Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Los Angeles’s Esperanto Press Agent

Iu reklamas la urbon.
Venu al Los Anĝeleso, la sunplena urbo proksima al la bela Pacifiko. Urbo de bluaj ĉieloj kaj agrabla vetero. Venu kaj trovu la bonan vivon en Los Anĝeleso.

That’s what we could imagine someone saying if they were doing civic boosterism for Los Angeles in Esperanto in 1911. According to the Omaha Daily Bee of April 22, 1911, someone did just that. Unfortunately, the Bee does not identify this intrepid Esperantist, nor his motivation for taking up the task. It clearly wasn’t cash, since the Bee notes that the individual in question “pays his own expenses,” but that seems okay, since he’s also described as “a man of means.” Who was this wealthy, well-traveled man who talked up Los Angeles in Esperanto?

The other question would be what the benefit was to Los Angeles? Were they making deals with companies in other lands? It’s not clear what the justification was. On the other hand, it didn’t seem to cost the city anything. The Bee gives us an early (and almost undoubtably inaccurate) estimate of the number of Esperanto speakers.

Where did they get this from?
Advertising in Esperanto.
The Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce has commissioned a representative to got to Europe and advertise the city in Esperanto the universal language—to-be. Are the city’s virtues so fine that they must be told only in this tongue, or is it that they have been preached in every other form of speech until there is nothing more to be said? In answer to all questions Los Angeles simply say that though people in this country may not realize it, 2,000,000 persons are today talking in Esperanto and that this is the language which one day will be universal. That commercial travelers have tired of hooking their tongues around new idioms and accents of speech every time they cross a new boundary line and have learned Esperanto by means of which they are exploiting their good abroad.

Just how and where this fits the Los Angeles case is a little difficult to see, but it must fit somewhere. Of course, it would never do to preach the gospel of a live city in a dead language, hence Sanskrit, Greek or Latin would never do, to say nothing of the more archaic forms. Only in the terms of twentieth century eloquence can the virtues of the new west be extolled.

We have not the least doubt that Los Angeles will get the advertising out of it which it seeks—indeed we are throwing this in for good measure—but it would do well to accompany the official spokesman with enough interpreters to talk to as many different countrymen as he happens to meet, in case he fails to find the Esperantists sufficiently grouped together to make good sized audiences. But California is a gay state. Its people enjoy a good stroke of enterprise especially when in this event, it is costing them nothing. The lecturer is a man of means and loves travel and all he asks from Los Angeles is to be commissioned as its commercial representative. He pays his own expenses. There is no question, of course, as to the city’s faith in the serious results of the enterprise.
Two million Esperanto speakers in 1911? Really? This seems unlikely. Just what was Los Angeles advertising? Tourism? Given the difficultly in traveling from Europe to California in 1911, that seems unlikely (and in 1911 there wasn’t going to be a question of tourism from China).

The name of the wealthy Esperantist isn’t given to us, nor is it clear what he accomplished. But let us make a toast to this intrepid man who proclaimed the virtues of Los Angeles to Esperanto speakers.
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