Israel's History in Pictures: Emory U.'s 'Stereographic' Photos

A new trove of antique pictures uncovered at Emory University - "Stereographic" photos more than 100 years old.

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Lenny Ben-David,

Kotel in Emory U. Collection
Kotel in Emory U. Collection
Emory U. Coll..

A new trove of antique pictures uncovered at Emory University - "Stereographic" Photos more than 100 years old.

At the right and on the main page:

Prayers at the Western Wall

(Stereograph photos courtesy of the Pitts Theology Library, Candler School of Theology,  Emory University, circa 1900).

Note the lack of chairs, benches or dividers because of the Muslim/Turkish restrictions.

Yet men and women generally maintained separate prayer areas.


19th century stereo camera

Anyone who has used a "View-Master" toy will recognize the 3D illusion created by the "stereo" camera.  Already in the 19th century photographers were taking stereo pictures which were viewed on a special device. In effect, the two camera lenses captured the view, and the slight angle differences of the right eye and the left eye created a 3D illusion.


A stereoscopic collection

The photography company of Underwood & Underwood specialized in publishing stereoscope collections, such as Palestine through the Stereoscope which was sold with a stereoscope, and 200 stereoscopic slides. The photos were taken in Jerusalem, Bethlehem, the River Jordan, Nazareth, the Sea of Galilee, and the Dead Sea between 1895 and 1904, and the accompanying tour book was published in 1914.

We found the digitalized photos from the Underwood collection in the Emory University's Pitts Theology Library, Candler School of Theology.  We are thankful to M. Patrick Graham, Ph.D., Professor of Theological Bibliography and Director of the  Pitts Theology Library, for permission to reproduce the photos.


"Inside a Jewish synagogue," almost certainly the Instanbouli Synagogue in Jerusalem's Old City (courtesy of  the Pitts Theology Library, Candler School of Theology, Emory University, circa 1900).

Compare this picture to the American Colony photograph with its caption, "One of the oldest in Jerusalem." Almost all of the Old City's synagogues were razed when the Jordan army captured the Jewish Quarter.

This publication has featured several pictures of Jewish money changers in Jerusalem.  But the stereograph of this Old City money changer is unique.  The sign above the door is in Hebrew/Yiddish and presumably gives the names of the proprietors.  But in clearer print are the words  בהכשר הרב קוק - "with the [kosher] approval of Rabbi Kook."

The sign helps us date the picture. Rabbi Abraham Isaac HaCohen Kook arrived in the Holy Land in 1904, so the picture was taken after his arrival and prior to his 1914 departure. During World War I he was in exile in England and Switzerland and returned after the war.

Money changer inside Jerusalem's Old City Jaffa Gate (circa 1905)

Many of the Underwood photos are identical or similar to the pictures from the Library of Congress' American Colony collection that appear on this site.  But some have never been published as part of a history of Jewish life in Palestine in the 19th century.