Ayntab, 1898. The Aladjadju Esnaf Commissionu (Commission of Aladja Traders). This photograph was digitally colorised using Myheritage.com. (Source: Kevork Sarafian, Badmutyun Ayntebi Hayots (History of Armenians of Ayntab), Volume I, Los Angeles, 1953).

Ayntab – Manisa Manufacturing

Author: Ani Voskanyan, 31/03/2023 (Last modified: 31/03/2023) - Translator: Simon Beugekian

The unprecedented growth in manisa manufacturing was an essential catalyst in the rise of industry and commerce in Ayntab. By the first half of the 19th century, manisa manufacturing and the related trades were the most common occupations among the locals. The people of Ayntab learned the trade from their compatriots in the area of Arapgir. In early years, yarn was imported from Europe, and various types of aladja were woven by locals. [1]

Beginning in the early 1850s, the importation of high-quality white and dyed yarn transformed the industry. Lighter and improved tazkahs (looms) were crafted to weave this fine and delicate yarn. These looms became the foundation of the manisa manufacturing industry in the city. [2] Gradually, new craftsmen and markets were attracted to the burgeoning industry, which became the biggest in the city, boosting the economic power of the already-prosperous Armenian population. Contemporary press reports indicate that Ayntab was truly an industrial city, where the manisa/aladja trade played an important role in the economy. Not only did the majority of the city’s population owe its income to manisa manufacturing, but the industry also acted as a catalyst for other branches of commerce and the crafts. [3]

The Development of Manisa Manufacturing in Ayntab

Until the mid-19th century, Ayntab had a primitive textile industry. Using spindles, workers made cotton thread, which was then woven into white fabric using basic looms. The fabric was thick and sturdy, mostly meant for the local market. The use of such looms continued through 1915, although it gradually decreased over the years. [4]

In the half-century leading up to 1900, the manufacturing and consumption of manisa in Ayntab grew so exponentially that the number of master manisa manufacturers in the city reached 300, while the number of looms reached 3,000. About half of these looms were operated by Turkish workers, and half by Armenian workers. The 300 manufacturers were Armenian, but soon, two or three Turkish manufacturers joined them. Each of these manufacturers owned five to 100 looms. About half the looms were placed in the workers’ homes, while the other half were in the manufacturers’ workshops, with about two to 12 looms per workshop. [5] The book Giligia. Ports Ashkharhakroutyan Arti Giligio [Cilicia. An Essay on the Geography of Modern Cilicia] puts the number of looms in the city during this period at 3,800. [6] According to K. Barsoumian, the number of looms in Ayntab exceeded 4,000; and the number of manisa weavers, manisa dyers, masoura rollers, direzin makers, craftsmen in related fields, and their dependents exceeded 25,000. [7] According to another source, a total of 21,000 individuals in Ayntab were engaged in the manufacturing, sale, weaving, and dyeing of manisa, as well as the crafting/maintenance of looms and related occupations. Of these 21,000, 14,000 were Armenian. More than 50 Armenian master manufacturers and traders owned manisa manufacturing and trading firms. [8]

The following list details of the number of households and individuals in Ayntab that were dependent on the manisa industry for their income, based on an average calculation of five individuals per household.

  1. - 300 manisa manufacturers – 1,500 total individuals
  2. - 30 dyers – 150 total individuals
  3. - 40 combers – 200 total individuals
  4. - 300 ayak khalfesi – 1,500 total individuals
  5. - 3,000 laborers – 15,000 total individuals
  6. - 25 flour merchants – 125 total individuals
  7. - 50 exporters – 250 total individuals
  8. - 25 importers – 125 total individuals
  9. - 5 joiners/carpenters (to make and repair looms, spindles, etc.) – 25 total individuals
  10. - 5 takhakdjis – 25 total individuals
  11. - Women who spun raw yarn – 1,100
  12. - Laborers’ apprentices – 1,000
  13. Total number of individuals – 21,000 [9]

Of these 21,000 (it’s important to note that this number does not include those who relied indirectly on the industry for their income), 1,500 households (7,500 individuals) were Turkish. Therefore, almost half of the Armenian population of Ayntab was dependent on the manisa manufacturing industry, while the number of Turks involved in the industry was only a seventh of the number of Armenians involved. [10]

