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Armenian Orphan rug

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  • Armenian Orphan rug

    I didn't know under what category to put this fascinating item. It's historical in that it concerns the Near East Relief.

    Armenian Weekly

    Armenian Orphan Rug Lives up to Its Name

    Posted By Tom Vartabedian On July 21, 2010

    WASHINGTON—Somewhere inside the White House, stashed away inside an obscure storage room, lays an historic rug.

    A close-up of the Armenian Orphan Rug with its intricate detail bearing colorful images of animals akin to the Garden of Eden. The rug was woven in 1924-25 and presented to President Calvin Coolidge. It now lies in storage inside the White House.

    Not just any rug, but one created by 400 Armenian orphans from 1924-25 in a town called Ghazir, about 40 miles north of Beirut.

    This colorful piece of tapestry, which measures 18 feet by 12 feet, lives up to its name: It has remained an “orphan” rug since it passed through the hands of President Calvin Coolidge in 1926.

    The intricacy is woven with a passion unlike others of its kind, containing some 4 million knots made to characterize the biblical Garden of Eden with its collection of animals and other symbolic features.

    The big loom was set up for an “Isfahan.” The 400 orphaned girls worked in shifts and spent 18 months on its completion. It was then sent to Washington and presented at a special ceremony to the White House in recognition of the help rendered by the American people to Armenian orphans.

    Armenian historians and archivists are looking for a more permanent home, one that will avail itself to tourists and public acclaim. They’d like nothing better than to see this rug on permanent display in the White House, with credit given to Armenian Genocide survivors or, at the very least, have it showcased inside the Genocide Museum, or perhaps the Smithsonian.

    They seem to think there are political ramifications preventing this rug from enjoying the life of nobility, for which it was intended.

    “If you bring out the story of this rug, you’re talking genocide, and this country doesn’t recognize the Armenian Genocide,” laments Dr. H. Martin Deranian, a prominent Worcester historian and dentist who has documented every facet of this xxxel. “It’ll open up the story of the orphans. I’ve taken responsibility to see this story brought to the surface and its meaning appreciated.”

    The Armenian Orphan Rug is viewed inside the White House in September 1984 by activists looking to preserve its identity. (L-R) U. S. Senator Carl Levin (D-Mich.), Dr. H. Martin Deranian, Worcester historian, and Set Momjian, a former ambassador to the United Nations.

    Deranian has turned himself into a self-imposed rug ambassador in seeking the cause of justice. By unraveling this mystery, he’s hoping to bring greater credence to the Near East Relief and the scores of orphans saved during the genocide years of 1915-23.

    He continues to pay homage to Dr. Jacob Kuenzler, or “Papa” Kuenzler as he was affectionately called, for evacuating thousands of Armenian orphans from Turkey to the relative security of Syria while working for the Near East Relief.

    Kuenzler had the idea of starting a rug factory in Ghazir. He thought the girls would learn to weave rugs and go on earning a living this way.

    It seemed to him that even on so small an outlay, much good could be achieved for these orphans. With only two looms, he started this rug factory in Ghazir, high up in the mountains.

    President Coolidge was more than grateful for the rug. In a letter he wrote to Dr. John Finley, vice-president of the Near East Relief, Coolidge was overwhelmed by the gift.

    “This beautiful rug woven by children in Lebanon has been received. This, their expression of gratitude for what we’ve been able to do for this country for their aid, is accepted by me as a token of their goodwill to the people of the United States who have assisted in the work of the Near East Relief. Please extend to these orphans my thanks and the thanks of the vast number of our citizens whose generosity this labor of love is intended to acknowledge. The rug has a place of honor in the White House where it will be a daily symbol of goodwill on earth.”

    A “Golden Rule” Sunday had been instituted in the United States. Each year, on the first Sunday in December, people were asked to eat only a one-course meal and contribute the money they had saved to the Near East Relief. Some $2 million was collected annually.

    An overall view of the Armenian Orphan Rug, which measures 18'x12'. Armenian activists are trying to have it removed from storage inside the White House and have it showcased.
    The presentation of the Ghazir rug to the White House in 1925 was given such widespread publicity that contributions from Golden Rule Sunday doubled. The factory received numerous orders for special carpets and many of the girls ultimately found homes and became brides.

    The event was covered in the New York Times, which carried the headline, “President receives rug woven by orphans of Near East and praises work on relief.”

    Coolidge displayed the rug in the Blue Room under his administration. It remained there until 1928 when he took it to his residence in Northampton, Mass.

    The orphan rug graced his living room at a place called the Beeches until his death in 1933. From there, Mrs. Coolidge kept the rug inside her home in Northampton until she died in 1957, eventually landing with a son John until he sold his Connecticut home in 1974.

