Tuesday, July 22, 2014

An Esperanto Organization for the United States

William K. Harvey
Early American
If it weren’t for George Alan Connor, the national Esperanto organization in the United States would be 106 today. (This post was written in 2014; adjust this number to compensate for the year in which you are reading this.) By 1908, Floyd Barnes Harbin was already jumping the gun and announcing a book to be titled History of the Esperanto Movement in America (I haven’t turned up any evidence that the book was ever published). In the February 1908 Amerika Esperantisto, Mr. Harbin was asking people to pay 10¢ to get their names in a complete directory of American Esperantists. If Mr. Harbin published the book, it would be a directory of those who sent in the 10¢, and maybe not a complete directory of all the Esperantists in the United States.

But the oddest thing was that in February 1908 there really wasn’t much history of the Esperanto movement in America to write about. Not none, but not much. There was, at the time of the 1908 conference in Chautauqua, at least sixty-seven local Esperanto societies in the United States. The state with the largest number of groups was Massachusetts with eight, though there were two in Boston, one specially for the blind. One of the goals of the 1908 Chautauqua conference was to found a national society.

The new group sought a prominent leader, George Harvey, editor and publisher of the North American Review, who would later be Ambassador to the Court of St. James. Ironically, later there would be some question as to how appropriate George Harvey was as president of the Esperanto Association for North America, as he wasn’t particularly skilled at Esperanto.
Want George Harvey to Head American Esperanto

Chautauqua, N. Y., July 22.—An American Esperanto Association has been organized and a telegram has been sent to George Harvey, of New York, offering him the presidency. The United States will be divided into ten sections and Canada and Mexico will be requested to join.

Edward K. Harvey announced to-day that Esperanto has been added to the regular curriculum of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. This is thought to be the first recognition of Esperanto by any large American educational institution.
Edward K. Harvey would have a brief time in the Esperanto movement. At the age of twenty-five, in 1906, he founded the Boston Esperanto Society, which was headquartered at MIT (at that point, MIT was in Boston). Mr. Harvey had been an teacher at the Perkins Institute for the Blind, and had earlier started an Esperanto group there. But not long after the Chautauqua conference, he diagnosed with typhoid. That and diphtheria would end his life on October 27, when he was only twenty-seven years old.

He was born in early April or May, 1881 in Ireland, the son of William and Margaret Harvey. His father was born in Scotland; his mother in Nova Scotia. Not only did he travel to the United States for work and school, but in 1905 brought some students of the Perkins Institute to an Esperanto conference, and also travelled in Russia. He gave a talk about his travels in Russia at the 1908 conference in Chautauqua.

As the talk was given on July 22, 1908, it’s appropriate to quote what the Amerika Esperantisto said about it:
Mekredon nokte, Sro. Edward K. Harvey, el Boston, faris paroladon ilustritan per lumbildoj pri sia vojaĝo en Ruslando. Krom la senpera intereso de parolado mem pri rulsandaj kutimoj kaj popoloj, oni tiris en la vortoj de Sro. Harvey la fortan konvinkon de Esperanto tiel interkonigas la homojn de malsamaj naciecoj, ke oni povas varbi al si per al lingvo fedelajn amikojn. Sro. Harvey parolis tiel intime pri siaj amikoj, kies rusajn nomojn li sole povas elparoli, kiel oni kutimas paroli pri karaj konatoj samnaciaj.

Wednesday night Mr. Edward K. Harvey, of Boston, gave a lecture, illustrated with lantern views, on his trip in Russia. Aside from the direct interest of a lecture itself on Russian customs and people, one drew from the words of Mr. Harvey the strong conviction that Esperanto really acquaints people of different nationalities, and that one can acquire true friends by means of the language. Mr. Harvey spoke as intimately of his Russian friends, whose name he alone could pronounce, as one would speak of dear acquaintances of one’s own nation.
George Alan Connor was a much later president of the Esperanto Association for North America. In the 1950s, Mr. Connor sought to purge the Esperanto movement of communists. This violated the principles of the Esperanto movement of being neutral on political points. As a result, EANA was supplanted by a new national group in the United States, the Esperanto League for North America. EANA continued to exist (on paper at least) until the death of Mr. Connor.

Update: I have since learned that in 1908, there had been an earlier attempt at a national society, which was then three years old. That later gave way to the new organization. (Specifically, it was dissolved at the 1908 congress where the EANA was formed.)
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