Young Armenians from Hadjin (Source: Bibliothèque Orientale-USJ)

Hadjin – Trades

Author: Varty Keshishian, 19/02/2016 (Last modified: 19/02/2016)- Translator: Hrant Gadarigian

In Hadjin as in other Armenian populated areas, home-based trades were widely practiced from ancient times; some surviving until recent times. These trades were the primary way people made a living.

Hadjin had an Armenian population of some 20,000 and was known as an Armenian town. Local trades were mainly based on the traditions handed down by Armenian trades people. Naturally, the greater or lesser development of this or that trade was based on the natural resources of a town, the lifestyle of the of the people, and their customs.

A view from Hadjin. In the far back, on the right, the American missionary school and orphanage can be seen on the hill (Source: Ferdinand Brockes, Quer durch Klein-Asien, Gütersloh, 1900)

Some trades, in the passage of time, were more widely practiced, assisting production growth and the economic prosperity of the people. If trades and craftsmanship previously developed within the confines of the home, mostly to satisfy the needs of the family, some trades broke free of these confines starting in the mid-19th century, and developed in trade shops and stores, competing with so-called market trades.

While true that trades in Hadjin had reached a certain level of development, nevertheless, taking a look at the entire picture, we can say that in comparison to other Armenian centers, trades in Hadjin didn’t shine as bright in terms of its opulence or variety. The development of this or that trade, to whatever degree, is directly related to local demand and consumer data. Thus, we can say while Hadjin was a center of craftsmanship, trades in general were a means of work or livelihood, and never a manifestation of life or lifestyle. To verify this, one need only count the number of traditional trades plied in the town – ceramics, weaving, felt making, sock making, woodworking, leather-makers, etc.

In fact, until the mid-19th century, trades in Hadjin remained within the scope of satisfying the daily needs of the people. One of the main reasons for this was the out of the way location of Hadjin. It was far removed from major trade routes. It also suffered from a scarcity of raw materials and production resources. Thus, it had little potential for real development. Starting in the 1870s and 1880s, certain developments, especially in the trade and industrial sectors, were observed in Hadjin as in the rest of the territory. A number of production enterprises were founded and traditional trades were given a boost – leather-making and woodworking, handicrafts and weaving.

Here, I will present those trade stores that employed the most people and had the most impact on Hadjin’s economy.


One of the oldest and most developed of all the trades in Hadjin was tanning (leather-making). [1] An abundance of raw material, coupled with local demand, spurred the development of this trade, but the ancient Armenian tradition of leather-making was a larger factor. It ensured a product of higher quality and profitability.

The Tagharanots (from the Armenian taghar (earthen vessel), in which animal hides were washed) was located on the eastern side of the town along the banks of the Krded River. This trade appears to have been the best organized. The entire tagharanots was made up of 25-30 smaller trade huts and earthen vessels, where the hides, after shearing, cleaning and currying, were turned into leather for a variety of applications. [2] The soft and delicate leather was used to make women’s shoes, boots, slippers and galoshes. The rough leather was used for men’s footwear (shoes, boots), for saddles and bridles, and to produce leather parts for horse riding and household items. After meeting local demand, Hadjin leather-makers sent some of the excess to adjacent towns.

From ancient times, all artisans were members of one esnaf (Turkish for guild/corporation) governed by a higher authority. The esnaf sponsored all the tradespeople. Looking at some information about this body, I can say it was a very well organized independent association that united all master leather-makers, their assistants and students.

The continuation of the above photo with the caption “Young Armenians from Hadjin” (Source: Bibliothèque Orientale-USJ)

As everywhere, this Hadjin trade guild had its own charter, treasury and management body headed by the esnafpashi (the senior master elected by his artisan colleagues), and the guild director. [3] Garabed master Devirian and Krikor master Kesberdjikian served as guild directors. This body oversaw the rules and regulations of trade shops and settled disputes. It also assisted artisans suffering economically or those in trouble. [4]

In the early 1900s, a group of young Hadjin Armenians left for Adana to learn new skills and methods to improve leather-making back home. Upon returning to Hadjin they immediately set to work but the Genocide put an end to their plans. The town was emptied of Armenians and this trade, along with many others, came to a halt. [5]


