Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Chapter 12 - "Buy Liberty Bonds And Work Like Hell.": Part 4 - "Buy Liberty Bonds And Work Like Hell."

Korzybski: A Biography (Free Online Edition)
Copyright © 2014 (2011) by Bruce I. Kodish 
All rights reserved. Copyright material may be quoted verbatim without need for permission from or payment to the copyright holder, provided that attribution is clearly given and that the material quoted is reasonably brief in extent.

On June 4, while still at his Pittsburgh recruiting job, Korzybski had spoken at an event sponsored by the U.S. Fuel Administration (U.S.F.A.). The following day an article headlined, “Soldiers Make Pleas To Miners for Coal” in the Pittsburgh Gazette Times began: 
Appealing to 2,000 miners employed at the Jamison Coal Company to do at least a part as much over here as the boys are doing “over there,” and asking for steady, hard work as a matter of patriotism and national necessity, three former soldiers of the Allies [Korzybski, his colleague Klimecki from the Pittsburgh office, and Canadian Army Sergeant Major J. Armstrong Young], accompanied by Joseph T. Miller, assistant fuel administrator for the Pittsburgh district, addressed a meeting in Hannahstown, Westmorland county, last night. (16)

Alfred’s speaking impressed Miller, who recommended him to the main Fuel Administration office.(17) Two months later Alfred received a telegram from the U.S.F.A. offering him a job. He accepted and began a flurry of activity that would run him ragged for the next four months.

The United States Fuel Administration was one of a number of emergency governmental agencies founded on the order of President Woodrow Wilson to bring various aspects of the U.S. economy under federal control during World War I.(18) Founded in 1917, the U.S. Fuel Administration had a mandate to regulate the “production, distribution, and consumption of coal, coke, natural gas and fuel products of petroleum.”(19) Korzybski was brought into the agency’s Bureau of Production as a traveling speaker, to go into coal-mining areas of the country and get audiences in general, and miners in particular, to do what they could to support the war effort. In other words, as Alfred put it, to “Buy Liberty Bonds and work like hell.”(20)


One of his first items of business was to obtain a uniform. His bosses felt—and he agreed— that he needed to wear one in order to increase his clout as a Fuel Administration speaker. A request was sent to the Polish-French Army to get permission for Alfred to continue to wear the blue uniform he had worn as a recruiter. But he had become persona non grata at Polish Army headquarters in New York; the request was refused. Next stop  was the Russians. Alfred realized that many people listening to him would probably not be able to distinguish a Pole from a Russian. He agreed to John Willis, head of the U.S.F.A. Speaker’s Bureau, sending a request to the Russian embassy in Washington. The Military Attaché, Colonel Nikolaieff, gave immediate permission for Alfred to wear a Russian uniform. Alfred may have worn it for as long as a month. However, at this stage he felt no loyalty to the Russian Bolshevik government and didn’t want any credit to go to it. So he sought another option. 

Some Russian Poles, who had decided to continue fighting for the Allies after the Bolsheviks’ treaty with Germany, had formed another Polish army and sought to join hands with the Polish-French forces. They had designed their own uniform. This group, the Polish Chief Military Commission in Russia (Polish Army in Russia), sent their man Lieutenant Tadeusz Yurkowski to the United States to work out some kind of arrangement with Polish Army representatives there. According to Korzybski, the Paderewski contingent initially got Yurkowski a salary and then gradually began to isolate him. He ended up in Chicago unable to do anything for his organization and in the meantime working as a clerk in the office of a Polish parish priest. However, by mid-October, Alfred got permission from him to wear the “Polish Army in Russia” uniform. Indeed Yurkowski gave his own uniform to Alfred. It fit him and he became "Lieutenant Korzybski". So Alfred carried on until the end  of the war lecturing in a Polish uniform—the Polish-French Army ‘be damned!’ (21) 

Korzybski's first assignment in August involved attending some meetings in the anthracite-coal producing region of northeastern Pennsylvania. Then he headed down to Washington, D.C. for an orientation with the man who had hired him, John Willis, the head of speakers at the U.S.F.A. Production Bureau. (Willis would be replaced by W.E.E. Koepler in the beginning of September.) A week later, Alfred got on a train bound for Bluefield, West Virginia where he arrived the following day. For the next month and a half, he toured the coal-mining towns of West Virginia and Maryland: Weyenoke, Vivian, Bear Wallow, Eckman, Kyle, Matoaka, Mayberry, Landgraff, Berwind, Cumberland, Mt. Savage, etc. He spoke at churches, Liberty Bond rallies, miners’ meetings, etc. Occasionally he would speak in as many as three places in a day. His itinerary was planned by the regional representative of the U.S.F.A., which had offices in the main towns. 

