Commemorating Simon Antranighian

May 1, 2022

Memorializing local heritage: creating a monument for Mount Auburn’s first Armenian resident

Mount Auburn is working with a group of Armenian history and culture advocates to erect a monument to daguerreotypist Simon Antranighian (1827 – 1855), the first known Armenian buried at Mount Auburn. He was interred in a public lot in an unmarked grave – the first of more than 3,000 Armenians to be buried here up through today. While this group includes Armenian national heroes, there are also thousands of everyday individuals like Antranighian who helped establish their heritage in the Boston area, which now has the third-largest Armenian population in the United States.

A pioneer who deserves to be remembered

In 1853, the 26-year-old Simon Antranighian arrived in Boston on the clipper ship Sultana from Smyrna (Izmir), Turkey. When he applied for U.S. citizenship the following spring, he stated that he was an “Artist,” born in Constantinople (Istanbul), Turkey, in 1827. Probate records suggest that Antranighian worked as a daguerreotypist (an early type of photographer) and a waiter in what is now Boston’s South Bay.  

According to his death record, Antranighian died on March 15, 1855, just 470 days after his arrival. His cause of death was listed as “Infl. of lungs,” which could have been one of several respiratory diseases – including tuberculosis and pneumonia – that were common killers in 19th-century cities. 

Antranighian was interred in the public St. John Lot on Vesper Avenue in an unmarked grave. He was the first known Armenian to be buried at Mount Auburn – but not the last.

A community effort

In 2014, volunteer docent Stephen Pinkerton collaborated with Ruth Thomasian of Project SAVE Armenian Photograph Archives and Marc Mamigonian of the National Association for Armenian Studies and Research to present a program celebrating the lives of Armenians buried here, as a centennial commemoration of the Armenian Genocide. It was during this collaboration that Stephen identified Antranighian’s story. After that, they formed an informal “Armenian Friends of Mount Auburn Cemetery” group with fellow advocates to pursue installation of a grave marker for Antranighian, designed by sculptor Robert Shure of Skylight Studios in Woburn, as well as James Holman of Mount Auburn.

Support this project

You can help us make this monument a reality! We are raising funds for the costs of creating the monument and landscaping around it. Your donation will join others from the Watertown community to create this important memorial to our local history.

About the Author: Anna Moir

Grants & Communications Manager View all posts by Anna Moir →

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