Mammoth 1913 school map of the United States by an ethnic-Armenian immigrant aspiring to citizenship

Garabed Haroutunian, UNITED STATES… PRESENTED TO CHELSEA HIGH SCHOOL JANUARY 1913. Chelsea, Mass., January 1913.
Ink and watercolor wash on linen, edges folded over and sewn, 61”h x 79 ½”w overall. Toned and water stained, with some foxing visible at lower left, and some minor punctures. Originally with grommets at corners for hanging, three of which now perished.

A mammoth hand-drawn and –painted school map of the United States produced in 1913 by an ethnic-Armenian immigrant from Turkey, aspiring to citizenship in his adopted country.

The map is simple in design, clearly intended to be hung on a wall and viewed at a considerable distance, perhaps in a school 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 Mexico, which had only entered the Union in 1912. Befitting a recent immigrant with his eye on American citizenship, the title at lower right is executed in a patriotic arc of red, white, and blue surrounding a large 48-star flag.

The map is signed “By Garabed Haroutunian” and bears the inscription “presented to Chelsea High School January 1913”, at which time he would have been an 18-year-old freshman.

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 18th of that year. Garabed would have been just 15 at the time, but I 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 plausible that Garabed was 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. The 1915 naturalization 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 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 petition for naturalizationGarabed’s 1915 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 I 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.

In all, a remarkable survival with a poignant backstory.