Another old and well represented trade of Hadjin was the making of linen/cloth. This trade too, however, was home-based to meet the needs of families until the late 19th century. Clothing and other fabrics were usually made at home. Almost all homes had a spinning wheel in front of which women would sit cross-legged and weave fabric. They would mostly use wool, cotton or sheep hair for weaving. [6]

Women from Hajin, while weaving. The photo was taken in the carpet-weaving factory founded by the American missionaries, 1898, Hadjin (Source: H.B. Boghosian, General History of Hadjin and Adjacent Kozan-dagh Armenian Villages [in Armenian], Los Angeles, 1942)

Hadjin, Armenian orphans after 1895. It can be seen in the photo that they are wearing “antari” underneath their jackets (Source: Missionary Church Archives, Bethel College Library, Mishawaka, IN. Courtesy of Rosemary Russell and Kevin Blowers)

Another trade was the making manisa of a striped fabric from cotton. The name derives from the city of Manisa (Magnesia) in Asia Minor which was famous for this trade. Manisa cotton cloth was widely used in many Armenian populated towns. It was also known as aladja. The development and spread of this trade in Hadjin is linked to the Manisadjian family. (Thus the surname) It is said that much earlier, perhaps in the mid-19th century, Nazaret agha Manisadjian started a small production unit in his house. Bringing the wooden frame of the looms (dezgeah) and thread from Marash and Adana, he began to produce manisa fabric. The cloth from this shop was highly in demand in the local market. [7]

As in other Asia Minor towns, manisa was widely used in making clothing and was an obligatory part of Hadjin traditional attire of the day both for men and women. The antari, (a robe opening in front, of silk or figured calico, reaching a little below the knee and fastened round the waist by a sash passing twice round the body) was an essential part of the traditional dress for men, was made from black or red manisa. Women wore undergarments from multi-colored manisa.

Other families also worked at the trade in Hadjin, but the scarcity of raw material and unfavorable conditions for its sale and export limited further growth of the trade.

Manisa Workshop

Immediately after the Hamidian massacres of 1895, the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions (an American Protestant missionary organization) sent missionary John Martin to Hadjin to support local Armenians. Through the auspices of the consulate of Great Britain in Adana, Martin reached out to British benevolent organizations and with the financial assistance they sent he contracted the construction of two huge buildings on a huge tract of land he purchased in the eastern section of Hadjin. The building on the lower stretch was allocated for the production of manisa, and a portion of the upper building was used for furniture and carpet making.

The American missionary’s manisa workshop of Hadjin (Source: H.B. Boghosian, General History of Hadjin and Adjacent Kozan-dagh Armenian Villages [in Armenian], Los Angeles, 1942)

Interestingly, after researching the possibilities for the production of manisa, he opens a workshop – Manisakhan. He invites master tradesmen from Marash to put the shop on a solid footing and in a short time the business takes off. [8] (One of the tradesmen mentioned is Asdour Marashlian). He turns over running of the furniture making unit to Toros Saghdansaghian.

In his memoir, Martin refers to interesting details about these workshops, also mentioning that products from these workshops were sent in packages to the United States and to England [9].


The salwar is a pair of loose, pleated trousers, made of cotton or wool. After spinning the wool and dying the yarn black, they would weave the salwar model and later cut out and sew the salwar. Traditionally, they would wear the salwar with a thick woven belt; the belt would be tied around the waist and would have wide plaits. There was great demand for the salwar in the market because it was part of one's daily attire. There were salwar weaving masters in Hadjin, who besides selling their products in Hadjin and in neighboring villages, would also send them to Marash, Kilis, Ayntab, Aleppo, Alexandrette (Iskenderun, present-day Hatay) and Adana, where they would be sold in the cities' markets. As such, we can conclude that salwar-making held an important place in Hadjin's trades.

The Munushian brothers, Makhian, Ashrian, Ushukian, Eolmkesekian, Belian, Mangurian and Gharibian etc [10] masters were famous in the trade.

