June 26, 2021
By the late Jack Haldane (Izmidlian)
In my time at the P.L.A. (from 1948 onwards) the customs seals were made, as I remember it, of metal thin enough to be malleable, shaped roughly like the figure 8 except in the middle. One half of the seal had a lip all round. The labels were printed on to stout canvas. An stout needle would be threaded with strong twine and then forced through the fabric of the rug or carpet not far from a convenient corner. The loose ends were then tied in a knot and put onto one half of the seal. This would then be folded and the whole squashed together by a tool not unlike a pair of pliers. This would cause the lip to be squashed into the other half of the "8" and made the removal of the label impossible without destroying the seal.
The tickets came as a roll of stout cards, perforated and pre-printed, and with a hole punched them (I don't remember if they had an eyelet round the hole). This, too, would be affixed to the piece using the same stout twine and the same needle. The knot securing this in place was never sealed.
For most goods, the insertion of the needle caused little if any damage to the rug. On fine pieces the effect was certainly noticeable and on really fine items there is no question but that rugs were damaged. After all, how can a steel needle which was probably around 5 mm wide near the tip possibly get between the warps and wefts without there being a bad effect on these ?
When the goods were sent to the washers (Shahinian, Abadjian and possibly others) the washers' staff would staple the customs label to the rug or carpet, but remove and store the card labels. These would be put back on the piece after it was dry and ready to return to the appropriate consignors. These staples would have been of iron or steel, which is why they frequently left rust marks on the Customs label and, not so frequently,on the fabric of the rug of carpet.
I'm pretty sure that items imported before the war (and there were quite a few of these around in the late 1940s and early 1950s) were sealed on the same manner.
The late Jack Haldane 2012 assisted and recorded by Clive Rogers
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