Bishop Jacob Hostetter (1774-1865)

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Jacob Hostetter (or Hochstetter) was a farmer, mechanic, tailor, shoemaker, and basket-maker from the Manheim area. He was a bishop in the Lancaster Mennonite Conference who served as the Conference moderator following the death of Bishop Peter Eby in 1843.

This photographic portrait was taken in the 1850s and is remarkable in several ways. First, it depicts someone who was born before the United States of America existed. Second, it was made at a time when there was some contention among the Lancaster Mennonites about the use of photographic portraits. John Ruth writes that Hostetter “reluctantly yielded to his family’s persistent requests for his picture. But that brought him serious criticism, as expressed by an anonymous letter writer from Farmersville, in the conservative region of Groffdale. Bishop Hochstetter had acknowledged to the conference several years earlier that his picture had been taken, and he did not find it pleasant to have the matter thrown up to him again at the age of eighty-four.”1


  1.  John L. Ruth, The Earth Is the Lord’s: A Narrative History of the Lancaster Mennonite Conference (Scottdale, Pa.: Herald Press, 2001), 533-534.