Author: Vahram L. Shemmassian 16/10/19 (Last modified 16/10/19)
After enduring many hardships in the aftermath of World War I, the Armenians of Musa Dagh endeavored to return to normalcy in relative peace under the French mandate. In addition to agriculture and animal husbandry, they engaged in the trades, business, sericulture, and related occupations. But while the future inspired some hope, global financial woes, shifting consumer demands, and changes in the regional political landscape kept the Armenian highlanders ill at ease and rendered their economic progress untenable in the long run. This article sheds light on the artisanship, trades, and industries in Musa Dagh, which hinged on local resources and efforts as well as outside determinants.
Dubbed by the Musa Daghians as Kaghiuk, that is, the City, Antioch constituted the district’s administrative and commercial center, where people from the surrounding countryside acquired their cereals, legumes, sugar, fabrics and other necessities, and concurrently sold their fruit, vegetables, and other products. Armenian muleteers conducted this activity for Musa Dagh. With the construction of roads in the second half of the 1920s-early 1930s for motorized traffic, the importance of muleteers for export-import purposes diminished,  although they remained indispensable internally given the mountainous terrain and the lack of paved secondary access arteries.
It is true that Antioch was the main trade center in the district. Nevertheless, a number of businesses and workshops existed in Musa Dagh to satisfy some immediate needs and to allow artisans and others to ply their trades. Yoghunoluk was the only village that had a permanent marketplace, called Charshen. It ran east-to-west along a 1-kilometer stretch starting at the Gedeg neighborhood and crossing the village center. At least fourteen businesses lined both sides of this thoroughfare, as follows: 2 tinsmith/pewter/gunsmith shops; 2 barber shops; 2 grocery stores; 2 novelty stores; 1 tailoring shop; 1 comb workshop; 1 cobbler’s shop; 1 weaving shop; 1 wholesale store; and 1 unnamed store. (See Table 1). In fact, this entire commercial hub also served as space for social interaction; men would gather in their spare time to exchange news, discuss various issues, play board games, and have fun. They would also “secretly” watch unmarried women passing by for consideration as possible future wives. Because these men often used rough language, they did not allow children to gather near them. The Charchen similarly attracted gypsies, fortune tellers, magicians, and other transients, who recounted stories about ancient heroes, performed tricks, etc.  Nine shops additionally operated outside the marketplace, for a total of twenty-three shops. (See Table 1).
Although Yoghunoluk possessed a central marketplace, it was Bitias that boasted the most businesses by virtue of being a popular summer resort. Needless to say, some of them operated seasonally. As for the other villages, they too housed a few modest stores, workshops, and/or cafés each. (See Table 1). Because there were no cafés in Yoghunoluk, its male inhabitants frequented those of Kheder Beg. Interestingly, the customers of two of the four cafés there, all situated within or near the shade of the centrally-located gigantic plane tree, were divided along party lines: sympathizers of the Social Democrat Hnchakian Party spent time at comrade Armenag (or Menag) Kabakian’s café, whereas the adherents of the rival Armenian Revolutionary Federation socialized at comrade Nshan Boyajian’s café. 
The wild forests covering large swaths of Musa Dagh determined a number of occupations. According to a newspaper report, of the 70,000 hectares (172,900 acres) of forestland in the Sanjak of Alexandretta, 4,000 hectares (9,880 acres) or about 6 percent covered Musa Dagh.  Hovhannes Dumanian, an Armenian agronomical engineer hailing from Hajin, beginning on 23 September 1923, served as director of agriculture and forestry in the Sanjak, increasing the government’s annual revenues from forestry alone from 1,800 Syrian liras to 20,000 liras.  In turn, Hagop Boyajian (“Merjumek”) of Yoghunoluk, formerly a sergeant in the French Légion d’Orient, acted as mounted ranger, having been charged by the French mandatory authorities with the patrolling of the woodlands of Musa Dagh and Kizil Dagh to the north. As such, he cited woodcutters and charcoal makers who operated without license.
Charcoal making evolved in the following manner. From spring through early fall villagers from Bitias in particular left their homes Sunday evening (returning the following Saturday evening) for the damir (sheds) built at special locations on the mountain. Here they felled oak trees, chopped wood into pieces 2 feet (61 centimeters) long, and piled them up conically around a central log, thereby forming an ojakh (kiln) up to 6 feet (1.83 meter) high with a 40-foot (12 meters) circumference (smaller heaps were called ojakhe lagiud). They then arranged rocks around the circle at a distance of 3.9 inches (10 centimeters), and covered the ojakh first with kazal (dry leaves) and then with earth for insulation. Subsequently they removed the central pivot, dropped fire into the resultant open pirun (mouth) at the top by way of an arreot (ember), and covered the opening with a small sheet of tin and earth to prevent air from penetrating and causing the wood to burn to ashes. After igniting the heap from within, the charcoal makers checked the wind direction periodically in order to add new myrtle branches in case the wind had caused openings between the rocks and the wood. They similarly inspected the heap every 4-5 hours to patch badrudz dighir (cleavages) with kazal and earth, and every 9-10 hours to lellu pirune (fill the mouth) with green wood to suffocate any flames before they could burst out (again to avoid incineration). This entire process lasted about three days, until the ojakh would finally chekmeshenno (buckle). At this stage the charcoal makers poked an iron khanterush (bar) into the buckled heap from several angles, considering the ojakh ighudz (done) upon hearing a sound resembling that of broken glass when stirred. After removing the rocks and the earth, the charcoal makers spread the qerzilen (charcoal) apart to cool it off for a few hours, and transported it in garmer orum debergir (red darned sacks) back to the village on mules (carrying double sacks) or donkeys (carrying a single sack).  Charcoal thus obtained in Musa Dagh in 1923 amounted to 1,600,000 okes (4,480,000 pounds/2,036 metric tons). Of these, 1,300,000 okes (3,640 pounds/1,655 tons) were exported and 300,000 okes (840,000 pounds/381 tons) were used locally as heating fuel.  As such, charcoal was burned in a pit dug in one corner of the living room, while students took pieces of wood and charcoal to school daily to warm up their classrooms during the winter months. 