    The rug wound up in storage at the Coolidge Homestead in Plymouth, Vt., when it was returned to the White House and added to the collection in 1983. It was placed in storage and not on public view, and has remained there for the past 27 years.

    Deranian was invited to the White House to view the rug with U.S. Senator Carl Levin (D-Mich.) and Asbed Set Momjian, a former ambassador to the United Nations.

    “The curator of the White House collection has indicated that it is highly unlikely the rug would be on exhibit in an official capacity,” said Deranian.

    “It was an emotional feeling to touch this very rug. These girls with their nimble fingers wove their gratitude to America into every stitch. My interest dates back to my mother. During the deportation, she went through every indignity before ending up in Urfa.”

    Call it fate but in 1995, Charlotte Movsesian of North Andover, Mass. observed a color photo in the Lawrence Eagle-Tribune of Hillary Clinton showing off the Blue Room during her husband’s administration. And there was the rug, bright and bold as ever.

    She recognized that rug because her own mother Vartouhi (Hovsepian) Gulezian was one of those orphaned girls who helped weave it. Mrs. Gulezian was 14 years old and brought to America from Ghazir in 1926 to work at a loom as a demonstration during the sesquicentennial (150th anniversary) celebration of the founding of the United States. She was joined by another orphan, 15-year-old Gulunia Kehyaian.

    Movsesian wrote to Clinton and inquired about the rug, never expecting a response. A month later, she received a letter from the White House curator, inviting the entire family to Washington.

    Together with her husband Albert S., brother Martin, and mother, off they went by train to meet the appointment. They were welcomed not by Hillary Clinton but the White House curator and her assistant. And there was the rug Mrs. Gulezian had made with the others orphans. She recognized it.

    “A rush of emotion came over me, not so much for the beauty but what it represented,” said Albert Movsesian, who promotes genocide education in local schools with stories of the rug.

    “The fact the Near East Relief was responsible for helping so many orphans, including my mother-in-law, deserves our utmost appreciation,” he added. “I got down on my hands and knees and touched every part of the rug. I saw the Golden Rule Gratitude inscription in one of the corners.”

    The Movsesians wound up spending 90 minutes at the White House that day, had photos taken by the rug, and off they went, laden with memories of a lifetime. No sign of any president, however.

    “Very few people know the significance of this rug,” Movsesian brought out. “The story about it has been a well-kept secret in the Armenian community because these orphans didn’t talk about it. After we saw the rug, back into storage it went. It’s been there ever since, simply forsaken. We’re hoping to resurrect it into a place of honor where it belongs.”

    If and when that might occur, the rug will represent a memorial to those orphans whose sad fingers wove into its warp and weft a permanent remembrance of the depths of Armenia’s blackest hour.

    If it could only talk, it would speak volumes
    Attached Files

  • #2
    Re: Armenian Orphan rug


    10:46, 19 Nov 2014

    The White House, in its caption describing the Armenian Orphan Rug,
    not only avoided mention of the Armenian Genocide, it failed to even
    touch upon basic historical aspects of this artwork's origins, the
    Armenian National Committee of America reports.

    No explanation of who these orphans were, where they were from,
    why were they orphaned, who made them orphans, or what was done
    (or not done) to set things right.

    Only the prepositional phrase: "Orphaned during World War I..." is
    used to define the era in which they lost their parents.

    "What would an average visitor learn from this, what lessons could he
    or she learn and apply in trying to prevent renewed genocides around
    the world? Perhaps that, with enough geopolitical leverage, even
    the American White House can be conscripted into genocide denial,"
    ANCA Executive Director Aram Hamparian said.
    Hayastan or Bust.


    • #3
      Re: Armenian Orphan rug


      18:42 10/02/2015 >> POLITICS

      On February 26 in Glendale Central Library presentation of "Carpet
      of Armenian orphans" by Maurice Misaka-Kelechyana, dedicated to
      the unique carpet "Gasir" Weaved by hands of the Armenian women who
      survived the Armenian Genocide in the Ottoman Empire, will be held,
      reports the Glendale Arts website.

      The Azerbaijani side didn't lose the chance of provocation, and stated
      that allegedly the carpet and its ornaments are "of Azerbaijani
      origin." Thus, according to the Azerbaijani news website ""
      the carpet "Gazir" belongs to "the Azerbaijani school of Tabriz"
      and supposedly the eight-pointed star placed in the center of the
      carpet proves it.

      It should be noted that this is the only "argument" Azerbaijani side
      brings, which cannot stand any criticism. In the center of the Armenian
      carpet there is no eight-pointed star. Even with the naked eye it is
      obvious that the central ornament besides the eight pointed corners has
      also four tabs with rounded ends, forming a Christ, which is the symbol
      of Christianity, and the pattern as a whole is the so-called "sprouted
      or Flowering Cross" which is common for the medieval Armenian culture.