Socks Making

The trades of making socks, gloves, sheets, and sewing a variety of fabric, developed alongside pants making. Those making pants were mostly women who spun the wool and sewed various items, thus meeting the needs of their families and sending large quantities to outside markets for sale. [11]

These clothes belonged to Vartouhi Bahadourian (born Gyureghian). She was born in Hadjin, and in 1911 she married and moved to the town of Mala in the vicinity of the city of Selefke/Silifke. Her husband was Shnorhk Bahadourian, who was also from Hadjin. The dress in the middle is Vartouhi’s wedding dress. In 1922, the Bahadourian family members who survived the Genocide moved to Cyprus. These materials are currently in the possession of Vartouhi’s granddaughter, Shnorhig Bahadourian-Altoun in Istanbul.

It is said that even in more recent times, when clothes sewn by hand slowly gave way to machine-made items, the men folk of Hadjin still preferred to wear woolen socks spun by their mothers and sisters.

Wool socks handmade in Hadjin were quite popular in neighboring towns with large numbers of Armenians, and large quantities were sent to outside markets. Sock making was one of the primary activities of Hadjin women. They would pass the time, especially during long winter nights, knitting socks and gloves. In addition to those working at home, there were also small ateliers in homes where young women and girls worked. [12]


Of interest is that Hadjin never had its unique needlework decoration style that is to be found in other Armenian centers and towns.

However, like weaving, spinning, cotton cloth manufacture and other traditional trades, needlework took off, on the one hand, due to the difficult living conditions in Hadjin and, on the other, due to outside influences. With the passage of time, under the impact of that being manufactured in adjacent towns (Marash, Ayntab), Hadjin also started to make a variety of Armenian needlework and lace making items, even surpassing that being made by the original masters.

After the 1895 Hamidian massacres, missionaries arriving in Hadjin from the West spurred Armenian needlework, sending local and items produced elsewhere throughout the world and selling it in European and American markets.

The American missionary school and orphanage of Hadjin (Source: The Missionary Herald, July, 1912, Boston)

One of the first initiatives to spur needlework in Hadjin was the artisan shop of Garabed Keshishian. It is said that when Keshishian worked as a teacher at Ayntab Central College he familiarized himself with the benefits of the flourishing trade of zarifeh needlework and decided to bring the bring it to Hadjin. In 1909 Keshishian invited a skilled teacher from Ayntab and opened an artisan shop in the large house of his father Hagop.

In a short while, a large number of young women and girls were learning various other Armenian styles of needlework from master teachers and learning the secrets of the trade. Obtaining the needed thread and equipment, Keshishian was able to expand the business. It’s recounted that the number of people working there sometimes surpassed 400. [13]

Hundreds of Armenian women learnt needlework in the handful of artisan shops that opened in Hadjin. Many of these women, after being exiled, were able to provide for the families in their new residences due to this trade. [14]

Rug Making

It was John Martin who made the first foray into rug making in Hadjin in 1898 when he sent for a designer named Levon from Sivas/Sepastia. He also hired Kurdish women to learn who to dye and spin the material. This enterprise didn’t last long.

In 1909, via the English Eastern Rug Company, rug making entered Hadjin on a firmer footing and trades shops were opened. These enterprises, still in the initial stages, were destroyed due to WWI and the massacres/exile of Armenians. [15]

Hadjin, the American missionary (Source: The American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions archives, Harvard University, Houghton Library)


Alongside cloth making and weaving, the trade of painting also developed. The Boyadjian brothers were prominent in the field. All types of Hadjin fabrics were dyed in the Zomchoukian, Delidjian and Marashlian ateliers. [16]

Felt Making

Felt making held a special place in Hadjin trades, both in terms of employment and profitability. This prominence was due to the usage of felt hats. For a segment of Hadjin Armenians, but especially for Turks from the neighboring villages, wearing a kiulah was an essential part of daily attire.

Hadjin, engraving (Source: Victor Langlois, Voyage dans la Cilicie et dans les montagnes du Taurus, Paris, 1861)

The brothers Nazaret and Mikayel Atanasian (also known as Kiulahdjian) and their sons were prominent in this trade. Their business had grown to the extent that they opened branches making various wool and cotton pillows, blankets and mattresses. [17]

Pewter Making

A widely practiced trade in Hadjin, master pewter makers would make the rounds of rural areas in the summer meeting the needs of the local populace.

