The "Han"s of Galata

Based on the Sadettin Fidan Collection, this exhibition explores the emergence and development of the han as a modern commercial space in Galata between 1850 and 1950.

The urban economy of the Ottoman Empire was organized around a building type called a han, which was a central space of manufacture and trade. In the 19th century, as the Ottoman economy was integrated into world capitalism and international commerce flourished, modern commercial hans were established. These hans continued to be a significant part of the urban economy until the 1950s.

Merkez Rıhtım Han and Çinili Rıhtım Han (1930s/1930'lar)Sakıp Sabancı Museum

Focusing on the port area in Galata through an examination of selected hans, this exhibition aims to present an on-the-ground picture of international commercial relations and trace aspects of economic, social and urban development from the Ottoman Empire through Republican Turkey.

Port of Istanbul (1880s/1880'ler)Sakıp Sabancı Museum

The port of Istanbul was one of the biggest ports of Europe and the Mediterranean in the second half of the 19th century. International trade, particularly transit and import trade, was concentrated in the Galata region.

Çinili Rıhtım Han (1930s/1930'lar)Sakıp Sabancı Museum

The hans of the port were at the heart of international commerce in Galata. Trade companies carried out their business through these hans.  

The port area in GalataSakıp Sabancı Museum

In Galata port, shipping, transport and import were leading sectors. Companies in these sectors were concentrated on two avenues (Kemankeş Caddesi and Mumhane Caddesi) and five streets (Gümrük Sokak, Karantina Sokak, Yemiş Sokak, Eski Şarap İskelesi Sokak and Halil Paşa Sokak). 

From the 1870s onwards, many hans were built in the southwestern part of the port. This area quickly became a densely built space of hans. This is where the port administration, customs and health authorities were situated. Some of the streets in this area took their name from these facilities. Gümrük Sokak is the Customs Street and Karantina Sokak is the Quarantine Street. 

"Han"s in the southwestern part of the portSakıp Sabancı Museum

Envelope of a commercial letter from Müller, Eftihidis & Co. to J. B. Soellner in Nuremberg (1924)Sakıp Sabancı Museum

The first modern commercial "han"s

One of the oldest and most central hans of the port area was Küçük Millet Han, which was established in 1875 on Karantina Sokak. Various international trade companies and brokers worked out of this han. Among these was Müller, Eftihidis & Co, which traded paper. 

Küçük Millet Han was established to bring revenue to the Balıklı Greek Orthodox Hospital. It was also known as Küçük Balıklı Han. As in this case, some of the hans were established by an institution or a community. Others were established by big merchants, property owners or companies. 

Ada Han (2022)Sakıp Sabancı Museum

In the area where the first modern hans were established, Çeçeyan Han, Ada Han and Maader Han, which are all on Gümrük Sokak, were among the leading hans. They carried out a large portion of the business in this area in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

Envelope of a commercial letter from Alphonse Matcovich to the Chamber of Comm. and Ind. in Berne (1928)Sakıp Sabancı Museum

On Gümrük Sokak, brokers, merchants and insurance agents dominated business. Among these was the broker Alphonse Matcovich, whose company was located in Çeçeyan Han.

A modern quay was built in Galata in 1895. Before this time, merchants and companies mostly loaded and unloaded goods in front of their own storage houses with their own means. The construction of a new quay brought about a more systematic movement of commercial items on an extended space. The quay likewise allowed steamships to dock at the port. 

Quay of Galata (1900s/1900'ler)Sakıp Sabancı Museum

After the construction of the quay, in 1910-1914 two new hans were built parallel to the sea: Merkez Rıhtım Han and Çinili Rıhtım Han. These two large hans would play a major role in the development of international commerce and shipping. They would also bring significant changes to the social and urban landscape of the area. 

Merkez Rıhtım Han (1930s/1930'lar)Sakıp Sabancı Museum

Merkez Rıhtım Han was established in 1912-1914 in the area where shipping was the leading sector. It would be pivotal for the development of the port.

"Han"s in the northeastern part of the portSakıp Sabancı Museum

Mobility among the "han"s

A new hierarchy emerged with the construction of Çinili Rıhtım Han and Merkez Rıhtım Han. Companies began to look for space in these big hans, which were aligned with the quay. Some companies moved their business to these hans or began to work out of a number of hans simultaneously. 

