On Displaying the Orphan’s Rug

President Coolidge with Dr. Finley as the massive rug is unfurled on the White House lawn.

President Coolidge with Dr. Finley as the massive rug is unfurled on the White House lawn. Coolidge would write, “The rug has a place of honor in the White House, where it will be a daily symbol of good-will on earth.”

At long last, the gift presented to the United States, received by President Calvin Coolidge, has been displayed and should be a permanent reminder of the generosity and selfless service that Americans gave freely as they learned of the massacre of Armenians perpetrated by Turkish authorities living within the Ottoman Empire after 1915. Scores of volunteers helped treat and rescue the children orphaned by the killings and, in gratitude, two rugs were woven by the young people and presented to the Coolidges at the White House in December 1925. Vartoohi Hovsepian and Galena Kehyaian, both having witnessed their parents’ murders, were evacuated and, representing all the weavers, were introduced to the President and First Lady on the following year, November 5, 1926.

As indispensable author Hagop Martin Deranian recounts, fifteen-year old Vartoohi recalled how kind Mr. Coolidge was. Expecting to find him sitting upon some ornate chair, like a king’s throne, she was amazed and impressed to learn how simple, kindly and even boy-like he was. They had their picture taken and then went to see Mrs. Coolidge, at her husband’s suggestion (Deranian’s President Calvin Coolidge and the Armenian Orphan Rug, Arlington, MA: Armenian Cultural Foundation, 2013, pp.24-6).

With equal feeling for the sentiment and seriousness of occasion surrounding the gift, Coolidge wrote to the Vice Chairman of the Near East Relief Executive Committee, Dr. John H. Finley, the night of the rug’s arrival, December 4, 1925.

Reprinted in the New York Times, December 4, 1925. Courtesy of the NYT Archives.

Reprinted in the New York Times, December 4, 1925. Courtesy of the NYT Archives.

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