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The Mendenhall J. Dennis Manuscript Collection

Identifier: SCM 075

Scope and Content

This collection of nineteenth century papers was unidentified in the archives for many years. Certain items in this collection suggest that Rev. Mendenhall J. Dennis, D. D. was their creator. A book labeled "Exercises," is signed "M. J. Dennis." Other manuscripts in this collection exhibit similar handwriting and subject content to this piece. An "Estimate Book," from the Job Room at the United Brethren Publishing House, as well as other papers, place the provenance of the collection in Dayton, Ohio. Few dates are given, with the exception of 1875 and 1888.


  • 1875-1892, bulk undated

Language of Materials

English, Hebrew


There are no special restrictions to the access of this collection. It may be examined by library patrons under the normal rules and conditions of Special Collections. Many of the manuscripts are on brittle paper, so care should be taken when handling.

Preferred Citation

The following is the acceptable citation for publication:

The Mendenhall J. Dennis Manuscript Collection. Special Collections, Princeton Theological Seminary Library.

Biographical Information

Mendenhall J. Dennis was born Mendel Diness in Odessa, Ukraine in 1827. Trained as a watchmaker, Diness went to Jerusalem in 1848 and accepted baptism, first as an Anglican Christian, then as a Campbellite, and his name was changed to Mendel John Diness. He learned photography from Scottish missionary James Graham and became the first Jewish photographer in Jerusalem.

Around 1859 Diness and his wife emigrated to the United States, settling in Ohio and opening a photography business. He changed his name again, to Mendenhall John Dennis, and traveled throughout the Midwest giving illustrated lectures on the Holy Land with his photos. He relocated to Port Townsend, WA, where he died in 1900.

In 1989, more than 100 of Dinnes’ glass plates were discovered at a Minnesota garage sale, along with some of his notebooks and prints, all of which were thought to have been lost. Researchers consulted PTS Archivist William O. Harris and other archivists and pieced together the biography behind the images. In 1993 the Semitic Museum of Harvard University held an exhibition of Diness’ works.

Some of these papers might be notes for Diness’ illustrated Midwest lectures.


1 Linear Feet (3 Boxes)

Processing Information:

This collection of papers was discovered in the archives backlog in December of 2007. These materials had been marked as unidentified, and were not organized. It is unclear how or when these papers came to the Seminary. They have been foldered and labeled according to prominent titles. New information has been added to the revised biographical note above.

The Mendenhall J. Dennis Manuscript Collection
Sarah A. Seraphin
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Code for undetermined script

Repository Details

Part of the Princeton Theological Seminary. Library. Special Collections Repository

Princeton Theological Seminary
Wright Library
25 Library Place
Princeton NJ 08540 USA