[Various locations in California and Texas. ca. 1940]s. 445 black-and-white photographs in mounting corners (a few photographs loosely laid in). On average measuring 3 1/2 x 2 1/2 or 4 x 6 inches, with a handful in a smaller format and a few as large as 8 x 10 inches. Oblong folio. Custom tan wooden binding, screw-bound, front cover on two metal hinges. Minor soiling and wear. A few photographs with mild edge wear. Very good. Item #WRCAM54891
An elaborately-bound family photograph album capturing the lives of an Armenian-American family in the American West during the mid- 20th century. The title comes from the two words artfully affixed to the front cover in raised wooden letters, "Avakian Snaps" (meaning, in essence, "Snapshots of the Avakian Family"). The album is a veritable gold mine of geneaological information regarding the Avakian family. The photographs are sometimes hand-annotated on the verso, identifying the subjects of the photographs. For example, one snapshot names all nine people pictured: "Grandpa Simone, Grandma Pearl, Mary, Al, Ro, Milt, Marion, Dickard, Sam." The album seems to center on Marion Avakian, his wife Alice, and their family. The Avakian family was either settled in or stationed by the American military in Los Angeles. Some of the family apparently lived in Fresno as well, a city that has boasted a large Armenian immigrant community since the early twentieth century. Page after page of the album is filled with pictures of the Avakian family, especially children, posed with other family members and friends, sometimes also identified on the verso of the shots. One large photograph shows a 40th wedding anniversary party, with three generations of Avakians seated around a well- set table. Several photographs show young children or infants, celebrating a new generation of American-born Avakians. Apparently, Marion was an American military pilot, evidenced by dozens of photographs of him sitting in or posing in front of a U.S. Navy airplane. Many of these photographs show him next to his fellow servicemen at military bases or various homes. The family also visited Texas at some point, with two photographs of Avakian family members standing next to a Texas welcome sign, and dozens of photographs of the family in what appear to be West Texas settings. A portion of these photographs depict Marion Avakian digging trenches for plumbing and other activities related to the building of a home; whether this was the Avakian home or a home Marion Avakian was assisting in building is unclear. The wooden binding of the album surely held special significance for the Avakian family. Woodcarving is an ancient tradition in Armenia, so the family naturally honored that tradition by enclosing their family photographs in a wooden binding, with specially-carved wooden lettering. Traditional Armenian woodcarving includes carved wooden furniture and interior accent pieces, along with daghdaghan, traditional wooden-carved amulets designed to ward off "the evil eye," which has been an Armenian tradition for thousands of years. Also, there are at least two woodcarving museums in Armenia - in Yerevan and Vanadzor - and woodcarving was one of the eight specialty handmade arts featured in last summer's Armenian-American celebration at the Smithsonian Institution, ARMENIA: CREATING HOME. An interesting selection of family photographs from an Armenian-American family building a life in the American West in the mid-20th century, in an artfully-constructed wooden binding.