“The Armenian Orphan Rug is a piece of American history and it belongs to the American people.” – Congressional letter to the White House
WASHINGTON—Representatives Adam Schiff (D-CA) and David Valadao (R-CA) are urging their Congressional colleagues to join them in co-signing a letter urging the White House to reverse its decision to block the public display of a rug woven by Armenian orphans and gifted to President Calvin Coolidge in appreciation for U.S. humanitarian assistance following Ottoman Turkey’s genocide of over 1.5 million Armenians from 1915-1923, reported the Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA).
The Congressional letter campaign comes in the wake of Washington Post and National Public Radio reports last week that the White House, after agreeing to lend the rug for an exhibition at the Smithsonian Institute, organized in cooperation with the Armenian Cultural Foundation and Armenian Rug Society, mysteriously and abruptly announced it would not make this historic artwork available for display. In an interview with Public Radio International (PRI), Washington Post Art Critic Philip Kennicott noted that while the White House has not offered an explanation for the reversal in decision, it is likely due to the U.S. government’s deference to Turkey’s international campaign of genocide denial.
In their Congressional letter, Reps. Valadao and Schiff, who are the lead sponsors of the Armenian Genocide Resolution (H.Res.227), note: “The Armenian Orphan Rug is a piece of American history and it belongs to the American people. For over a decade, Armenian American organizations have sought the public display of the rug and have requested the White House and the State Department grant their request on numerous occasions. Unfortunately, Armenian Americans have yet to have their requests granted.”
“Armenian Americans from California and across the country join together in thanking Representatives Valadao and Schiff for their leadership in launching this initiative, and in calling upon their U.S. House colleagues to support this worthwhile effort to reverse this most recent White House capitulation to Ankara’s hateful campaign of genocide denial,” said ANCA Executive Director Aram Hamparian.
The ANCA launched a grassroots campaign last week calling upon the White House and Congress to secure a prominent and permanent public display of the historic rug.
Armenian Americans can urge their U.S. Representatives to sign the Valadao-Schiff Letter by visiting anca.org/orphanrug.
The Armenian orphan rug measures 11’7″ x 18’5″ and is comprised of 4,404,206 individual knots. It took Armenian girls in the Ghazir Orphanage of the Near East Relief Society 10 months to weave. The rug was delivered to the President Coolidge on December 4, 1925, in time for Christmas, with a label on the back of the rug, which reads “IN GOLDEN RULE GRATITUDE TO PRESIDENT COOLIDGE.”
According to Missak Kelechian, an expert on this topic, the gift of the Armenian Orphan Rug was widely covered in U.S. media, including in the New York Times in 1925 and the Washington Post in 1926. Kelechian describes the journey of the rug in the CNN clip below.
Additional information about the history of the Armenian Orphan Rug is available in Dr. Hagop Martin Deranian’s book, President Coolidge and the Armenian Orphan Rug, published on October 20, 2013, by the Armenian Cultural Foundation and soon to be available on Amazon.com.