Muleteers transported the charcoal to Antioch. Poor young women and widows in the early 1920s likewise carried loads of wood, charcoal, and potatoes on their backs to that city, returning the same day with orders of cereal for a small remuneration with which to feed their families.  Very soon the charcoal business became concentrated in the hands of a few entrepreneurs. Movses Renjilian of Bitias and father and son Kevork and Yesayi Shrikian of Yoghunoluk in 1921 forged a partnership to export mostly charcoal to other parts of the Levant and as far as Egypt. The enterprise ended after three years when the license was found to be illegal. 
In the late 1920s Ardashes Boghigian, a future deputy to the Syrian parliament from Aleppo and a political protégé of the Syrian nationalist leader Ibrahim Hanano, together with his brother, Apkar, and adopted son, Yetvart, monopolized a substantial portion of the charcoal made in Musa Dagh, utilizing the yard of Sarkis Sherbetjian’s house in Bitias as depot and distribution point. They were ultimately commissioned out of business by Jabra Kazanjian of Yoghunoluk and his son, Aram, who won the charcoal producers over with advanced credit and better pay.  In fact, the French authorities granted the Kazanjian brothers, Jabra and Dikran, the exclusive right to wood cutting in the entire region extending from Kizil Dagh in the north to the frontiers of the Alawite state around the coastal town of Latakia in the south. They employed some 150 cutters and muleteers from the Armenian villages of Musa Dagh, as well as the neighboring Turkmen villages of Chanakli, Sanderang, Sanderangen Amaje, Gumbajen, Arsuz, Ikizoghlu, and Chaghlakuz, with the headman of the latter place, a certain Hamid, acting as the foreman of the Turkmen workers. Dikran resided in Antioch to manage the export and marketing of fuel, charcoal, planks, electricity poles, and vine supports in various cities through a network of agents. Trucks carried the loads overland to Alexandretta (agent: Nersesian), and to Aleppo, Hama, Homs, and Damascus (agent: Artin Agha). At the same time, a special cable relay system linking Damlajik atop the mountain to the sea below loaded the merchandise onto three ships—two owned by the Kazanjians and one serviced in partnership with an Alawite—which in turn transported them to Beirut, Lebanon (agent: Agha Baba); Jaffa, Palestine (agent: Ohannes, son of Jabra Kazanjian); and Port Said, Egypt (agent: anonymous). 
Unfortunately, this lucrative business came to an end with the departure of the Kazanjians for Latakia and Beirut in 1938 as the crisis surrounding the Sanjak’s status worsened. 
The Musa Daghians pursued two other wood-related occupations: comb and spoon making and carpentry. The first category was more widespread and profitable. The majority of men in Yoghunoluk was engaged in comb making, because agricultural opportunities were limited given the lack of adequate water in that village, These artisans made their own tools such as vises, hewing hatchets, hammers, saws, files, nails, etc.  Two particular trees furnished the bulk of wood: katlaba (arbute) and dosakh (boxwood), both of which grew plentifully in Musa Dagh. Animal bones, particularly camel legs, goat and bull horns, and ivory were also utilized. They were procured from markets in Aleppo, Hama, and Antioch, kept in limewater for up to a month to get rid of germs, worms, and bad odor, cut into two to three small pieces, and joined with inserted nails.  These kinds of combs were harder to make and were relatively expensive.  Whatever the type, however, the finished products were shipped in bundles of twelve for easy counting.  In 1923, Musa Dagh exported 500,000 wooden combs and 5,000 bone combs. At the same time, thirty artisans shipped 200,000 wooden spoons and ladles.  These manufactures were sold in the various towns of Syria and the desert hinterland, especially Deir al-Zor, as well as in Palestine, Iraq, Egypt, the Sudan, and Tunisia.  As for carpentry, it essentially entailed the making of tables, chairs, doors, windows, cabinets, cribs, etc. for local use only. 
1) Bone comb with butterfly made by Kapriel/Jabra Shemmassian of Yoghunoluk (Source: Vahram Shemmassian collection, Los Angeles)
2) Bone comb made in 1948 in Tripoli, Lebanon by Kapriel/Jabra Shemmassian as a gift to Jamilé Sherbetjian Stambulian, sister of Kapriel’s wife, Marta (Source: Courtesy of Jamilé Sherbetjian Stambulian. Vahram Shemmassian collection, Los Angeles).
3) A metal comb manufactured by a certain Dikran, a migrant from Yoghunoluk in Damascus (Source: Courtesy of Vehanush Kuyumjian Bursalian. Vahram Shemmassian collection, Los Angeles).
Because the tediousness of sericulture required multiple helping hands, even youngsters were employed in some capacity. During the first half of the 1920s, when cocoon production enjoyed its heyday, the academic calendar was adjusted accordingly. In 1923 Krikor Aroyian, the principal of the Armenian General Benevolent Union (AGBU) Sisvan Schools network in Musa Dagh, postponed classes from 1 till 15 May so that students could assist their parents in silk chores, provided lost instructional time would be recovered in June.  Similarly, during 1923-24 students in Haji Habibli, Kabusiye, and Vakef attended school from 6 August 1923-10 May 1924, while their counterparts in Bitias, Yoghunoluk, and Kheder Beg studied from 5-10 September 1923-10 June 1924. This arrangement, made in deference to the villagers’ wishes, would allow pupils to harvest olives and bay berries at their peak season as well as help parents in sericulture. 
The nurturing of silkworms took place in special houses built in mulberry orchards situated mainly on the village peripheries. After disinfecting the rooms—which had to be kept at a certain temperature—with chemicals to kill germs and keep mice and other harmful insects at bay, cultivators constructed scaffolds and placed long wooden trays on the shelves to be able to feed the silkworms several times daily with fresh, shredded mulberry leaves. 
After undergoing four molting stages and reaching maturation, the moths were transferred onto avils (brooms) made of bushes to be able to spin their cocoons.  As a native observed:
"Gathering the cocoons and scraping their loose threads was usually a community affair. Neighbors and relatives worked together before the silk moth tore a hole and emerged thereby making the silk thread worthless. People wanted to complete this task by dusk and transfer the responsibility of caring for the cocoons to the merchants who traveled from household to household weighing, loading and transporting the cargo to the markets in Antioch. Once the owner was paid for the cocoons, people were relieved from this intensive chore and ready for a celebration. The households who pocketed the profits supplied trays of halva [a delight] and tonir [earthen oven] bread for the villagers. More halva was consumed in Bitias during those few days than for the rest of the year". 
