website of Jelle Verheij, historian

Historical Photos

William Sachtleben's photos (1891, 1895)

You will find here a selection of Sachtleben's photos, divided in 5 series taken in 1891 and 1895. Click on one of the photos to see more.

Bursa (1895) →

Sivas Vilayet (Merzifon, Sivas, Suşehri/ Enderes, Şebinkarahisar, Kelkit) (1891) →

the Trabzon - Erzurum road (1895) →

William L. Sachtleben was an American traveller, who together with Thomas G. Allen passed through Turkey on a bicyle tour from Greece to China. a daring adventure they described in their "Across Asia on a bicycle" (New York, 1894). On the tour Sachtleben took pictures of people and places they encountered. Particularly the scenes of daily life he recorded are truly unique.

Sachtleven went again to Turkey in 1895, this time in search of an other American cyclist, Frank G. Lenz, who had disappeared east of Erzurum in 1894, and turned out to have been killed by a local Kurdish leader. While in Erzurum he witnessed the anti-Armenian pogroms of October 30, 1895. His photos of that terrible event are actually the only known photographs of the violence that engulfed the whole of the eastern provinces in the autumn of that year and are therefore of great historial value.

The history of Sachtleben's photo collection is quite extraordinary. In the late 1960s, in Houston, Texas, a passerby noticed a workman tossing boxed and files in a bonfire. In the boxes were the photographs, negatives and notebooks of Sachtleben. Was it not for this last minute rescue his work would probably have been completely forgotten. In the late 1970s the collection came into the possession of Mrs Jean Zakarian of California, who having married into an Armenian family was particularly interested in the items related to Turkey. She donated the materials to the Library of the University of California in Los Angeles (UCLA). In recent years the whole collection was made available on the internet.

For the history and the importance of the collection see Alvazian, Gia, "The W.L. Sachtleben Papers on Erzerum in the 1890s, in: Hovannisian, Richard G. (ed), Armenian Karin/Erzerum (Costa Mesa, 2003), pp.223-260.