Herzl and Kaiser Wilhelm II

Herzl and German Kaiser

Herzl and Kaiser Wilhelm II, 1898

This photograph was taken on October 28, 1898 outside of the agricultural school at Mikve Israel when Kaiser Wilhelm II of Germany, astride a white stallion, with helmet of gold stopped for a moment on his way to Jerusalem. By the roadside, stood a solemn figure with a black beard: Theodor Herzl, founder of modern Zionism. Herzl considered the Kaiser’s recognition crucial for international approval of his plan to resettle the Jews in the land of Israel. All the Kaiser could muster was the observation: “The land needs water, very much water.”

What’s wrong with the photo? First, the Kaiser is on a dark horse. The original unusable photo can be viewed by clicking here.

On the right edge of the original photo you can just make out Herzl holding his safari hat. The Kaiser’s horse has its head completely out of the frame. Can you imagine taking such a poor photo? Have you ever had one of those days, when nothing seems to go right?

To salvage the situation a photo of Herzl was taken on the roof of the school and superimposed onto the photo after seating Kaiser Wilhelm II on the dark horse and cropping the photo on the right.

Surprised? Actually there are quite a few examples. See the Time magazine website http://www.time.com/time/photogallery/0,29307,1924226,00.html on “Doctored Photos” with the warning “photographers have been manipulating imagery since the medium was invented”.

Here are another two photographs from the early 1900s of Jaffa Gate, after the Kaiser’s visit (the wall has been breached and the moat filled in so that the Empress Augusta Victoria’s carriage can enter). These photos were taken by one of the photographers of the American Colony, probably Lars Larsson. Which one is the earlier one? Do you think the image in either one of them has been manipulated?

Jaffa Gate, Old City, ~1900

Jaffa Gate, Old City, ~1900 (American Colony Photo Department)

Jaffa Gate, Old City, ~1900 (photographer: Eric Matson)

Jaffa Gate, Old City, ~1900 (American Colony Photo Department)

The clock tower at Jaffa Gate was one of seven built by the Ottoman Turks in 1908 on the occasion of the silver jubilee of the reign of the Sultan abd al-Hamid II (there are still clock towers in Jaffa, Safed, Nablus, Haifa, Nazareth and Akko) but was taken down by the British about 1920.

The entire American Colony/Matson collection of photographs, some 22,000 negatives were donated by Eric Matson’s heirs to the American Library of Congress who have digitized the collection and made it available for viewing at http://memory.loc.gov/pp/matpchtml/matpcac.html


8 thoughts on “Herzl and Kaiser Wilhelm II

  1. Tom Powers

    The two American Colony photos are interesting. I have done quite a bit of work on this collection and the photographers and can tell you that the second photo is actually the earlier one, taken between about 1900, when the sabil (fountain) was built, and 1907 when the clocktower, of dubious aesthetic merit, was erected. You are correct that the British dismantled the clocktower (and the sabil), but it seems to have been a bit later, about 1921-22.

    Eric Matson, by the way, did not actually take these two images – certainly not the earlier one, as he was not yet active as a photographer at that early stage but still a young assistant in the American Colony’s Photo Dept. The photos are part of the “Matson Collection” because in later years he came to possess the entire archive, after the American Colony broke up (1930) and he himself left the community (1934). Thereafter, until 1946 when he left the country forever, Matson ran his own commercial studio, the “Matson Photo Service”, adding his own independent work to the existing American Colony corpus.

    The American Colony/Matson images – which actually total some 20,000 – were simply not attributed to individual photographers, except in rare cases. The great majority, though, were almost certainly taken by the Swede Lewis Larsson, who headed the photo unit for many years starting around 1910, and an American colleague by the name of Furman Baldwin.

    Thanks for sharing the photos! It’s a fascinating collection. All the best.


  2. Tom Powers

    One more observation: The top (and later) photo I suspect was taken during the years of World War I (1914-1917), when the Turks attached a wrap-around observation platform to the shaft of the tower, as seen here. If you look at earlier photos, it’s not there! And, if the picture were as late as the British period you’d almost certainly have a few automobiles.

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