Historic Letters and Photos

Atiyeh Bros. Kerman production

Letter from Aziz Atiyeh in 1929

Mr. Geo. Tadross
Atiyeh Bros.
330 Fifth Avenue
New York, New York

Dear George,

I have so many things to write you but I do not know where to start. Today, being a holiday (Friday) I am all alone in the office, except for Socratekhan, who is about to take his usual "beauty sleep", (a nap after lunch) and I find this an opportune time to type you a few lines. Yesterday and the day before I was very busy inspecting looms in Jupar, a small town about one hours' ride from Kerman. It means getting up at 4:30 A.M., shaving, breakfasting,and starting at 5:30 in a "second-hand" Dodge over very rough roads, arriving at 6:30, and going from one mud house to another through very dusty and narrow alleys and entering through holes in the mud walls, "wide enough and high enough to permit your entering with head and back bent level with the height of knees." Once you are in, the ladies cover their faces or run to a hiding place, boys and men remain at the looms and here and there, sitting on the ground or sleeping in a hammock, a crying baby, all are partly dressed with rags, and the children who are able to talk will shout "salaam." Out of pity, I or Socratekhan will pass a kran or two to these little tots, aside from the Baksheesh to the weavers. And I am amazed to see sometimes, children not a day older, but maybe younger than my little Phillip, weaving, and holding a knife the size of a butcher knife to cut the knot. (There is no exaggeration). The looms are scattered all over town with no auto to cover the distance and no donkey, but trodding through dust in the very hot sun.

Atiyeh manager, Socratekhan.
Most of these historical photographs were taken by Aziz Atiyeh, so he is usually not pictured.

At noon we will stop at the "Ritz", where our agent has his quarters. A hard boiled egg or two, a cucumber, a wormy apple or peach, eating with one hand, and waving off a swarm of flies with the other. At 2 P.M. we start again, (as Socratekhan still insists on his "Siesta"), and by 6:30 we have returned home. It is very tiresome, but I did not mind it only I was pained to see only repetition of designs and nothing new. I was so disappointed and to such an extent that I call down our manager, and I assert what you once stated that "he has no taste". Moreover, I saw many rugs which have been hung on the looms for many months and only a few inches have been woven. This is due to the constant intrigues of our competitors who bribe or threaten the weavers and take them from our contractors. Of course, our competitors are perfect gentlemen, and they deny doing such things, but there "agents do it without their knowledge." In spite of all these doings, we are going ahead, and someday we will surprise them. The biggest problem I have to solve is to find a good designer and artist who knows colors and can blend them. Our designer is working steadily with his staff of eight men, but cannot make enough designs to go around. One great mistake, that I called to his attention, was his failure to take into consideration that the designs are enlarged by 33% to 50% when woven into the rug. He only looked at the designs on paper and they look well. From now on, he will draw finer and more minute designs. I asked them to draw the full size on paper, but he stated that it will not do, due to some complications with the weavers.

If I am unable to find another designer here, I will try to get one from Esfahan, for there I met a very good one and asked him to copy for me a design from the walls of what once was Shah Abbas' Palace.

Previous to that last two days, I was busying myself in looking at our stock of old designs, inspecting our looms in the city, and searching for some ready made carpets. Whatever there is ready, is made of very inferior quality to sell in London. And they know the London market is very poor now so they stopped making. And if there is any medium grade rug to be had, the Persian people are buying it, aging it and shipping to Teheran or Hamadan and offer it as semi-antique, and they are paying big prices. For instance, our contractor #34 has a pair of carpets, ivory background, tree of life design, the same as the pair we once had from him, size 9 x 12, and if I remember right, one was sold by Mr. Sabbagh. The pair we bought as "ready made" and the price 130 Krans. Now he asks 170 Krans. He was offered 160 by a Hamadan agent buyer. I asked to see them if possible, to buy them, but Socratekhan advised against buying from him at such a price, for then we cannot be able to order with him at 130 Krans, we are now contracting.

Hand spinning wool yarn.

Shipment #33 has just arrived, and will be sent by trucks to Dozbad. You probably know that this was shipped about a month ago, via Bandar Abbas, by caravan, but due to the unsafety of the road it was stopped on the way so we have ordered its return.

Semi-antiques are non-existent. You will be surprised to know that there are several new rugs "good and bad quality" spread in the streets, walked over by people and dogs, trodden over by donkeys and ran over by the few automobiles, including our Dodge in the course of making antiques. On of these rugs is similar in design to our carpet photo #39. Also I saw another of the same design, size about 28 x 14, very poor quality and in some places worn out but this was spread in a court yard as they cannot find a street wide enough. I though of buying it for Senaan's order, but it has poor quality and bad dyes and there is a duty of 12% on unfixed dyes.

My life here is not a dog's life, far from it, --especially if you measure it by the standard of living of the Americans do. (Many, even in New York, will envy the American dog). I go to bed at 8:00 P.M. The beds made of a few warped planks nailed together and covered with a thin mattress, thinner than our Kermans. I am up at 4:30, breakfast at 5:50. Work until 11:00, lunch at noon. Then I hide in the shade until 4 P.M. (others sleep). Work until 7:00, and supper at 7:30, and to bed at eight. Reading and writing is forbidden at the oil lamps because of mosquitos and other insects. I am enclosed within a large courtyard, with a pool of water and a few shrubs. If I go out, I can see nothing but high mud walls. Few days ago, I was complaining to the chief of Police, who is Persian but has lived in Europe for 9 years, and he comforted me by saying that the moon would soon be up and keeping me company. This is a good "rest cure but I am afraid the dose is too large.

The sheet is about covered and my one finger got tired typing. Remember me to all and let us hope we will meet again, if not in 1929 in 1930.

Very Sincerely,

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