According to figures provided by Puragn in 1908, a total of 2,600 bundles of white or dyed fabric were sold per week in Ayntab, for a total value of 1,600 pounds. The city boasted two large fabric markets and 3,000 looms. Alongside the manisa industry, the dyeing industry also prospered. The quality and stability of dyes, especially red and purple dyes, improved. [11] The same newspaper, in another issue, notes that colorful and floral-patterned fabric, or aladja, was made with number 20 English yarn, and that the workmen themselves prepared the dye, which wouldn’t run and was stable. [12] The newspaper even lists the types and prices of number 20 yarn – in the open market, number 20 Hamper yarn cost 57.5 kurus, number 20 David Mill cost 53.25 kurus, and number 20 Anchor cost 53.25 kurus. [13]

On average, each loom produced three tops of manisa per day, with each top measuring eight gankouns. Based on these numbers, Ayntab produced 10,000 tops or 80,000 gankouns of manisa per day. [14] If we assume an average investment of 150 pounds per master manufacturer, this adds up to a total investment of 50,000 pounds. This was a significant amount of capital at the time, and it speaks to these business owners’ affluence and progressive thinking. Many of them had expanded their businesses over the years with their hard work and dedication, gradually increasing the number of looms that they operated. [15] Some had started their businesses with meager means and just a couple of looms, only to operate eight to ten looms within two or three years. Many did not have workers, not even an ayak khalfesi, and personally oversaw all aspects of their business. The business owners of Ayntab believed in the concept of incrementally growing their companies. [16]

Fabric produced in various areas of the Ottoman Empire (Ayntab, Bursa, Sebasdia/Sivas, Marzvan, etc.), in terms of its quality, was always able to compete with imports from Europe. In terms of strength and flexibility, Ottoman fabrics were always superior. [17] The people of Ayntab and its environs always favored locally made fabric, from which they fashioned men’s, women’s, and children’s clothing. [18]

Each manisa weaver would produce 20 to 30 tops per week, depending on productivity. Weekly wages varied from one-third to one-half of an Ottoman pound, equal to approximately four to five American dollars (based on the value of the dollar in the 1940s-1950s). One top of manisa, measuring an average of three-fourths of a gankoun in width and eight gankouns in length, had a retail value of eight to ten kurus. Manisa was sold both as a wholesale and retail product. Wholesale manisa was sold by weight, while at the retail level, it was sold by the top. [19]

Ayntab produced approximately 50 different varieties of manisa (osmaniye, bozbozou, Arab doudaghu, kehma, daraklu, chichekli, etc.) Each province and city had its favorite variety of manisa. The manisa produced in one province did not necessarily have a market in others, and therefore, master manufacturers, especially those who had locations in different areas, aligned their production with local demand. [20]

The quality of dye was also of great importance. It was especially difficult to produce red dye that did not run. Sources note that the secret of such a dye was discovered jointly by Jirji Barsoumian and Hrand Sulahian. In 1894, a special committee was established, and a test site was opened. All dyed fabrics, especially those dyed red, had to be sent to this site to be scrutinized before their sale was allowed. This was an important factor in the growth of the local manisa industry, which provided the dyers of the city with a source of steady income. [21]

Samples of manisa fabric (Source: Antranig Poladian, History of Armenian Arapgir, New York, 1969).

Occupations and Crafts Related to Manisa Manufacturing

Dyeing was one of Ayntab’s oldest crafts, and it was also closely associated with manisa manufacturing. There were chivid, al, saru, kasarlu, and other types of dyers, and Armenians dominated the trade. Among the most prominent local al (red) dyers was Iknadios Ammin, from the Eblahan neighborhood of the city. [22]

Ayntab was home to approximately 35 dyeing workshops, each of which employed at least three to four workers. Prominent local dyers included Bosnouyan, Balian, Yesayan, Aposhian, and many Boyadjians. Also, the Bedirian brothers were two of the city’s most successful dyers. [23]

Nazaret Manoushagian [24], better known as Agha Nazar, was one of the most prominent citizens of Ayntab and one of its largest dye merchants. His trading house, N. Manoushagian and Co., in partnership with the Khachadourian brothers, was mostly engaged in the importation of dye. [25]

In the past, many kasardjis (bleachers) had also operated in the city. But gradually, their craft was combined with that of dyers. Among the city’s Armenians, members of the Kasardjian family were well-known bleachers. [26]