The sericulture output in 1923 amounted to 55,000 okes (154,000 pounds/70 metric tons) of cocoons and 800 okes (2,240 pounds/1 metric ton) of raw silk,  the latter increasing by 48 percent (to about 1.5 metric tons) the following year.  In the mid-1920s those engaged in sericulture in the six villages annually nurtured a total of 1,810 round boxes (each the size of a La vache qui rit or The Laughing Cow cheese box) of silkworm seeds as follows: Kabusiye, 450 boxes; Bitias, 420 boxes; Haji Habibli, 380 boxes; Yoghunoluk, 350 boxes; Kheder Beg, 150 boxes; and Vakef, 60 boxes. Each box yielded an average of 5 Ottoman gold liras, for a total of 9,050 liras. 
Although the majority of Musa Daghians engaged in sericulture, the village notables, constituting less than 3 percent of the population, controlled the industry with their large farms and/or means to collect the crops from ordinary peasants.  The Kazanjians of Yoghun Oluk were a case in point. Their fortunes in this realm rose further with the acquisition of significant real estate originally owned by Kerovpe M. Aslanian, a rich Armenian proprietor from Constantinople and the maternal uncle of the renowned satirist Yervant Odian. At the time of his death in or before 1926 Aslanian possessed a silk farm at the village of Mughayrun on the Svedia plain adjacent to Musa Dagh. The farm, situated as it was on the two banks of a river (the Orontes or a tributary) that powered two mills, included seventeen silk houses plus another structure for “awakening” silkworms, all managed by forty Alawite families, who worked as sharecroppers earning 50 percent of the profits. The business yielded fifty-five boxes of silkworm seeds with a growth potential of an additional ten boxes. Each mulberry grove that “fed” one box was worth 50 gold liras, for a total of more than 3,000 liras. Aslanian bequeathed his estate to his nephew, Ardavan Hovian, who in turn sold it to the Kazanjian brothers.  The latter appointed Mihran Ashkarian of Kheder Beg to manage their affairs at Mughayrun. 
The Armenian notables were not the only large-scale dealers in sericulture. Mention is also made of Greek Orthodox (Horom/Hurum) merchants from Antioch and Levshiye, the administrative-trade center of Svedia sub-district. In the early 1920s, during the period of anarchy, Christian merchants living on the Svedia plain received protection from armed Armenian men and transported their cocoon bales ready for shipment to the nearest Armenian village of Vakef for safety until the arrival of vessels. 
1) A composition on silkworms written by Serop/Samuel Hagop Adajian of Kheder Beg as he was learning English at the American International College in Springfield, Massachusetts, early 1920s.
2) Cover of composition notebook belonging to Serop/Samuel Hagop Adajian.
(Source: Courtesy of Aurora Adajian Lehmann. Vahram Shemmassian collection, Los Angeles).
Unfortunately, sericulture spiraled downward during the second half of the 1920s and early 1930s not only in Musa Dagh but also across Syria. Statistics showed that “in pre-World War I Syria the total production of cocoons amounted to 6-7,000 tons, whereas by 1931 it had dwindled to about half or 2,850 tons. Similarly, the export of raw silk had downfalled [sic] from 1,313 tons to only 89 tons for the same interval. Finally, the number of silk spinning factories had dropped from 194 to 35.”  Comparable reductions occurred in Musa Dagh. In 1927-28, the villagers of Bitias alone lost 20,000 liras, which was equivalent to their total earnings during the previous five years. By 1932 the villagers’ annual income from silk-related business had plummeted to 150 liras.  As for the Musa Daghians in general, in 1934 they nurtured a mere 700 boxes of silkworm seeds, each box valued at ½ lira, for a total of 350 liras (down from 9,050 liras).  At the end of June 1939 the production of cocoons amounted to 15 tons, which constituted a dismal 0.3 percent of all agricultural crops (5,065 tons) in Musa Dagh. 
Three factors caused this sharp decline. First, Japan dominated the global silk market, rendering competition from other producers difficult.  Second, artificial silk or rayon, whose production increased ten-fold within a decade, “from about 32,000,000 pounds in 1918 to over 300,000,000 pounds in 1928,” appealed to consumers for its cheapness, attractiveness, and good quality.  Third, the virtual closure of the Syria-Cilicia frontier following the withdrawal of French troops from the latter region in 1921 impeded the free flow of goods to a large extent. As Cilicia, now part of Turkey, constituted the main direct export destination especially for the Haji Habibli manufacturers, they lost their jobs. 
Price fixing by Greek merchants also proved detrimental to general income from sericulture. In September 1924 such wholesale buyers, “playing games on the people,” paid 20 percent less for the cocoons they had collected from the Armenians four months earlier citing price decrease in European markets.  In 1929, they machinated in unison once again to reduce the price of cocoons,  which fetched only 1 Syrian lira (80 cents) per 2 okes (5.6 pounds).  Because of this manipulative practice as well as the above, the Musa Daghians resorted to another drastic measure besides migration to cope with the economic downturn—the uprooting of entire mulberry orchards and replacing them with other kinds of fruit trees or converting their property into vegetable and cereal fields. 
1) Embroidery instrument. It is made of bone by Kapriel/Jabra Shemmassian (Source: Vahram Shemmassian collection, Los Angeles).
2) Wooden thread instrument (Source: Vahram Shemmassian collection, Los Angeles).
3) A ladies’ silk purse embellished with flowers made in Bitias (Source: Courtesy of Rosine Shemmassian Kundakjian. Vahram Shemmassian collection, Los Angeles).
