The Peace Haven Collection

Cover Image:
James B. Schafer speaking to a crowd at Peace Haven, 1939
James B. Schafer speaking to a crowd at Peace Haven, 1939

Collection Facts


Historical Context

Peace Haven was the name given to Idle Hour, the former Long Island estate of William K. Vanderbilt I, between 1938 and 1941. Following Vanderbilt’s death in 1920, the estate had passed through several hands before being purchased by James B. Schafer in 1938. A cult leader, Schafer renamed the estate as “Peace Haven” and converted it into a retreat for his organization, the Royal Fraternity of Master Metaphysicians (RFMM.) The estate served as a popular retreat for the cult’s members and as a venue for events based on the Royal Fraternity’s philosophy.

The Royal Fraternity of Master Metaphysicians enjoyed global notoriety in 1939, when Schafer adopted an infant girl famously called “Baby Jean.” The RFMM believed that they could make Baby Jean immortal by raising her in accordance with their metaphysical beliefs. Baby Jean lived at Peace Haven until 1940, when she was returned to her birth parents at the request of her mother. By 1941, following several lawsuits and allegations of theft and tax fraud, the RFMM declared bankruptcy and Peace Haven was foreclosed and auctioned off.

Peace Haven is a fascinating topic of local history for the people of Long Island, but also a great example of the history of a Gilded Age estate as it entered the Modern Era.

Scope of Collection

The Peace Haven collection contains photographs of the Idle Hour estate during its time as Peace Haven (1938-1941). The photographs show the daily life of the inhabitants of Peace Haven, as well as special events held on the property. There are also several photographs of Baby Jean, the child raised by Schafer and the cult to be immortal.