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Fund-raising pleas on behalf of “Starving Armenians” at Christmastime: a dramatic word-picture from The Literary Digest for December, 1919; a sketch depicting “Christmas Day in Armenia” on the cover of New Near East magazine December, 1921 and a cover from a box of Safety Matches made at the Czech Solo Match Works — the purchase of which goes to the “Benefit of Armenian Orphans.”

 December 27, 2015

Special to Groong by Abraham D. Krikorian and Eugene L. Taylor




The following is an excerpt of a typical cable sent to America, in this case from Tiflis, Russian Caucasus (12 December 1915 by Rev. Richard Hill, member of an early American Red Cross Commission to evaluate need.)


“First of all let me repeat the words of my first cable and emphasize with all vigor of earnestness that the situation here in respect to the Armenian refugees is fully as bad as we had been led to believe, and that to attempt to adequately describe the horrors of it would be a task altogether beyond me…it would take the pen of a Dickens to give the pathos and misery of it proper justice.”


The imagery we present is of a genre, which is best characterized as very much sanitized and does little justice to the reality.  What we do present below will, however, provide a superficial glimpse of that terrible period in the history of the Armenian people.  In fact, the very word “refugee” is a little misleading.  It really signifies those who were able to escape direct murder at the hands of ‘the Turks’, and had fled or were still fleeing to the other side of the Turkish frontier.  While physically safe for the time being, the conditions for the Armenians quickly became horrendous.  We hope the print in the following full-page ad is large enough to read with ease.



It should be emphasized that the above was, and is totally devoid of melodramatic elements. The situation was terrible in the latter part of 1915, and conditions were still very bad in 1919 and for quite a few years thereafter.  (Scan from a copy we own.)





Hopefully not ‘really’ forgotten.  Fund-raising efforts on behalf of Armenians continued for many years, and are still ongoing for the descendants of those who found themselves in diaspora in countries like Syria and Iraq.  These diasporan Armenians are today again caught up in the turbulent madness, which obtains within these places.  Diasporas are rapidly becoming ‘diasporas within diasporas.’ (Scan from a copy that we own.)







The Solo Match Works (home factory in Sušice near Klatovy in Bohemia  - today’s Czech Republic) was world-famous for producing wooden safety matches.  Today, there are many match boxes made by them relating to a wide range of themes and are rare enough to be sought by collectors.  Apparently the firm was closed in 1996 after 169 years of productivity.  The word “Hai” at the upper left corner of the arc means “Armenian”.   The Armenian word that follows means for orphans and would have been pronounced “orper” or “vorper” depending on regional dialect.  Likewise, the final word in the arc means for relief or assistance and would have been pronounced “nbasd” or “nabasd”.   Unfortunately, we are unaware of any details on the production of these matches for relief purposes.  Company labels usually state “Made in Czechoslovakia”.   It may have been that the matches were made in Czechoslovakia and afterwards affixed with a partially bilingual label in America.  This is pure speculation but the American eagle, if in fact that is what the poorly drawn bird represents, would support that speculation.  This is a fascinating example of the range of activities initiated and used to raise money for relief.  (Courtesy of Pamela Apkarian-Russell who allowed us to make the scan years ago.)





We thank the Burke Library, Union Theological Seminary and Columbia University for access to the statement made by Rev. Hill at the outset of this short notice.  We again thank Pamela Apkarian-Russell for access to this rare example of ephemera relating to the genocide of the Armenians by ‘the Turks.’



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