A prominent pewter maker was Baba Kaladjian, master pewter maker. He taught many students the trade and they, in turn, became masters in their own right. [18]

A family from Hadjin, photographed in Lebanon in the 1920’s. From left to right are: Vartivar Moutafian and his wife Trfanda. The little boy standing in the middle is their grandson Vartivar Moutafian (Source: private collection, Berlin. Courtesy of Zabel Sarafian (born Moutafian))

Copper cups from Hadjin. These belonged to the Kalaydjian family who were originally from Hadjin. They are currently in the possession of the Kalaydjian family household in Buenos Aires.

Tack Making

The Turks of Marash had highly developed this trade and it was transferred from there to Hadjin. It is said that a Turk named Ahmed Agha taught the trade to Pilibos Divirian from Hadjin, who in turn taught it to others. In time, this trade took its place alongside others in Hadjin.

The saradj masters would make fine leather goods – horse saddles, bridles, whips, covers, etc. Some of the top saradj masters in Hadjin were the Divirian, Saradjian and Kouyoumdjian families. Especially famous were the horse coverings adorned with gold-plated threads of silver. [19]

A related trade was hand ornamentation of flannel with gold, silver or silk. Manoug Terzian was one of the masters at this trade along with Deovlet agha Kayian in Adana. [20]

An Armenian family from Hadjin (Source: H.B. Boghosian, General History of Hadjin and Adjacent Kozan-dagh Armenian Villages [in Armenian], Los Angeles, 1942)


Woodworking was always a driving force of Hadjin’s economy. The town was surrounded on almost all sides by lush and verdant forests. These huge forests were probably the only richness in the area. Close to the town of Hadjin was the Karachamluk forest, the pride of the region and a constant source of prosperity for Hadjin Armenians.

Covering hundreds of hectares, trees up to 100-150 feet in height grew there. Oak, plantane, pine and cedar were the tree species most abundant, providing inexhaustible raw material and a source of income for the people, especially the needy. [21] A trade called djehreh was one of the main means of making a living prior to 1895 in Hadjin and other regional towns, as well as Kayseri and the Everek-Feneseh area. The natural wood called djehreh was a main export and was used to make pigments. [22]

This forest was also a source of revenue for a number of Hadjin merchants who used large water-powered saws (khzar) to mill the trees felled there. This wood was used in Hadjin and also exported to their regions, especially Kayseri.

The Shkurdumian, Patpoutian, Soghanlian, Evkhanian, Bahadourian and Keshishian families were prominent in this activity. [23]

Bricklaying, quarrying, carpentry

Construction trades played a prominent role in Hadjin from ancient times. Local churches, schools, monasteries, residential homes and other structures were constructed by Hadjin master builders. These were mainly stone structures of high architectural value. All were built in the difficult topography of Hadjin. [24] We can assume that Hadjin master builders utilized architectural and construction traditions of Cilicia; especially skills used to build on steep inclines.

Given the town’s mountainous terrain and restricted space, the town was constructed in a terraced system that endowed it with a complex outline. Almost all the towns’ houses and structures were built atop one another, in a set of levels from two even until seven. Rough hewn stones were the main construction material. A straw-based mortar was used. [25]

The Izmirlian family, 1914, Hadjin. In the first row from left to right are: Hripsime (born in 1907), Sultan and Asadour (born in 1843). In the back row from left to right are: Zarouhi, Elmasd, Shmavon and Atanas, the identity of the last person is unknown. Asadour is holding a saw in his hand, which signifies that he is a carpenter by profession (Source: Ovsanna Izmirlian collection, courtesy of Antranig Dakessian)

A large group of master builders existed in Hadjin. They built houses, churches and other structure in Hadjin and outlying villages. For a large part of the year, a smaller number of stonemasons and bricklayers toured towns and villages plying their skills. [26] Prominent Hadjin builders included Toros Babahekian, Hovagim Moushian, Samuel Dzligian (Mardian), Panos and Hadji Babahekian, Asdour Dndesian, Toros Saghdasarian, Ohan and Simon Khotsourian and Aghazarian. [27]

