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Americans and the Holy Land in the Nineteenth Century

by Lester I. Vogel

Pub Date: June 1st, 1993
ISBN: 0-271-00884-9

 Drawing on the experience of American tourists, missionaries, settlers, scholars, and diplomats, Vogel (a senior staff member of the Library of Congress) imaginatively reconstructs how Americans of the last century saw the Holy Land, why they went and what they did there, and their legacy. ``Geopiety,'' a term coined by geographer John Kirtland Wright, explains the motivations of those Protestants who undertook pilgrimages to a neglected part of the declining Ottoman Empire, seeking the sacred associations, the revival of faith, the sense of religious mission that they had absorbed from the Bible and had expressed in the two extraordinary American artifacts with which Vogel begins and ends his text: a reproduction of the Holy Land in Chautauqua, New York, in 1874 and another of the Temple Mount at the 1904 World's Fair, in St. Louis. The first tour to the Holy Land, ``The Quaker City Cruise'' of 1867, included Mark Twain--who noted the pilgrims' delight in the luxurious tents and comforts and their disappointment at the unimposing appearance of Jerusalem. Such tours caused extreme anguish for the consulates who had to arrange them, protect the safety of visiting Americans, and still conduct commercial business at what they viewed as an undesirable diplomatic post. Missionaries to the Holy Land mostly set up schools, while settlers, led by various ``prophets,'' set up agrarian communities where they intended to wait for the apocalypse. Archaeologists, poorly equipped and as destructive as the tourists, contributed to the assortment of intrusive and eccentric emissaries who indirectly--as Vogel subtly explains--set the stage for the political battleground that was to follow. Vogel brings light and civility to the conflicting attitudes Americans still have toward the Holy Land, and to the religious and political passions it inspires. (Illustrations)