The Kağıtçı family diary

In Turkey, an old diary is often kept as a cherished family heirloom containing fascinating details of the life and times of our loved ones.  In fact, the story of many of these diaries begins with a mother and son fleeing war-torn Azerbaijan in the 1880’s. They arrived on the shores of the Bosphorous penniless but determined to make a future in their new country.

The young man was Mehmet Sadik, a gifted and hard-working printer’s apprentice. Within ten years he had opened his first print and stationery shop in Istanbul’s Beyazit Square, next to Istanbul University. Our eligible bachelor then married the daughter of Hadjı Kasim Bey, an influential publisher and businessman. In 1910 Mehmet Sadik started printing diaries in Turkish and went on to become the leader of the industry. His diaries and wall calendars were popular items from Jerusalem to Bagdad, Baku to Salonica. People from all walks of life used them to record details of their lives, during a period of dramatic change in the Ottoman empire.

Sadly, war was coming to Mehmet Sadik’s family again, a decade of terrible suffering starting with the Balkan War of 1913, followed by the First World War (1914-1918) and the Turkish War of Independence (1919-1922). This time there was nowhere to run to. Throughout the occupation of Istanbul, the family kept on publishing diaries and encouraging their customers to plan for the future, to keep their spirits up, to resist.

Haci Kasim (seated, center), M. Sadik Kağıtçı (seated, left) and some of their family - 1926.

With grit and determination, a new nation began to emerge from the ashes of conflict, population exchanges and the great depression. Many memorable events followed such as the introduction of a new alphabet which had a profound impact on the publishing trade. There was also that time in the 1930’s when the family were invited to think about a surname, as required by the new population registration act. An astute entrepreneur, Mehmet Sadik saw this as another way to promote the business, adopting the name Kağıtçı or Papermerchant.

The new surname worked and the family prospered. They launched the now famous ECE brand, a modern, yet no-nonsense classic. It was also the preferred choice of President Ataturk and many subsequent leaders of Turkey. Today ECE Diaries are as popular as ever, spanning a collection of 28 products. These range from hard-wearing items you can carry in your pocket, to ones that are as chic as they are practical.

ECE Diaries and the Kağıtçı’s are synonymous with Turkey’s ongoing success and the spirit of its people. In 2010, the family business celebrated the 100th anniversary of their diaries. A special exhibition was held in Istanbul in the same shop where Mehmed Sadik started his business back in 1892. In case you missed it, you can read more about the history of ECE Ajandası on their website (Turkish).

1 minute challenge:

Do you have a story about your family surname?  If yes, write down 3 bullet points or facts about it, e.g.

  • my great grandfather was a farrier, he used to make and fit horseshoes
  • my grandfather was a teacher but people called him “the farrier’s son”
  • he registered my family’s surname as Nalbantoğlu (the farrier’s son)

Try to combine, or bring together, all three points into one sentence, e.g.

Tip: try to use a comma or two if the sentence is becoming too long.

My grandfather was a teacher, however everyone in our neighbourhood called him ‘the farrier’s son’, this is why he chose our surname, Nalbantoğlu.

Post your sentence in the comment box. I look forward to reading it 🙂

Vimeo <— watch the video of this post

You may also want to read my post – Put a note in your diary


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