One of several thousand rugs woven by Armenian orphans has recently been discovered in the home of American woman, Elibet Kunzler, whose father, Jacob, was a Swiss missionary working for the American Committee for Syrian and Armenian Relief (now the Near East Foundation). The committee was founded in response to the plight of Armenians, Greeks and Assyrians who were subject to deportation, forced marches, starvation and execution at the hands of the Ottoman Turks at the beginning of the First World War. Jacob Kunzler worked as an orphanage director, evacuating Armenian orphans from Urfa, in Turkey, to the mountain village of Ghazir in Lebanon. Once they were settled, he created rug-weaving facilities in the orphanage with the help of Armenian master weaver Hovhannes Taschjian, who trained more than 1,400 Armenian girls in the art of weaving, dyeing and patterning. The orphans were taught this vocational trade to ensure their economic survival, while also creating the rugs to be sold and donated for fundraising.
What makes the Kunzler rug even more significant is that it is believed to be a sister rug to the one given to President Calvin Coolidge in 1925, as a sign of gratitude for the US relief effort. Though the Kunzler rug is much smaller, both rugs contain the same animals, plants, medallions and Armenian symbolic imagery.
Read more about these Armenian rugs here.