Wednesday, January 7, 2015

The Reverend Professor Esperantist

Floyd Barnes Hardin
Initially enthusiastic about
Floyd Barnes Hardin was born on May 4, 1886, making him just slightly one year older than Esperanto.[1] When he founded the Moline Esperanto club, he was just twenty-two years old, and styling himself Reverend Hardin. Oddly, he seem to disappear from the Esperanto movement not long after. It may be that founding the Moline club, a sequel to his founding the club at the University of Chicago in 1907, was his swan song in the Esperanto movement. Despite the frequency in which he shows up in Esperanto publications from 1907 through 1909, after that he’s gone. The final reference to him seem to the be Adresaro of 1909, the address list of American Esperantists that appeared in April of that year.[2]

In various Esperanto publications he’s referred to as either “Professor” or “Reverend.” I guess if you start the school, you can give yourself a professorship. The December 1907 Amerika Esperantisto references him with the words “oni devas diri ‘Rev.’” (one should say “Rev.”), without explaining why one should. Though “professor” was self-conferred, he really was a minister. A page written by one of his descendents notes that he was a Methodist minister, but the Unitarian Year Book for 1909 lists him as a Unitarian minister in Moline, Illinois.

The item in the January 7, 1909 Rock Island Argus is a short one, but it gives me an excuse to take a further look at this early Esperantist.
Esperanto Club Formed.—The Moline Esperanto club was organized Tuesday afternoon. Rev. Mr. Hardin is an honorary president of the Esperanto State association and acting vice president and has taught the new language at the Chicago university and will have charge of instruction in the new club. Some of the members of the are the Mesdames Hasson, Bowser, G. W. Wood, Severeness, Marshall, A. T. Foster, also G. E. Owens and the Misses Schlotfeldt and Wieses.
I don’t wish to denigrate Rev. Hardin’s scholarly accomplishments, but it’s a bit misleading to say that he “taught the new language at the Chicago university.” Yes, Floyd Hardin taught Esperanto at the University of Chicago. And I taught Esperanto at MIT, however, I was not employed by MIT for that purpose or at that time. A group of MIT students who were interested in Esperanto asked the Esperanto Society of New England if they could provide an instructor for an informal course during their Independent Activities Period. At the time, I lived in walking distance of the MIT campus.[3] Rev. Hardin was the instructor for the University of Chicago Esperanto club. In October 1907,

In January 1908, Hardin (oddly listed as “Floyd P. Hardin”), along with Edwin C. Reed and Derwent Wittlesey, set up the American School of Esperanto in Rockford, Illinois. Reed would later move to D.C. (with his wife, Dr. Ivy Kellerman Reed) and remain prominent in the movement for years. In March of that year, Harbin announced his History of the Esperanto Movement in America, of which I have found no evidence that it was ever published.

The American School of Esperanto also advertised in 1908 in The Flaming Sword, a religious magazine which seemed to be readying itself for the coming apocalypse. The magazine follows the teaching of Dr. Cyrus R. Teed, or “the prophet and accepted Messiah of the new order,” Koresh. Why they were advertising there, I’m not sure. But I digress.

In 1909, he was the minister of the First Unitarian Church of Moline, Illinois, and founder of the Moline Esperanto Club. But what’s odd is that the 1910 Census lists him a farmer; he’s living with his two of his sisters. By 1920, he’s married, living in Los Angeles, working at a novelties wholesaler. They’ve got four children, ranging from six years to six months. I have no idea where the children were in 1930. He’s a printer; he and his wife have a relative living them them who works as a clerk in the printing shop. In 1940, he’s divorced and working in a library.

What happened? How did Floyd Hardin go from being a “professor”[4] at the American School of Esperanto to vanishing from the movement? And yet, when Hardin died in 1971, his headstone bore the words, “Devoted Worker for a World Language.” Of course, this doesn’t say which world language that was. It wasn’t Esperanto. Harbin founded the International Language Review, and (according to Wikipedia) promoted the language Neo. What happened between 1909 and when Mr. Hardin discovered Neo?

His descendent says that he wrote a number of pieces in Esperanto. I haven’t turned up any of them, but I’d love to see them.

  1. Much of my biographical information on Hardin comes from intrepid researchers at, who had already searched out the primary documents, primarily one of his descendants. I am grateful.  ↩
  2. 1610 6th Avenue, Moline, Illinois. The page can be found here.  ↩
  3. At the beginning of the final class, the students asked me in Esperanto if we might conduct the final session solely in Esperanto. Of course I said “jes.”  ↩
  4. My apologies to my friends who are actual professors at accredited institutions of higher education.  ↩

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  1. Sounds like another case of clergy burnout. Occupational hazard.

  2. I am Floyd B. Hardin's great-granddaughter, whom you contacted through He did found the International Language Review. He was a 5th generation Methodist minister, and loved learning about several different religions. During his later years he followed the B'haia faith.

    Floyd was arrested while he was still a Methodist minister along with some of his friends. While imprisoned he wrote a pamphlet entitled An Unlawful Assembly in Jail, of which I still have a copy. I also still have some of his poems and sermons he wrote throughout the years.

    1. Your ancestor fascinated me. I decided to focus (as best I could) on his time in the Esperanto movement.

      Did he do any poetry (or other literary work) in Esperanto? I would love to see it if he did.


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