The Manisa Manufacturing Process

Transforming raw yarn into manisa was a fascinating, and of course, crucial process. The description of this process brings back to life the daily work of manusa manufacturers and weavers in Ayntab in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

a) Workers would produce, according to demand, one, two, or three direzins of fabric (one direzin could be between 40 and 60 tops). These would be picked up by the worker called ayak khalfesi, who would immerse the fabric in special jugs of pre-prepared khashul, then hand it over to the khashul women. The ayak khalfesi would then connect the spun masouras to the loom heddle, arranging the colors of the yarn according to demand, and wrap the yarn around the rolling dolap (spindle). The different threads of yarn would converge as they entered the spindle, and then diverge as they exited it. After being dried in the sun, two large kavouks of the fabric would be produced. These two kavouks were one direzin.

b) The direzin would be sent to a craftsman called a tarakdji, who would thread the yarn, according to color, through the teeth of a comb called chemmek daragha. In other words, the fabric would be combed.

c) The combed direzin would be handed to another worker, who would load the yarn into another loom. The apprentice would wrap another type of yarn, called leohme, around the shuttle, and the weaver would begin weaving the fabric.

The Manisa Markets

Many of the largest manufacturers of manisa in Ayntab had established satellite locations in other cities, to which they would ship their products in bulk. Ayntab’s inns were home to 40 agents from trading houses from various provinces. They would buy the local fabric and ship it to their customers. There were also merchants from various areas who personally purchased manisa and shipped it in hundreds of bales to their warehouses. “Often, the shelves of the workshops of the master manisa makers in Kavafhane and Esgi Betesden were entirely empty. Instead, their pockets were full of gold.” [28]

Products manufactured in Ayntab were not just sold locally. The city also exported many goods, including manisa, leather products, etc. [29] Some of the most sought-after Ayntab-made commodities were cotton and wool products, and of course, the colorful fabric called manisa. [30] Kr. H. Kalousdian notes that prior to the First World War, manisa was one of the primary exports of Ayntab. Around 200,000 Ottoman pounds’ worth of manisa was exported yearly. [31] The principal destinations of the exported manisa were Van, Moush, Bitlis (Paghesh), Erzurum (Garin), Sivas (Sebasdia), Malatia, Yozgat, Gurun, Kharpert, Diyarbakir (Dikranagerd), Kilis, Antioch, Adana, Mersin, Konya, Gesaria, Constantinople, etc. Small amounts were also exported to Aleppo and other Arab regions. [32]

In the early 20th century, the residents of Kharpert consumed 7,000 pounds of Ayntab manisa per year. [33] According to an issue of Puragn, merchants involved in the trade of Ayntab, Marash, and Aleppo aladja in the city of Gesaria included Hmayag Kabakian, Mesrobian, Mkhdjdvakian, Boghos Seferian, Dikran Tatarian, Krikor Kehyayan, Setrag Hovsepian, Hagop Manougian, and others. [34]

The well-known Armenian manisa trading houses of Ayntab included the Nordigian, Papazian, Merdjenian, Kabakian, Leylegian, Basmadjian, Manoushagian, Sulahian, Saatdjian, and Haserdjian trading houses, among others. Some of these firms dispatched representatives as far afield as Adana, Gesaria (Kayseri), Kharpert (Harput), Erzurum, Van, Dikranagerd (Diyarbakir), and elsewhere. [35]

Master Manisa Manufacturers and Traders

In the second half of the 19th century, Nerses agha Sulahian founded the Nerses Sulahian and Sons trading house in the Millet Khan (inn). [36] This trading house was engaged not only in the production and export of manisa and Gurun scarves, but also the import and export of raw yarn, dye, copper, and nuts. [37]

Senior Priest Father Karekin Bogharian, prior to being ordained into the priesthood, was a manisa manufacturer, active between the years 1883 and 1893. He began as an apprentice, and later became a master manufacturer and trader. For two years, his business partner was Garoudj agha Merdjenian. [38]

Sanos Sanosian worked for several years for a manisa trader, first as a laborer, then as an ayak khalfesi. Thereafter, he purchased two looms, and began producing and selling his own manisa. His product was exported to Beylan, Alexandretta (Iskenderun), Adana, and elsewhere. The number of looms he owned grew year over year, eventually reaching 50, and the number of his workers reached 300. He soon expanded his market to the Gesaria and Diyarbakir/Dikranagerd areas. [39]

Asdvadzadour Demirdjian was also a manisa manufacturer. Specifically, he was an ayak khalfesi. His sons later distinguished themselves in the manufacturing of embroideries. [40]

Kevork and Ardashes Tahtadjian, members of the multi-branched Tahtadjian clan, were manisa manufacturers. They produced manisa for the local market. [41]

Kevork and Manoug Kabbendjian were master manisa manufacturers. [42]