Envelope of a commercial letter from Foscolo, Mango & Co. to Amsterdam (1919)Sakıp Sabancı Museum

One of the major companies which moved to Çinili Rıhtım Han was Foscolo, Mango & Co. The company worked in shipping, insurance and the coal trade, along with a number of other sectors. Foscolo, Mango & Co. worked out of the Arabian and Couteaux hans on Eski Şarap İskelesi Sokak in the early 1900s and moved its headquarters to Çinili Rıhtım Han after 1912. After 1919 it had offices in Hovaghimian Han, too. 

Advertisement of Foscolo, Mango & Co. in Annuaire Oriental (Oriental Directories) (1929)Sakıp Sabancı Museum

Shipping was the leading sector at Merkez Rıhtım Han and Çinili Rıhtım Han. Maritime companies worked out of these hans. One of these companies was Lloyd Triestino, which had an agency at Merkez Rıhtım Han in the 1930s. Established as the Austrian Lloyd in 1836, it became one of the largest shipping companies in the Mediterranean. After Trieste passed to Italy following the First World War, it was renamed Lloyd Triestino and continued its business.

Merkez Rıhtım Han and Çinili Rıhtım Han, 1930s/1930'lar, From the collection of: Sakıp Sabancı Museum
Envelope of a commercial letter sent from the Lloyd Triestino agency to its headquarters, 1930s/1930'lar, From the collection of: Sakıp Sabancı Museum
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Commercial letter sent from Dabcovich & Co. to A. Parma in Istanbul (1927)Sakıp Sabancı Museum

One of the other leading maritime agents located at the Galata port was Dabcovich & Co. After working out of various hans since the second half of the 19th century, it was situated at Lloyd Han in the 1920s. 

Commercial postcard sent from G. Antonio & Sons to the Dutch Eastern Trading Company in Amsterdam (1903)Sakıp Sabancı Museum

The hans of the Galata port housed various professionals associated with shipping including ship chandlers, transport agents and representatives of insurance companies.

Ship chandlers provided various materials and products necessary for the voyage of the ships. One of the companies in this sector was G. Antonio & Sons, which was located in Gümüş Han on Mumhane Caddesi. 

"Han"s and International Trade: Raw materials

At the hans of the Galata port, trade in raw materials was a leading part of international trade. Among these raw materials was coal imported from Britain. Coal was used to supply ships in Istanbul, and was also transported to Russia.

Envelope of a commercial letter sent from Papayanni & Co. in Liverpool to Doros Brothers in Istanbul (1906)Sakıp Sabancı Museum

Many of the shipping companies were engaged in the trade of coal. Doros Brothers, which was one of these companies, was situated at Halil Paşa Han in the late 19th century (Ömer Abed Han replaced this han in 1909) and at Çinili Rıhtım Han later.

Envelope of a commercial letter from A. E. Hadji Vassiliou & Co. to G. Wegmann in Zurich (1912)Sakıp Sabancı Museum

"Han"s and International Trade: Foodstuffs

Another leading item of trade was basic foodstuffs. Grain was a major product that was shipped from Russian ports and transported to Western Mediterranean ports. Many of the grain merchants worked out of Ömer Abed Han

"Han"s and International Trade: Consumer products

Other than the trade of raw materials and basic foodstuffs, the import of consumer products was a leading area of trade. Hans in the port exported a wide range of products from clothing to stationary. 

Envelope of a commercial letter from Djevdet and Chevket Noury to C. Fleck in Hanover (1914)Sakıp Sabancı Museum

One of the companies which imported consumer products was that of Djevdet Noury & Chevket Noury Brothers at Ömer Abed Han, which imported felt hats among other items.

Envelope of a commercial letter from Armand Rabinovitch to Export-Markt in Thüringen (1927)Sakıp Sabancı Museum

"Han"s and International Trade: Small machines

In addition to finished consumer products, companies of the port imported small machines for use at home and in the office, such as typewriters, sewing machines and coffee machines. Armand Rabinovitch was one of these merchants who worked out of Couteuax Han on Eski Şarap İskelesi Sokak. He imported coffee grinders. 

Envelope of a commercial letter from Armand Rabinovitch to Export-Markt in Thüringen, 1927, From the collection of: Sakıp Sabancı Museum
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The quay in front of Çinili Rıhtım HanSakıp Sabancı Museum

In this photograph, goods are loaded on and off the ships docked in front of Çinili Rıhtım Han. Hüdavendigar Han, located on Kemankeş Caddesi and one of the largest hans of the port, can be seen behind Çinili Rıhtım Han. On the outer wall of the han is an advertisement for Naumann sewing machines. 