Two related folk artworks, namely, handkerchief making and embroidering, compensated in some modest measure for the losses sustained in sericulture by becoming gainful occupations. In Yoghunoluk, the Shrikians in the early 1920s collected home-made handkerchiefs for sale in the general region and as far as the United States.  Similarly, brothers Garabed and Setrag Tashjian ordered precut fine linen and thread from a wholesale dealer in Aleppo and distributed them among women at home to make handkerchiefs in return for 3-4 piasters per dozen.  An average worker could produce one handkerchief per day, whereas a fast one could make two.  The Oflazians of Kheder Beg engaged a number of housewives in that village to produce caneva (cross stitch), aubusson (tapestry), gergef (embroidery made stretched on a frame), Marash, makok (tatting shuttle), and crochet work, as well as doilies and ornamental pillow cases.  Women in Bitias embellished handkerchiefs with ajour (fretwork) and sewed decorative designs like trabson (or parvaz) for Sarkis Igarian (“Mebus”).  His wife, Mayrum nee Taminosian, carried on the handkerchief activity after his untimely death. She took the finished products to a Protestant pastor in Aleppo by the name of Aharon Shirajian,  who took orders for handkerchiefs and embroidery from Europe as a means to raise funds for his lifelong mission of sheltering and rehabilitating Armenian genocide remnants in Syria.  Also in Bitias, volunteers from the local chapter of the Syrian Armenian Relief Cross (Suriahay Oknutian Khach) taught girls at the parochial elementary school the art of embroidery, whereas boys practiced target shooting.  In Kabusiye, girls generally stayed home instead of attending school to make laced handkerchiefs for a daily wage of 1 piaster. 
1) An embroidered cotton purse (Source: Courtesy of Rosine Shemmassian Kundakjian. Vahram Shemmassian collection, Los Angeles).
2) Silken/embroidered baby hats made by Musa Dagh women in the US (Source: Courtesy of Aurora Adajian Lehmann. Vahram Shemmassian collection, Los Angeles).
Besides their obvious utilitarian function, handkerchiefs played certain roles in Musa Dagh ethnography. In a traditional betrothal process a ring, an earring, a bracelet or a similar valuable object wrapped up in or together with a silken scarf or handkerchief would be offered by the fiancé’s family to the bride-to-be. Because the modern custom of sending out printed wedding invitations had not yet become the norm, at least in some of the villages handkerchiefs were distributed in lieu of cards to relatives, neighbors, and friends. Similarly, a red handkerchief symbolizing happiness hung from the neck of the horse that carried the bride to church. Finally, often a handkerchief constituted a part of the bride’s dowry alongside such items as jewelry, night gowns, shawls, headscarves (duluq/yazma), combs, mirrors, towels, pillow cases, and so on. During certain religious processions, superstitious people threw their handkerchiefs to the ground in hopes of securing divine intervention for the healing of an incurable malady or the resolution of a predicament. On certain feasts, the leader (yigit bashi) of an informal voluntary association of bachelors donated a handkerchief or similar articles to the village headman in order to obtain permission for the usage of the village square for dancing, playing games, and other merriments. Indeed, the lead dancer of a group invariably waved a handkerchief.  Women, in particular, carried money in folded handkerchiefs (instead of purses) inserted in their bosom.  The handkerchief also served as a token of reconciliation between feuding factions. Such was the case of the Haji Habibli parish council, which in August 1926 sent Catholicos Sahag II six silken handkerchiefs to vouch for its members’ rapprochement after a long period of bitter infighting.  The list went on.
Carpet production constituted yet another attempt at diversifying the weaving industry. During the mid-1920s, Fr. Khoren Geokjian of Vakef set up looms in his house to teach women and girls the art of carpet weaving. Unfortunately, his departure from the village due to a dispute with the parish council brought the project to an early end.  In 1932, the Syrian Armenian Relief Cross of Aleppo invested in a modest carpet venture in Musa Dagh, but its fate remains obscure.  Also in the early 1930s, a certain man from Bitias, nicknamed “Daghjig,” placed four tezgeahs (looms) in a few homes where teenaged girls wove carpets based on pictorial designs for a daily wage of 25 piasters.  And during 1935-37 Sarkis Igarian employed a few children, after school and with minimal or no pay, to make carpets on two looms for an Armenian merchant from Aleppo surnamed Dikranian.  These initiatives, however, failed to yield significant profits.
While handkerchief production, embroidery, and carpet weaving generated some cash, they remained small, limited cottage industries at best, unable to replace the former prominence of sericulture in Musa Dagh economy. Modern textile manufacturing, however, inspired hope as a viable alternative. In 1935, political activist Movses Der Kalusdian and landlord-entrepreneur Aram Kazanjian, in association with three other Armenians from Aleppo, namely, Armenian Revolutionary Federation (ARF) leader Hrach Papazian, part-owner of the NICHARTVA Textile Company Nshan Palanjian (Nichan Palandjian), and accountant Vahe Setian (Wahe Sethian) founded the Vosdayn Anonymous Textile Company of Musa Dagh (Vosdayn Jebel Musayi Hiusvadzegheni Ananun Engerutiun) in a bid to reinvigorate and diversify Musa Dagh’s economy with ambitious goals. 
By all indications, Vosdayn was not a hastily-conceived austerity measure put forth to salvage Musa Dagh’s ailing economy. It rather saw the light of day only after due consideration was given to the business opportunities in Syria and the marketing potentials in the Near East as a whole.
Vosdayn was planning for a twenty-year time period, which could be extended or shortened according to circumstance. Its starting capital amounted to 12,000 Syrian liras with 2,000 shares, each worth 6 liras.  The five founding members were entitled to a total of 400 shares (20 percent) and the general public to the remainder, although in actuality 200 shares (10 percent) were reserved for the company employees and 1,100 shares (55 percent) for NICHARTVA, arguably the best Armenian-owned textile company in Aleppo at the time.  It should be noted that Vosdayn was a subsidiary of NICHARTVA’s.  Be that as it may, Vosdayn’s fiscal year extended from 1 July to 30 June, with the exception of the first period, which lasted two years.  At the end of each fiscal year there would be a general meeting attended by members holding 10 shares or more each, while several individuals owning a total of 10 shares could delegate or appoint one representative. Each person with 10 shares could cast one vote. There was a cap of fifteen votes for individuals with more than 150 shares.  At the general meeting, shareholders would elect a five-member Executive Board to run the company for a three-year term with broad powers. The first Executive Board consisted of the five founding members whose term lasted two years, until the summer of 1937.  The Syrian Government ratified Vosdayn’s by-laws, comprising nine chapters and fifty articles, on 15 June 1935.  The sale of shares began on the 20th, and an advertisement ran from 28 June-18 July in the Beirut Aztag (Factor) newspaper. 