Hagop Hamalian was one of the 1890 graduates of the Vartanian Academy. After graduating, he entered the field of manisa manufacturing, and reached great success as a master manufacturer and trader. Later, Hamalian was an active member of the leadership of the Vartanian Academy as a member of its board of trustees. He also participated in the academy’s executive committee’s meetings. Hamalian was one of the founders and trustees of the Cilicia Lyceum. [43]

One of the most prominent Armenians of Ayntab and the renowned philanthropist, Kalousd agha Ghazarian, was also involved in manisa manufacturing. After settling down in Ayntab with his business partner, the famous industrialist Sarkis Sahagian, he became involved in several businesses, including manisa manufacturing. He exported Ayntab manisa to Tokat and imported yazma (a special type of women’s headwear) in the opposite direction. [44]

From the Djebedjian family, Dikran Djebedjian’s father was a well-known manisa trader. He exported his product as far afield as Dikranagerd (Diyarbakir). In 1912, he opened an office in that city. At the time, Dikran Djebedjian was also a resident of Dikranagerd. [45]

Garoudj or Garabed Terzibashian [46] owned 350 looms. He exported his product to Gurin, Sebastia (Sivas), Kars, and Ardahan. His father, Hagopdjan agha, was also a manisa trader. Terzibashian was one of the founders of the Athenian School. For many years, he was a member of the local neighborhood council, and in later years, the Armenian provincial and political conferences. [47]

Krikor Haroutyun Kabakian, upon receiving his primary education, joined his father and brother in the field of manisa manufacturing. His father and brother were well-known traders not only in Ayntab, but also in Gesaria (Kayseri). [48]

Ayntab’s Master Manisa Manufacturers, Traders, and Exporters [49]

Garoudj Terzibashian, Krikor Tinkdjian, Nerso Deyirmendjian, Movses Hasurdjian, Sarkis G. Nazarian, Sarkis B. Nazarian, Garoudj Basmadjian, Haroutyun Basmadjian, M. and Kr. Kavkdjian, Kevork Chouldjian, Haroutyun Marashlian, Bedros Der Bedrosian, Kevork Demirdjian, Ardashes Tahtadjian, Sarkis Kasardjian, Sarkis Bazarbashian, Hagop Hamalian, Yesron Boshgezenian, Avedis Hasurdjian, Nahabed Arslanian, Mikayel Arslanian, Sebouh Chakmakdjian, the Saatdjian brothers, Bedros Giragosian, Arm. Geozukuchugian, the Tutundjian brothers, the Guleserian brothers, Der Ghazarian and brothers, Markar Djiyerdjian, the Levonian brothers, Yaghoubian and sons, Kevork Djebedjian, Krikor Manoushagian, Armenag Manoushagian, Serop Keshishian, Sarkis Chorbadjian, the Papazian brothers, the Basmadjian brothers, Y. Karamanougian and brothers, the Kabakian brothers, the Leylegian brothers, the brothers Yakoub and Arakel Arakelian, the brothers Kevork and Manoug Kabbendjian, N. Sulahian and sons, Ke. Sulahian and sons, B. Hasurdjian and sons, Adaklian and sons, Garoudj Merdjenian, Garabed Karghayan, Garabed Yaghsuzian, Haroutyun Ammiyan, V. Nordigian and sons.

