Saturday, March 28, 2015

Esperanto Vanishes from the North American Review

George Harvey
Probably not an Esperantist
Over at his blog, Robert Nielson has a post on the rise and fall of Esperanto in the North American Review between 1906 and 1909. The magazine was an early supporter of Esperanto in the United States, and then, just as the Esperanto Association of North America got underway, George Harvey, who owned the magazine, dropped his support.

Harvey wasn’t only promoting Esperanto in his magazine, as a sort of thank you to him, the North American Esperanto movement made him its very prominent head. As a thank you to the Esperanto movement, George Harvey turned his back on it. What gives?

I suspect that George Harvey’s views toward Esperanto mirrored those later expressed by JFK. “Ask not what you can do for Esperanto, ask what Esperanto can do for you.” Robert questions the very decision of the EANA to have George Harvey as its first president:
Surely an Idist would not be elected President of an Esperanto association? Did Harvey maybe switch allegiances after this point? But he was a member of the original delegation that suggested Ido in the first place. Perhaps he was on the fence and hoping that reform could happen without a split and only fully joined Ido in 1910. At least that’s the only explanation I can think of, he never gives any explanation (if he wanted reform why not use his journal to push for it or even mention that it was an issue?).
It’s my guess that George Harvey was neither an Idist nor an Esperantist in 1908. The EANA seemed to have the idea that someone politically prominent would be a great head to the organization even if he (undoubtably he, even though the early Esperanto movement tended to attract feminists) didn’t speak Esperanto. Contemporary news reports make clear that neither of the first two presidents of the EANA spoke Esperanto, though John Barrett claimed he was planning to learn it. (The third president was not socially prominent, but did speak Esperanto.)

So, why is someone who doesn’t speak Esperanto publishing a lot of Esperanto? Money. Just as Cavalier decided in 1912 that it would be a wonderful way to increase their readership with this wonderful new language, Esperanto, the North American Review probably had the same idea in 1906. There’s a new language coming, called Esperanto. In a few years, everyone will be speaking it. If we want to be leaders, we need to get on it now. He was betting on what he saw as the winning horse.

Then who gave George Harvey that idea? That would be Henry James Forman. Forman was an Esperantist and dutifully substituted for his boss at various Esperanto events. As the associate editor of the North American Review, he was the guy who actually did the work of the editor. George Harvey may have called himself the editor, but his role was that of publisher. Forman left the North American Review in 1910.

It seems likely that Forman felt that the congress would be good for the Esperanto movement (indeed, the Esperanto movement held that idea), and for the North American Review, and used the prestige of his boss to help land the Universala Kongreso, something that took three tries (the United States was rebuffed for 1908 and 1909, with Dresden and Barcelona chosen over the proffered Washington, D.C.). In the end, however, I suspect the creation of the North American Esperanto Association cannibalized the Esperanto interest of the readers of the North American Review, who could get their Esperanto interests covered by Amerika Esperantisto. Magazines exist to make money, and Esperanto was not likely a moneymaker for Colonel Harvey. Nor did it likely increase his or the magazine’s prestige.

With neither cash nor prestige coming as a result of Esperanto, there was no room for it in the pages of the North American Review.

Updated: Ouch. Typo in the first sentence, now fixed from my (strangely) erroneous "1909 to 1909" to the correct "1906 to 1909."
You can follow my blog on Twitter (@impofthediverse) or on Facebook. If you like this post, share it with your friends. If you have a comment just for me, e-mail me at
This blog runs solely on ego! Follow this blog! Comment on this post! Let me know that you want to read more of it!

No comments:

Post a Comment

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...