Haji Habibli, with its expert but largely unemployed weavers, would be the logical choice for the factory’s location. Because, however, that village was under the influence of the Social Democrat Hnchakian Party, Vosdayn’s founders, closely affiliated with the rival ARF, disregarded Haji Habibli as an option and instead chose neighboring Bitias. This choice was based on three considerations. First, Bitias was ARF turf. Second, Der Kalusdian often vacationed there; in fact, he even lived there for two years (1936-38). Third, being a developed resort in the Sanjak, it provided the necessary transportation, telephone, telegraph, and mail services.  After due consideration, the factory was built “in the N.E. outskirts of the village at the base of our mountain [Musa Dagh] which extended to the most western edge of the community. The major transportation road from the center of the village led to the entrance of the factory and then morphed into a rocky and rough trail” leading to Chaghlaghan. 
The consecration of the factory’s foundations took place on Sunday, 28 July 1935 in the presence of a large crowd that included, among others, flag-bearing Boy Scouts, a marching band, traditional folk instrumentalists, and dancers. After the parish priest, Fr. Vahan Kendirjian, blessed the stones and said the Bahbanich (a prayer), Hrach Papazian poured cement on a cornerstone, two lambs were sacrificed, and teacher Suren Papakhian delivered the keynote speech. The celebration continued at an outdoor café near the water spring of Sev Aghpiur/Kara Punar. 
1) Vosdayn textile factory weaving machines and mechanic Tateos Bakkalian, 1936, Bitias.
2) Vosdayn textile factory "manusa filling" machines, 1936, Bitias.
(Source: Courtesy of Tateos Bakkalian. Vahram Shemmassian collection, Los Angeles)
Hrach Papazian was appointed Vosdayn’s executive director, having Tateos Bakkalian of Kheder Beg as his right-hand man. The latter became an expert machinist in due time, got involved in personnel matters, and held the daily accounts. When the French-made machine parts arrived via Aleppo, NICHARTVA sent one of its master machinists, George Khandzoghian and his apprentice, a certain Arshavir, to teach Bakkalian how to assemble and operate the machines. When Khandzoghian and his assistant returned to Aleppo after a few months, NISCHARTVA dispatched Garabed Najarian and his son, Hovsep, on a two-year contract to fix the hand-operated machines as needed.  Mardiros Chaparian, a Bitias native and an aspiring machinist himself, eventually joined the team.  Another 30-35 young men (some of whom from Haji Habibli) and 20-25 young women worked in the factory at various times.  Significantly, “within a few months the change in the work force [with women working next to men] was obvious enough that people began to notice the emergence of a ‘new class’ in Bitias.”  Men operated thirty-two Jacquard hand machines, a man and a woman worked on one chaînage machine, and women operated eight electrical machines, one manusa machine, and one spinning machine, for a total of forty-three machines.  Other youths, who were not on payroll, spent time at the factory to acquire the necessary skills in modern weaving. This practice constituted a part of a larger and farsighted scheme: Vosdayn would eventually be able to place hand machines in homes, thereby creating jobs for many families. It would also increase the number of electrical machines in the factory itself, with a projected combined total of 400 machines. 
Vosdayn acquired its raw materials such as silk, cotton, and thread from NICHARTVA, produced relatively plain cloth, and shipped it back to NICHARTVA to be dyed, pressed, and sold together with the more intricate and ornate textiles manufactured there.  The factory in Bitias ran six days a week, 10 hours per day during the fall and winter seasons and 11 hours per day during the spring and summer seasons.  “For the first time…a group of young men and women reported for work at the same hour, took their lunch at the same hour and stopped work at the same hour. A simple factory schedule—was it the beginning of industrialization in Bitias?” 
Pay was based on the amount of textile produced rather than the time spent at the workplace. For example, an employee working on electrical machines and putting out 30-33 meters of cloth a day, received 1 Syrian piaster per meter, that is, 30-33 piasters a day. On the other hand, a person operating hand machines and manufacturing 10-12 meters a day, pocketed 3 piasters per meter, for a total of 30-36 piasters a day. A worker at Vosdayn thus earned about one-and-a-half time more than an ordinary laborer, who at the time received a daily wage of 20-25 piasters.  In addition, sometimes women received residual fabric for personal use.  As for the remaining employees like the executive director, the machinists, and the guard, they were paid according to rank and ability.  Information is lacking as to whether disparity in pay between men and women existed.
Unfortunately, Vosdayn had a short life of only three years, dictated by political exigencies. In the summer of 1938, just prior to the entry of Turkish troops to the Sanjak following a French-Turkish accord regarding the status of that autonomous Syrian region, the company’s management hastily arranged for the transfer of the machines and all other accessories to NICHARTVA in Aleppo.  An extraordinary general meeting of shareholders scheduled for December 29 would decide Vosdayn’s fate.  NICHARTVA became the latter’s sole owner after buying all of its shares.  Vosdayn’s sudden and inglorious liquidation thus shattered all hopes that it would soon serve as a shining model of a successful industrial venture to be emulated by other entrepreneurs in establishing hydraulic, canned fruit, and other companies; that it would be able to provide new job opportunities to many natives, thereby easing persistent economic hardships; and that it would give the youth a solid reason to stay and prosper in Musa Dagh rather than migrate. 
1) Vosdayn textile factory machine, 1936, Bitias (Source: Courtesy of Tateos Bakkalian. Vahram Shemmassian collection, Los Angeles).
2) German medical missionary Miss Schäffer, aides, native host and guide Samuel Magzanian ("Mashghul"), and Tateos Bakkalian (with beret) during a visit to the Vosdayn textile factory, c. 1937, Bitias (Source: Courtesy of Alberta Magzanian. Vahram Shemmassian collection, Los Angeles).
From a social perspective, the factory’s closure deprived its employees of the opportunity to interact on a daily basis, which contacts had evolved in some cases into romantic relationships culminating in marriage.  Only workers from Haji Habibli “arrived in the mornings and returned home immediately after work with no social interaction with the locals.” Even so, the mere commutation of those youths was considered a “healthy development between the two villages” given their antagonistic relationship in the recent past.  In the same social-cultural vein, natives and vacationers alike lost a unique venue endowed with motor-generated electricity for holding public events such as film screenings during the summer season by an Armenian from Aleppo named Misak Abajian (or Bzhian).  Wrote with nostalgia author Boghos Snabian, then a young boy of twelve, on the eve of the Armenians’ exodus from Musa Dagh in the summer of 1939: “It was here, in this [Vosdayn] courtyard, that for the first time I had seen a movie, shot in our village [Bitias], with views, scenes from our village, familiar shepherds, toilers, children, me with my cow, [projected] on the screen.” 
