Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Poor Predictions for Huge Esperanto Congress in 1910

So many expectations
To call the predictions of the D.C. Esperanto group “wild optimistic” would be an understatement. Certainly, there was a lot of anticipation over the 1910 Universala Kongreso, the first World Esperanto Congress to be held outside of Europe. According to the Washington group, it was going to be the biggest yet. According to an article in the July 1, 1910 Washington Times, the congress would be hosting 2,500 delegates from thirty-five countries. Maybe.

At that point, the largest conventions to date were the 1908 and 1909 conventions, held in Dresden, Germany and Barcelona, Spain (though George Harvey had tried to secure one of these for Washington), which each had 1,500 members. The Americans were proposing that this convention would be the biggest by an another thousand people.

One part of looking at history is that I can see into the future, as it were, and I know that the 1910 Universala Kongreso was the second smallest ever, with the only more intimate one being the 1915 Universala Kongreso. Were they anticipating a huge surge of memberships that never actually came? Why did they tell the Times that the convention would be huge? The convention was six weeks away, in an era where spur-of-the-moment travel wasn’t exactly common. What I don’t know is what happened.

Registration was certainly cheap enough, by our standards. The Colfax Gazette of Colfax, Washington, translated an Esperanto circular and reported that
To become a member of the Sixth International Congress of Esperanto one ought to pay as soon as possible $5 to Edwin C. Reed, 1202 F street, N.W., Washington, D.C. in return for which a congress ticket will be received. Even if you are not certain that you can attend, buy your congress ticket and be in the enrollment of congress members. Every member of the congress who cannot be present will receive after the congress every book, pamphlet, etc., official or nonofficial, which will be given out to those present.
Then needed to get those registrations in quickly. The Times reported that
Persons who never heard of Esperanto by August 14, may think that the guides on some of Washington’s sightseeing cars have become demented.

This is the date for the assembling in Washington of the sixth international Esperanto congress, and the Capital Sightseeing Company is having several of its guides instructed in the language in anticipation of doing a big business during the week of the congress.
There were some guides who were in for an unpleasant surprise, as that big Esperanto business certainly didn’t materialize.
At the local Esperanto headquarters today it was said that not less than thirty-five oreign countries will send over delegates, and that the attendance probably will be in the neighborhood of 2,500.

Edwin Reed, secretary of the Esperanto Association of North America, has announced that arrangements are now practically completed for the holding of church services in the language.

Father B. Bianchini, of Italy, who will be one of the delegates, has consented to conduct the Catholic service.

Another service, which will be held, will take place in one of the Episcopal churches. This will be conducted by the Reverend L. Simley, of Annapolis, and the Rev. Paul Hoffman, of Baltimore.
In the end, the 1910 Universala Kongreso was attended by a mere 357 people, less than a quarter of the attendance of either of the prior two conventions. I’m hoping to find out just what went wrong.
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