persecution we wormed out of them some little information. They gave it reluctantly and in a very fragmentary condition, for, having been shamefully humbugged by their prophet, they felt humiliated and unhappy. In such circumstances people do not like to talk....Innocents Abroad, Chapter 57.

19th Century Painting of the Western Wall Posted by the Ottoman Imperial Archives
In commemoration of Tisha B'Av

Original caption: "Jews Praying at Wailing Wall in Jerusalem" by Johann Martin Bernatz in 1868 (?)
We are thankful to the archivists at the Ottoman Imperial Archives for digitizing and  posting vintage pictures from Palestine on their website.

On July 14, 2015, this incredible painting was posted. Note the Jews' lamentations. They are barefoot (their shoes are in the foreground), suggesting that the scene may be commemorating Tisha B'Av, a day of Jewish mourning for the destruction of the Jewish Temples and other calamities in Jewish history. 

The painter, Johann Martin Bernatz, was born in Germany in 1802.  He traveled in the Middle East and Asia in 1836 and published 40 pictures from his journey in a book, "Pictures from the Holy Land, Drawn from Nature" in 1839.  We suggest that the painting was painted 30 years prior to the year in the Archives' caption.

Ottoman Archives Posts More Rare Photos of the Holy Land This Week

More pictures were digitized and posted by the Ottoman Imperial Archives this week, and we are thankful to the archivists for preserving and sharing their photographic treasures.

Among the pictures was this unique photo of Jerusalem, taken from the Mt. Scopus area and dated 1886.  The remnants of snow are still visible.

Jerusalem's Old City and Temple Mount, photographed from the east. (Ottoman Imperial Archives, 1886)
Another photo, dated 1916, shows the Galilee town of Tiberias on the shores of the Sea of Galilee.  One of Judaism's holiest cities (along with Jerusalem, Hebron and Safed), Tiberias dates back to the era of the Bible and the Talmud.

View of Tiberias and the Sea of Galilee (Ottoman Imperial Archives, 1916)
By Ottoman order the town was confined within the ancient walls until 1908 when a Christian order built a convent outside of the walls.  Several farms were established in 1911 outside of the walls, and they are visible in the photograph.

Ottoman Imperial Archives Releases Important Mystery Photo of Jerusalem

The Ottoman Imperial Archives continues to digitize and post Online its massive collection of documents, photos and illustrations.

Resposible archivists and librarians around the world realize the importance of digitizing its treasures and sharing them with the world.

We will continue to present and analyze the photographs from this archive as we review and identify them, but we wanted to immediatey share this historic photograph of Jerusalem's Old City taken from the Mount of Olives.
Jerusalem's Temple Mount with the Dome of the Rock and Al Aqsa Mosque. Also note the small Muslim
graveyard in front of the city wall and the "Golden Gate" or "Gate of Mercy." (Ottoman Imperial Archives)

We surmise that the photographer or owner of the photo was French from the notes made on the image to identify 16 sites numbered on the photograph.  It is difficult to read the notes, but number 3, "Mosque d'Omar," and number 12, "Tombeau de David [David's Tomb]," are legible  and in French. 

But when was the photograph taken?

The answer is provided by one of the landmarks not contained on the tourist list -- the Tiferet Yisrael Synagogue near the Hurva Synagogue in the Jewish Quarter.

The Hurva and Tiferet Yisrael Synagogues. The former
was built by students of the Gaon of Vilna, the latter
by followers of Hasidic sects. The two groups
frequently clashed.
The Hurva, built in 1864, is the building on the left with the dome.  Short of funds, Tiferet Yisrael didn't complete its dome until Emperor Franz Josef of Austria visited the site in 1869 and supposedly asked why it had no roof. "Why, the synagogue took off its hat in honor of Your Majesty," he was told.  He contributed money for the project, and the synagogue was dedicated in 1872.

The photo of the topless synagogue, therefore, was taken prior to 1872, more than 140 years ago.

Both synagogues were blown up by the Jordanian Legion during the 1948 war.  The Hurva was recently rebuilt, and there are plans to rebuild the Tiferet Yisrael Synagogue, too.

Life and Death of a Jewish Courtyard in Jerusalem's Old City

A scene in a Jerusalem courtyard in the Jewish Quarter, April 1917 (Imperial War Museum Q 86316)

The picture of this Jerusalem courtyard in the Jewish Quarter of the Old City was taken by a German army photographer during World War I and was found in the British Imperial War Museum.  Jerusalem at the time was ruled by the Ottomans. 

The distinctive arches on the building on the right identify it as the Rothschild Building, part of the Batei Machaseh compound built for Jewish residents of the Jewish Quarter.  It was donated by Baron Wilhelm Karl de Rothschild of Frankfurt.  The building still bears the Rothschild family's coat of arms. The compound was built between 1860 and 1890 to provide housing for Jerusalem's poor.

The Rothschild Building appears in a series of dramatic Life Magazine photographs taken by John Phillips during the Jordanian capture of the Old City during the 1948 war. The arches can be seen on the left side of these pictures; the picture above was a reverse view of the ones below.  The first was taken in the midst of the fighting in June 1948, and the Jews are seen gathering their belongings for their evacuation.  The second picture, taken in July 1948, shows the looting that took place.  The pictures appear in the DaledAmos blog.

Jewish Quarter courtyard prior to evacuation (Life Magazine, John Phillips)

Jewish Quarter after the evacuation and looting (Life Magazine, John Phillips)

Phillips' last picture shows the Jews' evacuation from the Old City under the guard of Jordanian Legionnaires.  The Rothschild Building serves as the backdrop to the tragic picture.

Jewish refugees heading to the Zion Gate near the Rothschild Building