Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Gambling in Esperanto

Baccarat? But I wanted
to study Esperanto!
Was every Esperanto club in 1907 Paris a front for a gambling den? It might seem that way. When I discovered an June 24, 1907 article about raid on a gambling den in Paris, I assumed it was the one that the WashingtonEvening Star had written about slightly later in 1907. Then I realized the names the proprietors were different. Did Paris really have two cunning ladies who decided that an Esperanto club would be the perfect cover for an illegal gambling den? At least that many. There were two separate raids on Esperanto clubs in 1907.

The article in the Los Angeles Times does not give the location of Madame Schwob’s gambling club. I’m going to make guess that it probably wasn’t too far off from Madame Beaujon’s secret club on the Boulevard Clichy, since another source does say that Madame Schwob also had an apartment on the Boulevard Clichy. I guess in 1907 it wasn’t just the place to go for an illegal baccarat club, but the place to go for an illegal baccarat club that was masquerading as an Esperanto group. But where did you go if you wanted your friends to think you were engaging in gambling, when you really just wanted to get together and talk Esperanto?

The Times does add the detail that this was all part of a crack-down on illegal gambling clubs (not to be confused with a crack-down on Esperanto clubs). The news got quickly to Los Angeles, since the dispatch is datelined June 23, while the article itself was published the next day.

French Premier’s Efforts to Stop Gambling Are Fruitless,
and Baccarat Is in Full Blast.

PARIS, June 23.—[Exclusive Dispatch.] M. Clemenceau’s crusade against gambling in clubs has proved fruitless. All the big baccarat establishments are open again. It is reported that a foreigner lost 300,000f. ($60,000) at one club not far from the opera house on Grand Prix night.

Meantime the police continue to raid small clubs, the latest being the Esperanto Club, owned by a woman named Schwob. A peculiar feature of her case was that she recruited the players by advertisements, enlarging on the prospects of Esperanto being a universal language. A court this week rented her to two months’ imprisonment and $100 fine.
This is the same punishment that the Evening Star reported was given to Madame Beaujon. The courts were consistent. The story of Madame Schwob is further confirmed by Le Rire: journal humoristique. A writer under the name of “Snob” has a lengthly item under the title “Les Potins de Paris” (The Paris Ruckus). Snob makes it quite clear that no language study of any sort was going on, they were only playing baccarat. As with Madame Beaujon, most of the gamblers were women, Le Rire notes that this is done to keep off any thought that this might be a house of prostitution. Just here to gamble.

Madame Schwob seems to have been known to the judge under another name. According to Le Rire, the judge started off by confirming that the accused was born Blanche Dreyfus.
—Votre nom m’est pas inconnu… [Your name is not unknown to me…]
Did he mean because of her past or because the Dreyfus Affair had ended not long before? In any case, Le Rire concluded with:
Bref, c’est Mme Schwob qui a pris la fâcheuse culotte. Au fait comment dit-on « culotte » en espéranto?

[In brief, its Madame Schwob who has taken the unfortunate panties. How do you say “panties” in Esperanto?]
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