Wednesday, May 27, 2015

The North American Review Abandons Esperanto

All the way to the wilds of Hoboken
The timing should have raised some alarm, but if it did, that alarm was not raised to any great volume. On May 27, 1908, the Pacific Commercial Advertiser of Honolulu, Hawaii, had noticed that Esperanto had come to an end in the North American Review. With the first United States Esperanto congress coming later that year, wasn’t this a cause for concern?

Let’s consider the timeline here.
1. March 16, 1905 The American Esperanto Association is founded in Boston.
2. November 1906 The North American Review starts promoting Esperanto.
3. May 1908 The North American Review stopped its support of Esperanto (according, at least to the Pacific Commercial Advertiser).
4. July 19, 1908 The first North American Congress begins.
3. July 22, 1908 George Harvey is asked to be president of the new Esperanto Association of North America.

Why did they do that? Admittedly, although volume 187 of the North American Review (January to June, 1908) has no reference to Esperanto, there are plenty of references to Esperanto in the succeeding volumes (188–191, and others), and in part, the set of lessons that the magazine published had come to an end. Imagine your position if you’re a subscriber who wasn’t particularly interested in the Esperanto lessons (say an ardent Volapükian). How are you going to feel if they started the whole thing up again? Or if you got to the end of the lessons (and had joined the Esperanto Society). Did you need them again?

The item is actually short and does little more than provide a slap at Esperanto along with the North American Review.
Editor Harvey has dropped the Esperanto department in the North American Review. It had not penetrated further than the suburbs of Hoboken, and its chances to become a universal language were not more promising than the efforts of the Literary Digest to domesticate spelling reform.
No further from the of offices of the North American Review than Hoboken? At the time, the magazine was published in Franklin Square, New York, just outside New York City, to the east of Queens. Hoboken’s on the other side of Manhattan, so at least if it had only penetrated as far as Hoboken, it could have potentially covered a lot of people. As it was, the Review’s list of members of its Esperanto Society included people far from the New York metropolitan region.

Still, if the view was that the North American Review had dropped Esperanto, why was it that months later Edwin C. Reed wrote the following to George Harvey:
Sir,—According to the vote of the Council, you were unanimously elected president of the Esperanto Association of North American, and I am glad that it is my duty to notify you of this decision, since at Chautauqua I sent the first communication to you.

We sincerely hope that this union of forces will work to the upbuilding of the association and the general cause of Esperanto in America.
I am, sir,
Edwin C. Reed, Secretary.
Chicago. Illinois, October 8, 1908.

There you have it: “this union of forces.” The assumption of the EANA was that, given its presidency, George Harvey would continue to work to promote Esperanto in his influential magazine. While the Review sent representatives to the Universala Kongreso and write articles about it for a few years to come, the Pacific Commercial Advertiser was right: peak Esperanto had passed in the Review. George Harvey did not fulfill his part of the bargain.
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