      However, even if we assume that this pattern is an eight-pointed star,
      this fact would not speaks in favor of the Azerbaijani side either,
      as this symbol was often used by artists also in the early Christian
      period and was called the "Star of David", and in its turn had more
      ancient roots. In this context, the phrase "Azerbaijani ornament"
      is not acceptable, given the fact that the above mentioned Tabriz
      carpet school is of Iranian origin.

      Note that the carpet contains more than 4 million nodes and is
      decorated with traceries of blossoming Garden of Eden, patterns of
      plants and animals. Ornamental carpet system gives reason to believe
      that the scenes depicted on it are from the Biblical story about Adam
      and Eva.

      The "Carpet of Armenian orphans" was woven in an orphanage for girls
      in the Lebanese city of Gazir by the hands of orphans who survived
      through by selling the carpets and contributions from the American
      Near East Relief Committee. On December 4, 1925 the carpet was given
      to the US President Calvin Coolidge as a gift as a sign of gratitude
      for the help provided to the Armenians during the Genocide. President
      George. C. Coolidge, when leaving the White House, took the carpet
      with him, and kept it in his family until 1980. Family Coolidge
      returned the carpet to the White House in 1982, where he was placed
      in storage. Despite pressure from Turkey, on 18-23 November 2014 the
      famous carpet "Gasi" was exhibited in the visitors' hall of the White
      House at the exhibition on the theme of "Thank you, United States:
      three gift to presidents in gratitude for the generosity of the United
      States abroad." The world's media wrote about the exhibition, noting
      also about the carpet's story.
      Hayastan or Bust.


      • #4
        Re: Armenian Orphan rug

        Armenian National Committee of America-Western Region
        104 North Belmont Street, Suite 200
        Glendale, California 91206
        Tel: 818-500-1918
        Fax: 818-246-7353
        Email: [email protected]

        Ghazir Armenian Orphan Rug
        Presented to President Calvin Coolidge in 1925
        Thursday, February 26th | 7PM | Glendale Public Library

        The public is invited on Thursday, February 26, 2015, at 7pm to a
        power point presentation of the Ghazir Armenian Orphan Rug by Maurice
        Missak Kelechian at the Glendale Central Library Auditorium, 222 East
        Harvard Street in Glendale. The presentation will be in
        English. Admission will be free. Library visitors receive 3 hours FREE
        parking across the street at The Market Place parking structure with
        validation available at the Loan Desk.

        The program is sponsored by the Glendale Library, Arts & Culture
        department and the ANCA-WR Initiative "America We Thank You: An
        Armenian Tribute to Near East Relief," which recognizes the outpouring
        of philanthropic generosity and humanitarianism by the American people
        from the onset of the Armenian Genocide that rescued and rehabilitated
        over 1,000,000 refugees and 132,000 Armenian orphans.

        Msar Palace in Ghazir is about 20 miles from Beirut, Lebanon, perched
        on a hill, the Msar (often spelled Mizar) palace in Ghazir was built
        during the 19th century by a Lebanese prince, Emir Chehab II. Early in
        1923, the Near East Relief organization rented Msar palace and turned
        it into an Armenian girls' orphanage, the largest in the area. Under
        the American flag, the orphanage became a safe haven for 1400 Armenian
        girls who had witnessed the destruction of their country, during the
        Armenian Genocide. The place is well known for its rug factory. From
        1923 to 1930, the orphanage produced 3254 rugs and around 1000 orphan
        girls certified in the art of rug weaving. These girls made history by
        introducing the art of rug weaving into the Lebanese culture.

        Three years after the Ghazir orphanage was founded and within a period
        of ten months, seven Armenian orphan girls wove their masterpiece rug
        on behalf of tens of thousands of Armenian orphans around the world.

        The Ghazir Rug, also known as Armenian Orphan Rug is a magnificent
        11.7 by 18.5 feet rug, woven into 4,404,206 individual hand-tied knots
        of figures of more than one hundred animals and plants. The solemn
        expression of pain and sorrow for everything lost: homeland, loved
        ones and, trust in humanity. In December 1925, the rug was presented
        to United States President Calvin Coolidge as a token of gratitude and
        it stayed with Coolidge and his family even after he left the
        office. The rug was returned to the White House in 1982, and stored in
        the storage room for thirty-two years until November, 2014 when it was
        exhibited at the White House Visiting Center.

        "The Ghazir Rug is not just a carpet; it is a tangible connection to
        the first genocide of the Twentieth Century -a silent, beautiful
        rebuttal to those who deny the murder of 1.5 million men, woman and
        children in a campaign of mass murder, forced marches, rape and
        looting that befell the Armenian people from 1915-23. " -- Congressman
        Adam Schiff--
        Hayastan or Bust.