Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Esperanto in 1909 Florida

Mr. Pryor played to win
Nellie Jerauld went unmentioned in the article in in the February 17, 1909 Pensacola Journal, but it probably wasn’t necessary to mention her, since her interest in Esperanto was probably well known to her neighbors in the Choctawhatchee Bay area of Florida, and her home got mentioned in the article. She was actually a bit of a latecomer to Esperanto, since the first indication of her Esperanto activity dates to the end of 1908, but by early 1908 there was a group in Pensacola, the “Unufojio Esperanto Societo de Floridio,” (at least what’s what the Journal put into print)[1] although Pensacola might have been a bit far for Mrs. Jerauld.[2]

Mrs. Jerauld named her home “Evoluta.” The Pensacola Journal noted in 1908 that “all of the planning and most of the work for the first two years was done by Mrs. Jerauld and her two daughters.” (There were two sons too, but they seem to have had other concerns.) From accounts in the newspapers, Evoluta seems to have been a combination of farm, boarding house, and arts center. And it was a place for Esperanto.

Now we bring in our other Florida family, the Pryors. The Pryors were in 1910 a family of a widowed father and ten children, from the ages of twenty-five to three. Their mother had died in 1907, a few days after giving birth to the tenth child. They also lived in Mary Esther. It is not clear who the other “students of Esperanto” were at this 1909 gathering, though at least one of them was likely a Jerauld.
One afternoon this week the students of Esperanto met at Evoluta and played Chio, an Esperanto game of over a thousand words. It is many games in one. Edwin Pryor, of Mary Esther, won the game by ordering the largest dinner consisting of a number of courses with the viands, desserts, and liquids used by all countries, giving his orders in Esperanto with translations in English. Miss Ida Pryor was a close second. The students have a great “entuziasmo” for the “kara lingvo” and find this new game not only very amusing, but very instructive as it is a practical aid to the understanding of the language. The have the ’phone records of the language and so are enabled to get the pronunciation correct. They meet again together next week.
Edwin Pryor, the winner of the game, was 20 years old. His sister was 24. The were the fourth and second eldest of their siblings. Were the other students Nellie Jerauld’s children? They would have been 29, 26, 20, and 17 at the time. Certainly, one of the students was the youngest, Margaret. Both Mrs. Jerauld and Mr. Pryor joined the Esperanto Association of North America in March 1909. Ida Pryor (Edwin’s sister) and Margaret Jerauld (Nellie’s daughter) both joined a month later.[3] They even formed their own Esperanto club, but that was not long lived, and disbanded in September 1909, after only a few months of existence.

The game they were playing was “Ĉio,” Esperanto for “Everything.” It was invented by Winifred S. Stoner (either Sr. or Jr.). A listing in Amerika Esperantisto describes it this way:
Ĉio, (a game) A set of fifty cards, each containing forty Esperanto words, with directions for playing a number of interesting games. By Winifred S. Stoner. Combines amusement with an excellent memory exercise. Printed on playing-card enameled bristol, round-cornered and packed in a neat carton.
The price was 50¢. With fifty cards of forty words, the “over a thousand words” would seem to be exactly 2,000. Well over a thousand words. Double that.

From this article, we know that at least someone bought the Esperanto recordings hawked in the pages of Amerika Esperantisto. While they wouldn’t have been listening to the voice of Zamenhof (like those lucky Canadians), they would hear the voice of Professor O. H. Mayer, of Chicago.

Mrs. Jerauld not only wasn’t Florida’s first Esperantist, but she wasn’t the first for Choctawhatchee Bay either. In 1907, Camp Walton (now Fort Walton) was home to Hermann Sexauer, a German Esperantist. Did Mrs. Jerauld learn of Esperanto from him? Fort Walton and Mary Esther are adjacent

  1. “Unufojio” isn’t a word, though it resembles some. Unufolio is “one leaf,” unufojo is “one-way.” I’d also expect an adjective (an -a word) here.  ↩
  2. Mrs. Jerauld lived in Mary Esther (yes, that really is the name of the town), which (according to a search for directions) is about an hour away from Pensacola. Doubtless in 1909, this would have been a longer and more involved trip.  ↩
  3. It would be a sweet story (just after Valentine’s Day and all) if Mr. Pryor married Ms. Jerauld in an Esperanto romance. That didn’t happen. He married someone else a decade later. Perhaps Ms. Jerauld jilted him. And that after Mr. Pryor hosted a taffy pull at Evoluta. Perhaps she didn't want to marry someone who would beat her at Ĉio.  ↩

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