Parallel with construction, quarrying, stonemasonry and joinery also developed. Joiners and stone masons would usually perform the joinery tasks in the house, doing the interior timber work. In effect they did   stone work plus carpentry, plastering, and other jobs. For this reason, construction was a highly profitable line of work. [28]

Mule Driving

Given that horses, donkeys and mules were the only modes of transportation, for both people and cargo, many men in Hadjin became mule drivers. Oxen and buffalo were used in the fields to till and sow and collect the harvest, while mules or horses were mainly used to transport cargo. Mules were the favorite beast of burden. Mule drivers had their own mules, sometimes as many as ten. These men plied a regular route from Hadjin to Sis, Adana, Kayseri, Konya and other towns; transporting both goods and passengers. [29]

Garabed Devedjian - a cavalier from Hadjin (Source: Bibliothèque Orientale-USJ)

Some prominent names in the business were Vartivar Chaghian, Santour Anigian, Sarkis Poushian, Chaderdjian (Kekligian), Balabanian, and Kambes. [30]

Of note is that after Armenians were massacred and exiled, many of the caravans along the Aleppo-desert route were in the hands of Hadjin mule drivers. In those days, more than forty Hadjin drivers were working in the region of Bab east of Aleppo. [31]

Other Trades

To the abovementioned trades, we must also note tailoring, shoemaking, furriers, and other related tradesmen.

There were also silversmiths and ironmongers. Prominent names in these trades were the Demirdjians, Adjemians and the Svghnians. [32]

Millers also plied their trade in Hadjin and adjacent villages. There were twelve mills in Hadjian alone, milling wheat and other grains. Millers were mostly women. The Kerded and Chatakh creeks flowing on both sides of the town supplied the mills with water power. [33]

The shop of a shoemaker in Hadjin. The two masters are Mgrdich Delidjian on the left and Garabed Devirian on the right. The others are their apprentices (Source: H.B. Boghosian, General History of Hadjin and Adjacent Kozan-dagh Armenian Villages [in Armenian], Los Angeles, 1942)

Bakeries and bakers comprised another trade in Hadjin as residents, by custom, did not buy their bread from the market. Families would make their own in the bakeries located in almost all sections of the town. There were around 10—120 bakeries in Hadjin and its environs. Families would take the flour, knead the dough, and bake bread, giving the baker a loaf or two per week as payment. There were three bakeries in town where bakers made bread for visitors and others. [34] Hadjin women were well represented in the trade as bakers were usually orphaned or widowed women.

  • [1] H.B. Boghosian, General History of Hadjin and Adjacent Kozan-dagh Armenian Villages [in Armenian], Los Angeles, 1942, p. 169.
  • [2] Ibid.
  • [3] Ibid.
  • [4] Ibid.
  • [5] Ibid, p. 170.
  • [6] Ibid.
  • [7] Ibid, p. 171.
  • [8] Ibid, pp. 171-172.
  • [9] Ibid, p. 393.
  • [10] Ibid, p. 170.
  • [11] Ibid.
  • [12] Ibid.
  • [13] Ibid, p. 172.
  • [14] Ibid.
  • [15] Ibid.
  • [16] Ibid.
  • [17] Ibid, pp. 172-173.
  • [18] Ibid, p. 173.
  • [19] Ibid.
  • [20] Ibid.
  • [21] Ibid, p. 169.
  • [22] Ibid, pp. 111-112.
  • [23] Ibid, p. 173.
  • [24] Ibid, p. 141.
  • [25] Ibid, p. 174.
  • [26} Ibid, p. 173.
  • [27] Ibid.
  • [28] Ibid, p. 174.
  • [29] Ibid, pp. 174-175.
  • [30] Ibid, p. 175.
  • [31] See-Krikor Tatoulian’s Cherished Secrets, transcribed and edited by Haroutiun Sahagian, Beirut, Atlas printers, 1967, p. 118.
  • [32] Boghosian, p. 173.
  • [33] Ibid, p. 147.
  • [34] Ibid.