For January’s Artifact of the Month, I thought I would highlight the A. Joseph Howar Collection, which came to the museum last summer. A few items from the collection have already been added to the museum’s Living in America exhibit, and it is also one of the first additions to our new collections website, AANM Collections Online.
Joseph Howar was born Mohammad Issa Abu Al Hawa around 1879 in Palestine and arrived in America as Abraham Joseph Howar in 1904. Like many new immigrants, he began working as a peddler, but he quickly turned his career ambitions toward the building trade. He developed and owned many apartment buildings in his adopted hometown of Washington, DC. He also took on a number of philanthropic projects, such as the construction of a school in his home village of Tur in East Jerusalem. Back in the United States, one of his greatest achievements was the development of the Islamic Center of Washington, DC, the city’s first mosque. Howar was instrumental in the development and construction of the mosque, as he was the first to perceive the need for such an institution and put a great deal of work into making it a reality. Howar met his wife, Badria (Bader) Haki, on a trip home to Palestine in the 1920s. The couple had five children and lived in a grand, Tudor-style home of Joseph’s own design. They hosted many events for traveling dignitaries from the Arab and Muslim Worlds, and their parties were well known in Washington diplomatic circles.
The bulk of the collection consists of photographs and papers that document Howar’s fascinating life. The family also donated the Egyptian Order of Merit and Jordanian Medal of Honor that had been given to Joseph Howar for his work on the Islamic Center of Washington DC.
Here are some of my favorite items from the collection: