Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Omaha’s Esperanto Delegate

A booster for his own state
On April 22, 1911, the Omaha Daily Bee had an article about a wealthy traveler who volunteered to be the official representative of Los Angeles to Esperanto speakers. The Bee estimated that there were about two million Esperanto speakers throughout the world, which is the same number that is estimated today, a century later (and that’s on the high end).

On April 29, 1911, the Bee published a letter, signed “An Omaha Esperantist,” expanding on that article, and also talking about his own promotion of Omaha. Although the Bee does not identify the writer by name, a little sleuthing does, because he identifies himself as the delegate for Omaha. As often happens in these articles, the compositors for the Bee made some errors in the Esperanto, which I have quietly corrected.

One odd bit that I’ve retained is the siting of the Universal Esperanto Association in “Genoa,” since Wikipedia points out that the name of Geneva, Switzterland is cognate with that of Genoa, Italy.

Advertising in Esperanto.
OMAHA, April 27.—To the Editor of the Bee: Indeed, Los Angeles will get a lot of advertising out of the trip to be made by her enthusiastic Esperantist and let me explain why he will have no trouble in reaching those 2,000,000 users of the international “lingo.”

At Genoa, Switzerland, the headquarters of the Universal Esperanto association is located, and “Esperanto,” the organ of the association, is published bi-monthly, each issue contains many names and addresses of Esperantists all over the world and there is also published and sent to every member a “jarlibro” (year book), which contains the names of delegates in every corder of the “mondo,” even far-away New Zealand, Australia, Siberia, Africa, etc.

These correspondents and the 1,000 or more delegates will gladly render him all the assistance in their power. When he lands in their country the one to whom he has written, telling of his intention to visit the “samidianoj,” will meet him at boat or train, direct him to a good hotel and introduce him to those whom he wishes to meet and show him the sights he wishes to see an so on from one point to another.

The writer is “delegate” for Omaha and has received requests for Omaha views, general information and when an exposition was to be held, a “small art object” has been requested. The “small art object” usually sent in the reproduction of the prize ear of corn exhibited at the land show, the “Omaha folder” is also sent and The Sunday Bee, wen English can be read and to people in Germany the Saengerfest program.

Oregon has recently been extensively advertised in foreign Esperanto periodicals, of which there are 100 or more, and the secretary of the Portland Commercial club has received many letters of inquiry in Esperanto concerning the state. These people, it is unnecessary to say, are people of means and education, far different from the hordes of immigrants landing on our shores in such large numbers.

At Antwerp in August of this summer the Los Angeles gentleman will have an excellent opportunity for meeting Esperantists, for the seventh international congress will be held there and there will be gathered together hundreds of them from the orient and the occident.

There is no question but that Los Angeles will “have her faith sufficiently rewarded” by a large amount of advertising.
The “Omaha Esperantist” was likely Charles J. Roberts, of 1920 S. 53rd St., Omaha, Nebraska. Mr. Roberts was the General Councilor of the Esperanto Association of North America for the Prairie Division. The Prairie Division comprised the states of Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota, Iowa, Nebraska, and Missouri.

Charles J. Roberts was born in February 1854 in Wisconsin to parents from England. He was an active Esperantist by 1908, with both he and his wife applying for membership in the Esperanto Association of North America in that year (at which time the councilor for the Prairie Division was Professor C. Fracker). At the same time that he had applied for membership, he had founded the First Esperanto Society of Omaha and was seeking to form a state society. Other articles make it clear that the secretary of this organization was Alice Howard. The same item in the November 1908 Amerika Esperantisto that mentions the First Esperanto Society of Omaha also notes the formation of another group in Omaha, Nebraska:
The Omaha Esperanto Rondo, recently organized by Mrs. R. B. Elliot, is progressing well, ands sent in several names to this association.
Agnes Roberts certainly started Esperanto no later than 1909, as the Bee reported on January 18 of that year that:
Mrs. Charles J. Roberts was able to meet her Esperanto class downtown Tuesday evening, although the night was very cold.
At least one of the couple attended the 1910 Universala Kongreso, since on August 14, 1910, the Bee reported that:
Charles J. Roberts, who left the first of week to attend the National Esperanto convention at Washington, D. C., expects to be gone about ten days.
While it’s not certain, it seems likely that both Charles and Agnes attended the 1910 Universala Kongreso, at which time, Charles was fifty-five and Agnes forty-seven. They had been married for twelve years. Charles died in 1938. Two years later, Agnes is sharing her home with her elder sister Jessie, who never married. The couple had no children.
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