A “magic lantern” slide of Bishop William Henry Benade and John Pitcairn camping near the Jaffa Gate in Jerusalem was recently discovered in the Academy of the New Church Archives, Swedenborg Library, Bryn Athyn, PA. The slide, which dates to around 1910, is labeled “Bishop Benade and Mr. John Pitcairn Outside the Walls of Jerusalem.” The location of the original print (which dates to 1878) is unknown.
In 1877 Benade and Pitcairn undertook an extended tour of Europe, Egypt and the Holy Land. Their intended purpose was to spread New Church ideas across Europe, and to see for themselves the land of the Bible. However, they would return home with something unexpected—more than 1000 artifacts from the ancient world, the beginning of a museum for the Academy of the New Church.
Toward the end of their stay in Egypt, Pitcairn’s diary records the purchase of ancient Egyptian antiquities, mostly bronze statuettes of gods and goddesses. They also purchased classical pottery and lamps as they traveled on to the Holy Land, the island of Cyprus, and Greece. In Italy they bought the personal collection of an Egyptologist who worked at the Egyptian Museum in Turin. The collection features bronzes of many of the gods and goddesses of ancient Egypt, and also a wide variety of magical amulets—more than 1000 pieces in all. Benade wrote home that he intended to use these objects for teaching Egyptian mythology at the Academy:
“When John and I return, we hope to bring with us a fine collection of Egyptian antiquities which I found in Turin, and which John has generously purchased. These things will make the beginning of a Museum for the Academy. I hope that all our friends will bear in mind that we shall need a Museum…” (Rome, December 4, 1878)
Thanks to John Pitcairn’s travel diary, now in the Academy of the New Church Archives, we know exactly when the photograph in Jerusalem was taken—April 20th, 1878. Here are some relevant passages from the diary that give context to the photo:
Tuesday, April 16, 1878: “Crossed the hills, having several fine views toward Jaffa…The country is quite hilly and we passed a number of picturesque villages, before arriving at Jerusalem. Encamped in a field near the Jaffa gate, between 3 and 4 o’c in the afternoon. Purchased some Olive wood work. having rain tonight. High wind during the night necessitating a close watch to prevent the tent from upsetting, as the rain and wind loosened the stakes.”
Saturday, April 20th, 1878: “This mng. had Photo. view of our tents taken.”
Sunday, April 21, 1878: “After leaving the hospital we took a walk from the Jaffa Gate through the old portion of the City Copt, Christian and Damascus Streets, out of the Damascus Gate and around the wall to our tent.”
The April 21st entry seems to confirm the text written on the lantern slide itself, i.e. “Bishop Benade and Mr. John Pitcairn Outside the Walls of Jerusalem.” Apparently a portion of one of the walls is visible in the background of the photo. (The walls of Jerusalem are about 12 miles long.)
Why would the Academy of the New Church’s library have a magic lantern slide of the Jerusalem photo? This example is part of a collection of slides used by the Academy in the early part of the 20th century. Magic lantern shows were common in New Church gatherings, especially in connection with Christmas and Founder’s Day celebrations. A detailed account of one such show appeared in the March, 1911 issue of New Church Life, as part of a report about Founder’s Day:
“‘Of the twelve men [who signed the Academy’s charter] then present [in 1876], two are still with us, while ten have been gathered to their brethren in the New Heaven. We shall now have the pleasure of seeing once more these patriarchs of the Academy.’ At this point the lights were turned out and magic lantern pictures were thrown on the screen in the following order:
1. The Academy Coat of Arms.
2. Father Benade.
3. John Pitcairn.
4. Walter C. Childs.
5. Franklin Ballou.
6. James Park Stuart.
7. Nathan Clark Burnham.
8. John Randolph Hibbard.
9. Rudolph L. Tafel.
10. Louis H. Tafel.
11. David McCandless.
12. F. E. Boericke, M. D.
13. William F. Pendleton.
14. The School Buildings at Bryn Athyn.
The exhibition of the portraits was accompanied with biographical remarks, affectionate, serious and otherwise, by the Toastmaster and Mr. Childs, and interspersed with songs of a more or less personal nature.’” (p. 190)
Further reading about Benade and Pitcairn’s trip to Europe, Egypt and the Holy Land:
Richard R. Gladish, Bishop William Henry Benade: Founder and Reformer (Bryn Athyn, Pennsylvania: The Academy of the New Church, 1984), 243-294.
Richard R. Gladish, John Pitcairn: Uncommon Entrepreneur (Bryn Athyn, Pennsylvania: The Academy of the New Church, 1989), 141-174.