Stand by the Boys in the Trenches, Mine More Coal
by Walter Whitehead

He usually stayed at someone’s home—for example, a mine owner, a labor inspector, or the local U.S.F.A. official. This gave him a little bit of time to relax and to make new friends, which he seemed to do easily. In Cumberland, Maryland his hosts, the Neuhoffs, had some “interesting evenings” with him. They enjoyed his singing of composer Walter Damrosch’s version of Rudyard Kipling’s poem “Danny Deever” following along with a phonograph record of the song (he would buy the sheet music later).(22) This may have provided his introduction to Kipling, who clearly knew something about the tough life of soldiers. Alfred became a fan of his work. 

Korzybski’s coal-country audiences were mixed and included native English speakers as well as immigrants, blacks and whites, poorly educated workers as well as members of the middle and upper classes. Initially he had tried to give his speeches in as many of the different languages of his audiences that he knew—Polish, Italian, Russian, etc., as well as English.(23) After doing this a few times, he found that rapidly switching between multiple languages gave him a severe headache and so he tried to limit himself, for the most part, to giving his talks in English. He prided himself on speaking plainly and simply with an attitude reminiscent of his days on the farm in Poland:

I was a good lecturer…never appealing to passion or patriotism. This was one of the very important points of my whole work. My lecture was matter of fact, …and if you describe the facts as facts, you don’t need to put any kind of bluff. So I gave them the technicalities of winning the war. If we don’t supply the front with enough ammunition, which means work at home, we will not win. If we do not enrich the coffer of the United States Government then we will again not win the war. (24) 

He filed reports of every meeting. The reports included comments by whomever was presiding at the meeting, as well as Korzybski’s notes. Reverend John Dowling made the following remarks about a speech by Korzybski for the workers of the Union Mines and their families in Mt. Savage, Maryland, on September 28, 1918. Dowling’s glowing praise was typical of the responses Korzybski received:
The audience which was composed of [500-800] men, women and children listened most  attentively to the very clear and force[ful] remarks of the gentleman—He gave us a very striking picture of all the activities of the different branches of the army. His appeal to the miners to produce more and cleaner coal was most effective. The results of the meeting cannot help but be very good. [signed] John H. Dowling 

Alfred himself noted, “The audience was pleased.”(25) A local newspaper report provided more details on this joint Liberty Loan and Fuel Administration meeting: 
The electric wiring was not quite finished...it looked as though the only light on the stage would come from the two illuminated box signs which flanked on either side, but which gave only enough light for one to read the messages on them consigning the Kaiser and his kind to everlasting perdition. 
An S.O.S. was sent out and an obliging miner in the crowd went after his carbide lamp, which in the hands of a man in the front row made a first rate "spot." No light could have been more appropriate for the occasion. Mr. Alfred Korzybski, M.E., who was introduced in the gathering of about five hundred people by Father Dowling, talked coal, coal, coal. He said, in part: “I do not need to speak of Victory, for victory is certain. But, what sort of a victory are you going to have? That is up to you. Let me put it in this way. Supposing ten sons of these men in the front row have gone to war. How many do you wish to come back: Nine, or five? It depends on how many shells and how many guns and how many bombs and how many hand grenades those boys have to fight with. Now all these things depend on coal, first in their manufacture, and second in their transportation. Consider for a moment the case of T.N.T. As you all know it is the chief of the high explosives used in this war. As many of you may not know, it is practically the only high explosive used today by the allies; and it is a by-product of coal. From one ton of coal you get but five pounds of T.N.T. and when you remember that all high explosive shells are filled with it, that the bombs dropped from the aeroplanes are filled with it, and that the hand grenades are filled with it, you will get some idea of the amount of coal that is needed to supply the one important item alone.” 
Speaking in regard to the Liberty Loan, Mr. Korzybski said: “One opportunity which you miners have, which we in the trenches do not have, is the chance to strike at the enemy twice at the same time, once when you produce the coal, when every blow with the pick is a blow at the Kaiser, and again when you take your wages, or a part of them, and invest them in Liberty Bonds. And don’t forget in doing both of these things while you are responding to the call of patriotism, you are doing the best things you can do for yourselves. You are making the world a safe place for your women and children, and you are laying aside something, which you might otherwise have spent, and that is a long stride on the road of financial independence. And above all things don't get the idea that you might be doing more for your country in the army than you are doing in the mines. Uncle Sam wants you to stay on your jobs. Victory, as I said before, is certain. Give us the coal and ammunition and we will do the rest.”

