Thursday, July 16, 2015

A Canadian President for Esperanto Group

On July 15, 1921 the Esperanto Association of North America elected a new president. This is not the sort of thing that makes the news any more, but in 1921 it was reported in at least two newspapers, both from the District of Columbia, the Washington Post and the Evening Star. By 1921, the EANA was long out of Washington D.C. (they relocated to West Newton, Massachusetts in 1913), so it wasn’t even local news.

It was something of a first for the organization. The new president, Charles F. Bardorf was the first president of EANA who was not an American citizen. He was citizen of Canada. He was also first European immigrant to head the organization. And, he was the first chemist to lead the group. (Not sure how many, if any, seconds there were of any of these.) Charles F. Bardorf was the seventh president of the Esperanto Association of North America. The group was the Esperanto Association of North America in more than just name: from the beginning it included Canadian members and clubs, although the American side dominated it. There was also a Canadian Esperanto Association. Oddly enough some of the Canadian Esperanto groups were affiliated with the British Esperanto Association.

It hit the papers the following day, although the Post still referred to the events as happening “today.” In the Evening Star, it’s a very brief article, tucked in at the bottom of a page.

BOSTON, July 16.—Charles F. Bardorf of Montreal has been elected president of the Esperanto Association of North America.
There’s almost no difference in the report in the Post.

Montreal Man Is Esperanto Head.
Boston, July 15.—Charles F. Bardorf, of Montreal, was elected president of the Esperanto Association of North America to-day.
Okay, the 15th, not the 16th. The 1921 congress of the EANA was held in Boston, and the other officers elected were from the United States, with two of them living in Boston. J. J. Sussmuth of New Jersey was elected vice-president, G. Winthrop Lee of Boston was the secretary with Miss E. J. Meriam as the assistant secretary, and B. Pickman Mann of Washington, D.C. was elected treasurer.

Charles Frederick Bardorf was born on March 13, 1863 in Vienna, Austria of German parents (this biographical summary is based on a quick search of primary documents on He emigrated to Canada in 1872, and was naturalized in 1902. He married Mata Henriette Brandt on August 2, 1886, but was subsequently widowed (in 1896) and married Gertrude Wilhelmina Brandt (sisters? cousins? not sure) in 1898. He had children with both wives, and least two of his daughters became Esperantists (he seemed to have had three daughters, and the Esperanto records refer to them each only as “Miss Bardorf”).

And he was a chemist, or chemical engineer, depending on what document you’re looking at. He was a member of the American Chemical Society and even wrote a book on sugar refining (he worked for the St. Lawrence Sugar Refineries, Ltd.), The Elements of Sugar Refining. In 1921, the Canadian Chemical Journal noted his election and said, “you can never tell what these quiet men are doing on the side.”

Charles F. Bardorf is one of those forgotten Esperantists. Once well known throughout the movement, now faded to obscurity. But not if I can help it.

Update: It has been pointed out to me that the citizenship of Canadian nationals was somewhat mixed in 1902, as they were still British subjects. I have emended the text to reflect this.
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  1. C.F. Bardorf is my great great grandfather :). Was packing up some old photo albums at my mom's this evening and came across some information on him.

    1. Fantastic! If you'd like any help with the Esperanto sources on your great-great grandfather, please feel free to contact me. (Three of my great-great grandfathers were Canadian, but none of mine were Esperantists.)


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