Envelope of a letter sent from L. Bornstein & Co. to R. Rosenheck in Munich (1915)Sakıp Sabancı Museum

Naumann sewing machines were imported by L. Bornstein & Co., which worked out of Hüdavendigar Han in 1911-1927.

Connections in international trade

Companies at the Galata port traded with companies in Britain, Germany, France, Switzerland, Austria-Hungary, Italy and other European states. Germany and Austria-Hungary took the leading position after 1880s. Many of the companies at the port became agents of German/Austro-Hungarian companies and/or traded with them. This continued until the end of the First World War. 

Commercial postcard sent from Eskenasy & Levy to H. Glaeser in Söflingen (1908)Sakıp Sabancı Museum

One of the companies at the Galata port which traded with companies in Germany was that of Eskenasy & Levy. Eskenasy & Levy worked in transport and commerce and was based out of Ada Han

Changes in time 

During the armistice (1918-1923), the share of German and Austrian companies in international trade fell and companies of the port traded with Britain and France. 

Envelope of a commercial letter sent from Boleslas Czarkowski to B. Laforest in Périgueux-Dordogne (1919)Sakıp Sabancı Museum

Boleslas Czarkowski who worked out of Yaldız Han and Nomiko Han on Mumhane Caddesi traded with companies in France. The company imported kitchen and bathroom ware. 

Economic changes

After the establishment of the republic, Turkey adopted a state-oriented, protectionist economy in the 1930s. This was a time in which the volume of imports decreased. Yet, the hans at the Galata port continued to do business under the new circumstances. 

Commercial postcard from G. S. Papazoglou to Pet. Rübel Jr. in Wuppertal (1933)Sakıp Sabancı Museum

In a letter written to Germany in 1933, Georges S. Papazoglou, one of the import merchants at Yeni Küçük Han, mentioned the ban on the import of hemp and silk and asked the provider for straw hats only. 

Envelope of a commercial letter from the Scandinavian Near-East Agency to Carl Bock & Co. (1948)Sakıp Sabancı Museum

"Han"s in the early republican period

Hans established in the Ottoman Empire continued to function into the early republican period. Tahir Han on Kemankeş Caddesi was one of the few hans that were established in the early republic, in 1935.

Envelope of a commercial letter from Ercüment Siyavuşoğlu & Co. to New Jersey, USA (1943)Sakıp Sabancı Museum

The Second World War and the end of an era

The USA became a major trading partner in the Second World War (1939-1945). Most of the trade correspondence which took place in 1944-45 was with companies in the USA. This would mark the beginning of a new world order and after this point Turkey would enter a different path in terms of its economy, society and urban life. 

Sadettin Fidan Collection

Sadettin Fidan Collection holds thousands of original documents concerning the hans in Istanbul for the period between 1850 and 1950. The collection was brought together by a private collector, Sadettin Fidan. It includes items of postal history such as letters, envelopes, stamps and postcards which belonged to companies located at the various hans in Istanbul. The collection provides an invaluable source for economic, social and urban history in Istanbul and the wider Mediterranean. 

Stamp of G. M. Coumaki, commercial representative at Couteaux Han (1927)Sakıp Sabancı Museum

A Selection from the Collection

Memorandum from Chakir Djemal Saridja, coal merchant at Merkez Rıhtım Han to Ereğli (1914)Sakıp Sabancı Museum

Envelope of a letter from brick merchant Alcibiade Nikis at Ada Han to Budapest (1915)Sakıp Sabancı Museum

Invoice sent from the Réchadié ink factory at İbrahim Rıfat Han to the Italian Library (1910)Sakıp Sabancı Museum

Commercial postcard from the merchant Lagopoulo, Fettel & Co. at Çeçeyan Han to France (1913)Sakıp Sabancı Museum

Envelope of a commercial letter sent from the shipping agency Dabcovich & Co. to London (1963)Sakıp Sabancı Museum

Credits: Story

Curated by: Ayşe Ozil - Sadettin Fidan

Advisor: Tülay Artan

Digital Adaptation: Osman Serhat Karaman

Map Designs: Emine Sandal

This exhibition has been supported by Tübitak 1002 Research Project no. 120K114.

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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