For the Armenians of Musa Dagh the interlude between the two World Wars was marked successively by existential concerns, reconstruction, optimism, uncertainty, and despair. Such rapid shifts in the human condition within a relatively short period of two decades did not leave much room for normal transitioning and coping. Furthermore, the lack of creativity and economic savvy outbalanced some of the initiatives projecting a positive outlook. Indeed, a number of critical commentaries appeared in the Armenian press. One newspaper bemoaned the absence of entrepreneurial spirit that would spur and develop different branches of the economy.  Another periodical lambasted inaction by arguing that “a people does not grow only by drinking Bitias water, eating Kheder Beg oranges, and taking a nap in the cool shade.”  And Vazken Diranian, the penname of Yetvart Boyajian, a budding writer from Kheder Beg, did not mince his words when expressing his “Economic Concern”: “We have already ceased being peasants in the old sense and neither are we urbanites as yet according to the new meaning. We have colorful and huge bourgeois desires, but tell me please, are we not grossly lazy to achieve them?”  These unflattering remarks notwithstanding, in the final analysis outside forces ultimately sealed the fate of Armenian Musa Dagh by putting an end to its very existence.
-  Hovhannes Hajian, “Im Hushere,” unpublished memoirs written upon my request, notebook 3, p. 43.
-  Ibid.
-  Interview with Harutiun Sherbetjian, 1 November 1992, North Hollywood, California.
-  Husaper (Hope Bearer) (Cairo), 30 September 1924. This figure of 70,000 hectares of forestland in the Sanjak is 30,000 hectares less than the 100,000 hectares mentioned by Paul Jacquot, Antioche. Centre de tourisme, vol. I (Beirut: Imprimerie Catholique, 1931), p. 77. Therefore, the 4,000 hectares figure pertaining to the woodlands covering Musa Dagh must also be used with caution.
-  Hovhannes T. Dumanian, Im Hushere (My Memoirs) (Beirut: Sevan Press, 1977), p. 171.
-  Norman Balabanian, Life Story (Gainesville, FL: N.p., 2008), p. 22; Suren Filhannesian, letter to the author, received 14 July 1993; interview with Isgender Stambulian, 5 September 1995, Fresno, California. For charcoal making at Soghukoluk, another exclusively Armenian village in the Sanjak, consult Victoria Giuzelyan, Beylani Parpare (The Dialect of Beylan) (Yerevan: VMV-Print Publishing, 2007), pp. 179, 186.
-  Husaper, 6 December 1923.
-  Shushanig Chaparian Papakhian, unpublished memoir, Detroit, Michigan, p. 64; Sara Kendirjian Kerkezian, letter to the author, postmarked 19 November 1991.
-  Rev. Dikran Andreassian (Antreasian), letter to the Secretary of the British Friends of Armenia Society, 27 April 1920, Friend of Armenia, New Series, no. 77 (July 1920): 5; Giligia (Cilicia) (Adana), 14 July 1921; Asbarez (Arena) (Fresno), 26 August 1921; Armenian General Benevolent Union Archives, Saddle Brook, New Jersey (now in New York, New York), (hereafter AGBU/SB), File 14 D, H. P. E. Miutian Sisvan Varzharanner (Svedia). Tghtagtsutiunner 1923-1927 (AGBU Sisvan Schools [Svedia]: Correspondence 1923-1927), Krikor Aroyian to Cairo AGBU Central Executive Board, 26 November 1922.
-  Fr. Nareg Shrikian, letter to the author, 14 May 2010.
-  Interview with Movses Sarkis Sherbetjian, 24 November 1988, Thousand Oaks, California; interview with Lusaper Makhulian Jambazian, 24 November 1988, Thousand Oaks, California; interview with Arakel Izanian, 28 December 1991, Sunland, California. For Ardashes Boghigian’s public career, see “Ardashes Boghigian,” Keghart Suriahay Darekirk (Keghart Syrian Armenian Almanac), Dr. Robert Jebejian, ed., vol. 5 (Aleppo: N.p., 1996), pp. 546-47; Nura (Nora) Arisian, Al-Nuwwab al-Arman fi al-Majalis al-Niabiyya al-Suriyya 1928-2011 (The Armenian Deputies in the Syrian Parliaments 1928-2011) (Damascus: N. p., 2011), pp. 57-76.
-  Hrant Dikran Kazanjian, letter to the author, 22 November 1993; interview with Mardiros Hagop Boyajian, 10 June 1989, Hollywood, California.
-  Interview with Tateos Bakkalian, 4 August 1994, Anjar, Lebanon.
-  Mardiros Kushakjian and Boghos Madurian, eds., Hushamadian Musa Leran (Memorial Book of Musa Dagh) (Beirut: Atlas Press, 1970), p. 121.
-  Ibid.; interview with Bedros Sarkis Hajian, 29 June 1989, Glendale, California. In the case of wooden combs, the chopped raw pieces had first to be boiled in water and dried in the shade to obtain softness. See Bedros Torosyan, Husher (Memoirs) (Los Angeles: Abril Printing, 2009), p. 11.
-  Ibid.; Hagop Torosian, Surp Sarkis. Trvakner Musa Leran Gianken (Saint Sarkis: Episodes from Life in Musa Dagh) (Beirut: G. Donigian & Sons Press, 1970), p. 10; Hajian, “Im Hushere,” notebook 1, pp. 53-5.
-  Hajian, “Im Hushere,” noteook 2, p. 49.
-  Husaper, 6 December 1923.
-  Aztag (Factor) (Beirut), 3 September 1937.
-  Tovmas Habeshian, Musa-Daghi Babenagan Artzakankner (Ancestral Echoes of Musa Dagh) (Beirut: Erepuni Press, 1986), p. 158.
-  AGBU/SB, File 14 D, Aroyian to AGBU Executive Board, 6 May 1923. Aroyian announced the forthcoming two-week school closure while on a business trip to Beirut.
