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History Notes on Armenian Rugs

historic picture of Armenian carpet weavers in

Contributed with Permission by: Arto Tavukciyan

Hunter of valuable artifacts left behind by Armenians as they fled the Ottoman Empire in 1915

Owner and CEO at HyeAntiques

I have to laugh at the ignorance of so-called rug experts, many of whom are authors, who insist Armenians were only rug traders.

They were not just traders, they OWNED and CONTROLLED a large part of the rug industry in the Ottoman Empire prior to 1915.

First let’s establish their control with these three quotes from the 1903 book entitled “The Oriental Rug” written by W.D. Ellwanger.

“And yet the Armenians who handle most of the rugs in this country are often highly educated, and fully appreciate the beauty of their wares” pg. 5

“Large or small retailers may import some pieces directly from London, Paris, or Constantinople, but even the most important retailers buy heavily from the great Armenian wholesalers in New York City”. pg. 74

“These various Armenian dealers are universally known for their shrewdness and cleverness as well as for other ingenuousness and natural courtesy. Except the heads of the carpet departments in some few large concerns, they know much more about their wares than other salesmen, and their personal, live knowledge gives a fillip of enthusiasm to the purchaser. They would control the retail trade in rugs, were it not that the department store”. pg. 113

Not only were the Armenians the manufacturers in the Ottoman Empire, they also controlled the rug distribution in the US and the world. In the US early 20th C, 75% of the dealers were Armenians.

If you have any common sense, then you would understand when you control the manufacturing and the distribution YOU DICTATE THE DESIGN and HIRE WHOM YOU WANT TO WEAVE. In the case of the Armenians in the Ottoman Empire, as a minority always under threat, it was natural they would HIRE from within their own community.

Here is a quote from Antony Wynn, biographer of the the Oriental Carpet Manufacturers Company, owned by the Armenian Spitalian family the biggest rug company in the world at the end of the 19th C.

“The OCM, as it expanded its weaving further and further into Anatolia, employed, almost WITHOUT exception, Greek or Armenian weavers”.

So to conclude, you can thank Armenian businessmen, designers, dyers and especially their young women for most of the beautiful pre-1915 antique Anatolian and Caucasian rugs that you enjoy today.