  1. [1] K. H. Barsoumian, “The Trades of Ayntab,” Badmoutyun Ayntabi Hayots [History of Ayntab Armenians], edited and compiled by K. A. Sarafian, Volume 2, Los Angeles, California, 1953, p. 286.
  2. [2] H. K. Kabbendjian, “The Manisa Industry in Ayntab,” Badmoutyun Ayntabi Hayots, Volume 2, pp. 294-295.
  3. [3] Nazar, “Central Asia Minor and European Squares,” Puzantion [Byzantium], Constantinople, n. 798, 1899, May 31-12, p. 1.
  4. [4] H. K. Kabbendjian, “The Manisa Industry in Ayntab,” p. 294.
  5. [5] Ibid., pp. 295-296.
  6. [6] Giligia, Ports Ashkharhakroutyan Arti Giligio [Cilicia, An Essay on the Geography of Modern Cilicia], Saint Petersburg, I. Lieberman Press, 1894, p. 356.
  7. [7] K. H. Barsoumian, “The Trades of Ayntab,” p. 286.
  8. [8] L. Chormisian, Hamabadger Arevmdahayots Meg Tarou Badmoutyan [Overview of One Century of Western Armenian History], Volume 1, Beirut, Sevan Press, 1972, p. 170.
  9. [9] H. K. Kabbendjian, “The Manisa Industry in Ayntab,” p. 301.
  10. [10] Ibid.
  11. [11] “Architectural Innovations in Ayntab,” Puragn, Constantinople, n. 27, 28 July 1908, p. 858.
  12. [12] Puragn, Constantinople, n. 18, 26 April 1908, p. 552.
  13. [13] “Architectural Innovations in Ayntab,” Puragn, p. 859.
  14. [14] H. K. Kabbendjian, “The Manisa Industry in Ayntab,” p. 295.
  15. [15] Ibid., p. 296.
  16. [16] Ibid., p. 299.
  17. [17] Puragn, Constantinople, n. 38, 11 September 1907, p. 1401.
  18. [18] H. K. Kabbendjian, “The Manisa Industry in Ayntab,” p. 297.
  19. [19] Ibid., pp. 296-297; p. 299.
  20. [20] Ibid., p. 299.
  21. [21] Ibid., pp. 298-299.
  22. [22] K. B. “Haroutyun Iknadiosian (1895-1964),” Hai Ayntab [Armenian Ayntab], Beirut, n. 1 (13), 1964, p. 63.
  23. [23] Kr. Bogharian, “Minas Bedirian (1873-1972),” Nor Ayntab [New Ayntab], Beirut, n. 4 (52), 1972, p. 104.
  24. [24] N. Manoushagian’s mother, Mennoush Khatoun, was the daughter of Kara Nazar Nazaretian. His father, Manoug agha Manoushagian, was one of the founders of the Vartanants Museum Company (1867) (Badmoutyun Ayntabi Hayots, Volume 2, p. 767).
  25. [25] Ibid.
  26. [26] K. H. Barsoumian, “The Trades of Ayntab,” p. 287.
  27. [27] H. K. Kabbendjian, “The Manisa Industry in Ayntab,” p. 300.
  28. [28] Ibid., p. 298.
  29. [29] H. S. Eprigian, Badgerazart Pnashkharhig Pararan [Illustrated Natural Dictionary], Volume 1, Saint Lazarus Island of Venice, 1903, p. 145.
  30. [30] Pagouran, “Ayntab and its Environs,” Gochnag Hayasdani [Clarion of Armenia], New York, n. 25, 9 June 1920, p. 792.
  31. [31] Kr. H. Kalousdian, Marash gam Kermanig yev Heros Zeytoun [Marash or Kermanig and Heroic Zeytoun], New York, Gochnag, 1934, p. 501. 
  32. [32] H. K. Kabbendjian, “The Manisa Industry in Ayntab,” p. 297; Vart, “City of Ayntab,” Arax, Saint Petersburg, May 1888, Book B., p. 58.
  33. [33] “Commerce and the Crafts in Ayntab,” Puragn, Constantinople, n. 15-16, 17 February 1907, p. 377.
  34. [34] “Commerce in Gesaria,” Puragn, Constantinople, n. 11-12, 3 February 1907, p. 283.
  35. [35] K. H. Barsoumian, “The Trades of Ayntab,” p. 286.
  36. [36] Listed in the register of shops or offices in Millet Khan as “Nerses Sulahian and Brothers” (Badmoutyun Ayntabi Hayots, Volume 2, p. 311).
  37. [37] K. Bogharian, Ayntabagank, B., Beirut, Atlas Press, 1964, pp. 628-629.
  38. [38] Ibid., p. 11.
  39. [39] Ibid., p. 638.
  40. [40] Ibid., p. 93.
  41. [41] Ibid., p. 179.
  42. [42] Ibid., p. 413.
  43. [43] Badmoutyun Ayntabi Hayots, Volume 2, p. 765.
  44. [44] K. Bogharian, Ayntabagank, B. p. 169.
  45. [45] K. Bogharian, “Dikran Djebedjian (1888-1962), Hai Ayntab, Beirut, n. 7, 1962, p. 37.
  46. [46] G. Terzibashian was a descendant of the great Terzibashian clan of Van (K. Bogharian, “National Popular Life in Ayntab,” Hai Ayntab, Beirut, n. 3 (27), 1967, p. 65. 
  47. [47] Ibid.
  48. [48] Y., “Krikor Haroutyun Kabakian (1893-1973),” Nor Ayntab, Beirut, n. 1-2 (53-54), 1973, p. 117.
  49. [49] H. K. Kabbendjian, “The Manisa Industry in Ayntab,” p. 303.