-  Ibid., Aroyian to AGBU Executive Board, 1 July 1924. According to the original plan, the 1923-24 school calendar would be from 1 August 1923-30 April 1924 for Haji Habibli, Kheder Beg, and Kabusiye, and from 1 September 1923-31 May 1924 for Bitias, Yoghunoluk, and Vakef. Idem, AGBU Executive Board to Aroyian, 19 July 1923.
-  For details, consult Alberta Magzanian, Anna Magzanian and Louisa Magzanian, The Recipes of Musa Dagh: An Armenian Cookbook in A Dialect of Its Own (N.p.: www.Lulu. Com, 2008), p. 157; Chaparian Papakhian, memoir, pp. 9-14; Krikor Geozalyan, Musa Leran Azkakrutiune (The Etnography of Musa Dagh) (Yerevan: “Kidutiun” Publishing House of the National Academy of Sciences of the Republic of Armenia, 2001), pp. 70-9; Kushakjian and Madurian, Hushamadian, pp. 119-120. For sericulture in Musa Dagh in the nineteenth and early twentieth century, see Vahram L. Shemmassian, “The Armenian Villagers of Musa Dagh: A Historical-Ethnographic Study, 1840-1915,” Ph.D. dissertation, University of California, Los Angeles, 1996, pp. 41-9.
-  Shemmassian, “The Armenian Villagers,” pp. 41-2.
-  Magzanian et al., Recipes of Musa Dagh, p. 157.
-  Husaper, 6 December 1923.
-  Piunig (Phoenix) (Beirut), 30 August 1924.
-  Husaper, 27 December 1934.
-  For the control of the silk industry by notables, see Sima Aprahamian, “The Inhabitants of Haouch Moussa: From Stratified Society through Classlessness to the Re-Appearance of Social Classes,” Ph.D. dissertation, McGill Iniversity, Montreal, Canada, March 1989, pp. 62-65.
-  Armenian Catholicosate of Cilicia Archives, Antelias, Lebanon, (hereafter ACC), File 22/1, Jebel Musa – Svedia 1920-1940 (Musa Dagh – Svedia 1920-1940), Fr. Apraham Der Kalusdian (Abraham D. Calousdian) to Catholicos Sahag II Khabayian, 12 October 1926; Hrant Dikran Kazanjian, letter to the author, 22 March 1994.
-  Kazanjian letter, 22 March 1994.
-  Tateos Babigian, “Husher. Tebker u Temker” (Memoirs: Events and Profiles), unpublished manuscript, Armenian Genocide Museum-Institute, Yerevan, Armenia, pp. 9, 18-9.
-  Norman Burns, The Tariff of Syria 1919-1932, American University of Beirut Publications of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, Social Science Series, no. 5 (Beirut: American Press, 1933), p. 155.
-  Apr[aham] H. Renjilian, “Antakyada Ipekjilik: Ipek Beojeyi Bendinin Sonu” (Sericulture in Antioch: The End of the Silkworm Season), Nor Avedaper (New Herald) vol. 6, no. 17 (10 November 1933): 327-28.
-  Husaper, 27 December 1934.
-  France, Archives du Ministère des Affaires Etrangères, Nantes, Mandat Syrie-Liban, Beyrouth: Cabinet Politique 1926-1941, carton no. 530, Georges Burnier to R. Chambard, Note sur la situation des arméniens dans le Sandjak d’Alexandrette et leur installation éventuelle au Liban, 28 June 1939.
-  Burns, Tariff of Syria, pp. 155-58, 189-97.
-  W.D. Darby, Rayon and Other Synthetic Fibers (New York, NY: Dry Good Economist Textile Publishing Company, 1929), pp. 12-3.
-  Suriagan Mamul (Syrian Press) (Aleppo), 14 October 1925.
-  AGBU/SB, File 14 D, Aroyian to AGBU Executive Board, 22 September 1924.
-  Aztag, 22 January 1930.
-  Hayrenik (Fatherland) (Boston), 18 June 1931.
-  ACC, File 22/1, Parish Council of Kabusiye to Catholicos Papken (Giuleserian), 15 January 1936; Renjilian, “Antakyada Ipekjilik,” pp. 327-28; Aztag, 8 July 1930.
-  Fr. Movses Shrikian, “Hushakrutiun Movses Av. Khn. Shrikiani (Avazani Anun, Yesayi) (Memoirs of Archpriest Movses Shrikian [Baptismal Name, Yesayi]), unpublished memoirs, Montebello, California, p. 54.
-  Interview conducted for me by Mardig Chanchanian with Sirvart Chanchanian, 21 February 1993, San Jose, California; interview with Sirvart Tashjian Hajian, 3 January 2009, Pasadena, California.
-  Interview with Mari Shemmassian Bursalian, 16 March 2008, Fresno, California.
-  Interview with Chanchanian.
-  Telephone interview with Florence Igarian Harutiunian, 27 October 1991, Van Nuys, California-Glendale, California.
-  Alberta Magzanian, letter to the author, 13 January 2009.
-  Vartuhi Keshishian Uzunian, “Trvant Demirjian-Keshishian,” in Keghart, vol. 5, p. 147. For Rev. Shirajian’s activity among Armenian genocide survivors, see “Rev. Aharon A. Shirajian 1867-1939,” in idem, pp. 120-23; Chanaser (Endeavor Love) (Beirut), combined issue of nos. 7-8 (1 and 15 April 1968); Friend of Armenia (London), 1920s-1930s issues.
-  Sara Kendirjian Kerkezian, letter to the author, postmarked 19 November 1991.
-  ACC, File 22/1, Kabusiye Parish Council to Catholicos Papken, 15 January 1936; Antranig Urfalian, Gianki me Hedkerov (On a Life’s Traces) (Palm Springs, California: Haig’s Printing, 1990), p. 48.
-  Kushakjian and Madurian, Hushamadian, pp. 163-64, 171; Zora Isgenderian, “Doner u Donakhmputiunner (Gronagan yev Ashkharhig)” (Holidays and Festivities [Religious and Secular]), in Hushamadian, pp. 176, 181.
-  Interview with Rosine Shemmassian Kundakjian, 6 January 2009, Fresno, California.
-  ACC, File 22/1, Haji Habibli Parish Council to Catholicos Sahag II, 9 August 1926; idem, Fr. Der Kalusdian to Catholicos Sahag II, 11 August 1926.