Preceding the meeting at Mt. Savage, which was arranged by Mr. James Aldou, Mr. Korzybski said a few words at the opening of the Liberty Loan meeting in Cumberland. On Sunday afternoon he addressed a large crowd at Westernport at a flag raising, and Sunday evening he spoke at the Centre Street M.E. Church.

Mr. Korzybski will tour the George’s Creek and Upper Potomac regions under the auspices of Production Manager Howard P. Brydon.(26) 

Despite these plans, Korzybski’s speaking tour of the mining regions of Maryland and West Virginia was just about over. By the time he gave this speech, in late September, it was starting to become clear to the administrators at the Fuel Administration: they were going to have to drastically change, perhaps curtail, their speakers’ program. The country, indeed the world, had plunged into a disastrous influenza epidemic. 

You may download a pdf of all of the book's reference notes (including a note on primary source material and abbreviations used) from the link labeled Notes on the Contents page. The pdf of the Bibliography, linked on the Contents page contains full information on referenced books and articles. 
16. "Soldiers Make Pleas To Miners for Coal". Pittsburgh Gazette Times, 6/5/1918. AKDA 37.387

17. AK to J.T. Miller, undated [Aug. 1918]. AKDA 32.405.

18. Other newly-formed Federal agencies included the War Industry Board, The National War Labor Board and the Railroad Administration. See Clements.

19. Whatever justification greater governmental control of the economy may have had during wartime, the USFA—as well as the other new agencies—had to deal with a hodgepodge of private companies, unions, and individuals that had various levels of resistance to government intervention in their affairs. The agencies efforts fell short of fully nationalizing the U.S. fuel economy. But among other things, it promoted conservation (the agency promoted the shift to Daylight Savings Time, which Congress passed into law in March, 1918) and fuel productivity and distribution, especially that of coal (World War I-era America was highly dependent on coal for heating people's homes, fueling industry, producing munitions, etc.). The U.S.F.A. was disbanded in 1919, briefly revived at the end of that year to deal with the nation-wide effects of a coal miner's strike, and then finally abolished in 1920. See "Records of the U.S. Fuel Administration (USFA). Administrative History". The National Archives. Washington, D.C. -

http://www.archives.gov/research/guide-fed-records/groups/067.html#67.1 (accessed 10/25/2010)

20. Korzybski 1947, p. 191.

21. Ibid., p. 188; T. Yurkowski to AK, 10/17/1918. AKDA 32.380.

22. George L. Neuhoff, Jr. to AK, 10/18/1918. AKDA 32.374. At the Library of Congress website, you can download two versions of the song "Danny Deever", including one by baritone Arthur Middleton that Korzybski probably heard: Go to http://lcweb2.loc.gov/diglib/ihas/loc.natlib.ihas.200031148/default.html

23. "Addresses Coal Miners in Three Languages". Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Sept. 1, 1918. AKDA 32.509. 

24. Korzybski 1947, p. 191.

25. United States Fuel Administration, Speaker's Daily Report, Sept. 28, 1918. AKDA 32.470.

26. Cumberland Evening Times, Sept. [30], 1918. AKDA 1.34. 

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