It’s not often that Calvin Coolidge’s name is invoked these days in Washington. But the long-dead 30th president is figuring in a controversy involving several Armenian-American organizations, the Smithsonian Institution and the White House.
At the center of the controversy is an intricate and colorful carpet depicting the Garden of Eden, woven by orphaned Armenian girls and presented to then-president Coolidge in the late 1920s. It is known as the Ghazir Rug, named after the Lebanese city where it was made by 400 orphans who lost their families during the mass slaughter of Armenians by Ottoman Turkish forces starting in 1915.
The gift to Coolidge was a gesture of gratitude to the United States, specifically for the relief efforts mounted by the Near East Foundation, an American philanthropic organization founded in response to the Armenian mass slaughter in Ottoman Turkey. The foundation’s programs were credited with saving hundreds of thousands of lives.
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Liana Aghajanian is a freelance writer based in Los Angeles.