Monday, February 9, 2015

No Romance in the Mail for Iowa Esperantist

The correspondence was about
policing standards.
There have been some Esperanto romances. Couples have met through the Esperanto movement, formed relationships, and even had children who were brought up as second-generation Esperanto speakers.[1] So, perhaps the intimations of romance weren’t completely off base for the Leon Reporter of Leon, Iowa, when they reported and speculated on the mail received by the Leon deputy sheriff. They knew they were wrong though.

The item is sweet and has a suggestion of far-off romance. A mysterious stranger found by chance, although the newspaper did note that Mr. Mullinnix’s initial correspondent was a Japanese man. And though it was a postcard, aren’t the mails supposed to be accorded some level of privacy? Okay, you’re not tampering with the mail if you read a postcard, but talking about it in the paper?[2]

It’s sometimes easy to miss the context of an old news article. Who were these people? Often small town news assumes a familiarity with people who are obscure to the world at large. Our Mr. Mullinnix wasn’t some actor on the world stage. He was a forty-two year old builder who was sometimes involved in local politics. Here’s what his hometown paper wrote on February 9, 1911:
Deputy sheriff F. C. Mullinnix, who is a student of Esperanto, the universal language, on Monday received a neatly written post card from Miss Tku Yokota, of some place in Japan, in which she states she desires to correspond with him, a card written to Mr. Mullinnix to a gentleman of Japan having been given to her on account of his illness. The card is written in a fine hand and no doubt the writer is a beautiful young lady of the Flowery Kingdom.
Unless she’s a plain, middle-aged woman with beautiful handwriting, of course.

I suppose I shouldn’t criticize the Leon Reporter too much for telling us about the contents of Mr. Mullinnix’s mailbox. Given that that postcard was in Esperanto, Mr. Mullinnix is probably the source of the translation. Although maybe the postman noticed that Mr. Mullinnix received a letter in a fine, feminine hand, and this raised the issue of just what sort of mail the man was receiving.

The newspapers make it clear that Mr. Mullinnix did not remain deputy sheriff for long, dropping out the position so he could run in the Republican primary for sheriff; despite spending nearly as much as the winner ($43.30 in campaign expenses[3]), he placed fourth out of five.

When he wasn’t being deputy sheriff (or candidate for sheriff), Mr. Mullinnix was a builder. And it was clear that he wasn’t giong to bring any “beautiful young lady of the Flowery Kingdom” to his home in Iowa, as in 1911, Foster C. Mullinnix had been married, windowed, and remarried. He had five children, ranging in age from twenty-one to about eight. Apart from the postcard from Japan, Mr. Mullinnex does not seem to have been a fervent Esperantist.

  1. Not just opposite-sex couples, but same-sex couples too.  ↩
  2. Was it a slow news day, or were they trying to take Mr. Mullinnix down a peg?  ↩
  3. It’s that effect of big money on politics. The winner of the Republican primary spent $46.56.  ↩

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1 comment:

  1. You see these sorts of comments quite a bit in old, small town newspapers. It's rather quaint: "Mr. and Mrs. So-and-So received a guest from Chicago at their home this week. Mr. Chicago-guy is a long time friend of the family." That's what passed for news. And yes, I expect that the good Deputy brought the attention to the writer at the paper- getting mentioned in the papers in those days was quite easy, as just about anything was "fit to print".


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