-  Babigian, “Husher,” pp. 61-3.
-  Armenian Relief Society Archives, Boston (now in Watertown), Massachusetts, Box SOKH (Syrian Armenian Relief Cross), File SOKH, Syria, Beg-1929 [-1939], Dr. Toros Basmajian and Sarkis Selian on behalf of the Syrian Armenian Relief Cross Central Board to the Armenian Red Cross Central Board in Boston, 7 September 1932.
-  Interview with Igarian Harutiunian. The workers were Sima Andekian, Dzaghig Bodurian, and two other persons.
-  Interview with Igarian Harutiunian.
-  Tateos Bakkalian, letter to the author, received 4 January 1992; Aztag, 28 June 1935.
-  Vosdayn Jebel Musayi Hiusvadzegheni Ananun Engerutiun. Ganonakir (Vosdayn Anonymous Textile Company of Musa Dagh: By-Laws) (Aleppo: A. Der Sahagian, 1935), p. 6.
-  Interview with Tateos Bakkalian, 4 August 1994, Anjar, Lebanon.
-  Suren Kalender, narrator, Giank me Nvirum (A Life of Dedication), Manuel Keoseian, writer, Toros Toranian, editor (Beirut and Aleppo: Technopresse Moderne S.A.L., 1984), p. 133. The name NICHARTVA was formed with the initial letters of its founders’ first names, as follows: NICHan Palandjian (Nshan Palanjian), ARTin (Haroutioun/Harutiun) Vorperian, and VAhan Adjamian (Ajemian). Founded on 1 July 1928, its factory was located next to the Giulbengian Maternity in the 4th quarter of Meydan/Nor Kiugh sector of Aleppo, whereas its office and store were situated at 18 Hammam al-Tal in the same sector. Due to a disagreement among the founders, on 1 January 1935 Vorperian quit the company and was replaced by Mardiros Teghrarian. The company, however, retained its original name. Vorperian opened his own textile factory in the Qastal Hajerin neighborhood with twelve machines. NICHARTVA ceased to exist in 1947 or 1948, by which time Palanjian and Ajemian had died and Teghrarian moved to Beirut. Interview with Lilly Vorperian, 29 March 1994, Glendale, California; Lilly Vorperian, private papers, Glendale, California, NICHARTVA change of ownership document in French, 1 January 1935. For more on NICHARTVA, see “‘Nshartva’ Hiusvadzegheni Gankhahas Engerutiun me Haleb” (A Premature Textile Company in Aleppo Called NICHARTVA), in Jebejian, ed., Keghart Suriahay Darekirk, vol. 5 (1996), pp. 330-35; Aztag, 25 May 1939.
-  Vosdayn Jebel Musayi, pp. 10-11.
-  Ibid, pp. 18-9.
-  Ibid., pp. 10-15; Aztag, 5 August 1937, 12 January 1938.
-  Vosdayn Jebel Musayi, cover page and pp. 5-25.
-  Aztag, 28 June-18 July 1935.
-  Interview with Bakkalian. According to Dr. Vazken Der Kaloustian, email to the author, 19 January 2009, after his wedding on 7 May 1936 in Alexandria, Egypt, Movses Der Kalusdian moved to Bitias and lived there. He, Vazken, Movses’ only child, was born in 1937 at hospital in Antioch. Similarly, according to Bitias native Kendirjian Kerkezian, letter, upon his arrival in Bitias with his new bride, Der Kalusdian was welcomed warmly by admirers from all over Musa Dagh with a celebration held at Hotel Jabal Musa amid gunfire and folk music and dances with double drums, something reserved for special occasions. According to another Bitias resident, Der Kalusdian “lived in ‘Bulghashints Mayroom’s’ house with his wife before moving to ‘Sutt Marin’ Kadeian’s house. The couple occupied the three interconnected second fl. [sic] rooms plus a separate kitchen. It was a two-gated structure, the entrance gate led to an outhouse and a vegetable garden. Because of its higher location, the yard, the tile-covered front balcony and the front porch were not visible from the street. It was a sheltered and private environment. Der Kalusdian like [Hrach] Papazian was interested in gardening and within a year he probably had the most beautiful garden at the front of the house in Bitias.” Magzanian, letter, 13 January 2009.
-  Magzanian, letter, 30 December 2008. She writes: “Now a broad road continues to NE from the right (East) side of the remaining factory ruins avoiding the hills and valleys of the original trail.” See also Aztag, 3 September 1937.
-  Aztag, 3 August 1935.
-  Interview with Bakkalian.
-  Mardiros Kevork Chaparian, letter to the author, 20 April 1994.
-  Bakkalian letter; interview with Bakkalian.
-  Magzanian letter, 30 December 2008.
-  Bakkalian letter. See also Husaper, 25 June 1936.
-  Husaper, 30 July 1935, 25 June 1936.
-  Bakkalian letter.
-  Ibid.
-  Magzanian letter, 30 December 2008.
-  Bakkalian letter.
-  Telephone interview with Magzanian, 3 January 2009.
-  Bakkalian letter.
-  Mardiros Kevork Chaparian letter; interview with Bakkalian; Hayrenik, 12 May 1939.
-  Aztag, 14 December 1938.
-  Bakkalian letter.
-  For the hopes that Vosdayn inspired from the outset, consult Aztag, 6 July 1935, 27 July 1935.
-  Bakkalian, letter, puts the number of those who got married at five-six couples. Magzanian, letter, 30 December 2008, mentions three of those: Yeprem Filian (“Fil”) married Sara Aintabian; a certain Kadeian married Mari Maghzanian (“Barzeremints Marine”); Boghos Kelejian married Sara Kendirjian (“Kiulakhiunts”).
-  Magzanian, letter, 30 December 2008. Also see Chapter 1 in the book for the bloody feud between Bitias and Haji Habibli.
-  Interview with Bakkalian.
-  Boghos Snabian, Aghkadnerun Avantutiune (The Oral Tradition of the Poor), vol. I, (Beirut: Hamazkayin “Wahe Sethian” Press, 1983), p. 30.
-  Suriagan Mamul, 14 October 1925.
-  “Musa Daghe,” Rahniuma (True Path) (Aleppo) 9:29 (17 September 1927): 457.
-  Aztag, 27 June 1937.