A Profound Statement of An Armenian Immigrant's Love for the United States
A mammoth hand-drawn and –painted map of the United States produced in 1913 by a recent ethnic-Armenian immigrant from Turkey for presentation to his high school in Chelsea, Massachusetts.
Produced immediately prior to the Armenian Genocide, the scale of the map undoubtedly reflects the overwhelming sense of appreciation for American residency then being felt by its maker. At more than five by six-and-one-half feet, the map is vast but also simple in design, clearly designed to be hung on a wall and viewed at a considerable distance, perhaps in a hallway or auditorium. It depicts the United States and, in less detail, large areas of Canada and Mexico, with little topography other than major bodies of water and river systems. State boundaries are delineated and their capitals identified, including those of Arizona and New Mexico, which had only joined the Union in 1912. Befitting a recent immigrant with his eye on American citizenship, the patriotic title at lower right is executed in an arc of red, white, and blue surrounding a large 48-star flag.
Garabed Haroutunian (1894-?)
According to his 1915 petition for naturalization, Garabed Haroutunian was born August 10, 1894 in the ancient, city of Van in far-eastern Turkey near the modern-day borders with Armenia and Iran. He emigrated to the United States in 1909, arriving in New York on the Martha Washington on September 18, 1909. Garabed would have been just 15 at the time, but we find no mention of parents, only a brother, Sarkas, who must have arrived in America separately. Though Garabed’s arrival preceded the Armenian Genocide by several years, Armenians were an oppressed minority in Turkey, and it seems reasonable to view Garabed as yet another immigrant fleeing persecution--or at least chronic lack of opportunity—for a better life in the United States.
Garabed ended up in Chelsea, which at the time had a significant Armenian population, perhaps reuniting there with his brother Sarkas. The 1915 petition describes him as a “student” residing at 53 Heard Street in Chelsea, and is witnessed by Chelsea schoolmaster Fred A. Pitcher and truant officer Patrick J. Gaffney. However, the Chelsea Directory for 1914 lists the brothers Garabed and Sarkas Haroutunian operating Haroutunian Bros. confectionary at 378 Broadway, with the next entry describing Garabed as a teacher at the “Evening School” living at 123 Grove Street. The apparent paradox of Garabed being a student in 1915 and teacher in 1914 can however be resolved: He was apparently teaching in the “Armenian Room of the evening school” in Chelsea (Boston Globe, Oct. 23, 1912, p. 8), while still a student at Chelsea High, from which he graduated in 1916. Garabed’s map bears the inscription “presented to Chelsea High School January 1913”, at which time he would have been a 19-year-old freshman.
Garabed’s petition for naturalization as approved, and on March 14, 1916 he became an American citizen. He went on to serve his new country during the First World War, gaining the rank of Supply Sergeant in the 101st Field Artillery before being discharged and arriving home on April 10, 1919. It appears he was a man in a hurry, as we find record of a Garabed and Eva Haroutunian of Everett, Mass. arriving back in Boston from Antilla, Cuba on October 31, 1919. After that he becomes difficult to trace, as Garabed Haroutunian is a reasonably-common name in the Armenian community.
The map is a superb artifact of early-20th-century mass migration to the United States. It encapsulates its creator's love for his adoptive country, for the new right to a free education that it had afforded him, and reflects how the nation was being shaped and improved by the skills of its new citizens.
In all, a remarkable survival with a poignant backstory.