Thursday, February 26, 2015

Chapter 52 - "Recognition But Very Little Money": Part 1 - Introduction

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.

Crane had bolted from his commitment to the Institute. Even by January 5, 1940, that had become increasingly, disturbingly clear. Dr. Ischclondsky, passing through Chicago on his way from New York City to Los Angeles, called that day to report on a recent conversation he’d had with Crane, having finally bumped into the philanthropist after not seeing him for several months. Pearl took notes over the phone. Crane had told the psychiatrist that he would continue to provide the money—to be disbursed by the Institute—for the translation of Ischlondsky’s book. Not very reassuring. Crane, whom Ischlondsky admittedly didn’t know very well, seemed more “correct”, i.e., formal, than the psychiatrist had recalled from previous meetings. Crane also mentioned financial problems. He would have “to restrict all his financial obligations because for 1940 it is all filled up.” Ishchlondsky opined that Crane might become more agreeable in the future and advised that “the Institute should not break contact with him.”(1) 

But Crane, not Korzybski, was breaking the contact. Although both Korzybski and Kendig would continue to write to him, Crane would no longer communicate directly with either of them. He turned over that job to his lawyer who sent his first letter to Korzybski at the end of January.

A small item with the headline, “Sues for Divorce”, in the Chicago Daily Tribune, of Tuesday, February 20, soon clarified Crane’s “financial obligations”: “Mrs. Cathalene Parker Browning Crane filed suit in Circuit court yesterday for a divorce from Cornelius Crane...The Cranes were married Oct. 15, 1929, at Newark, N.J. ...She charges Crane deserted her Feb. 1, 1936.” The clipped article went into Korzybski’s file folder of Crane-related items and correspondence, along with this Daily Tribune article from two days later: “Mrs. Cathalene Parker Crane was granted a divorce yesterday from Cornelius Crane,...Under terms of the agreement...she is to receive $25,000 a year for life, regardless of possible remarriage, and her daughter, Cathalene, 16 years old, is to receive $5,000 a year for life.”(2)

The correspondence between Korzybski and Crane’s lawyer went back and forth for several months. Finally in April, the lawyer sent a contract and release for Korzybski to sign, which formalized what he had already told Korzybski in previous letters. Crane and/or his lawyer seemed concerned about the guarantee Crane had signed for the rent on 1234 E. 56th Street; the Institute lease extended until 1944. The lawyer wanted Korzybski to agree to Crane giving the Institute just $10,000 more—$8,400 to get doled out monthly for the next four years in $175 increments for paying rent, with the small remaining difference to be paid forthwith to the Institute. In addition, he wanted Korzybski to release Crane of any other obligations to the Institute. According to the lawyer, this contract simply confirmed Crane’s original commitment to the Institute.

Korzybski politely but firmly refused to go along with this. From his point of view the lawyer had not represented things accurately. As he had already told Crane, he had never wanted Crane to pay the rent. He had asked him to sign a guarantee simply to make it easier to get a long-term lease from a reluctant landlord. As for what Crane had previously agreed to do, it was true: he had not committed himself in writing. But he had clearly stated at board meetings, and implied elsewhere, that he would give semi-annual payments of $10,000 to the Institute until July 1940. Korzybski felt that these commitments had legal standing. As Korzybski saw it, Crane had a binding obligation to give the Institute $10,000 immediately (the amount past due from January 1), with an additional final payment of $10,000 for July 1, 1940. Crane had also promised a yearly supplement to Kendig’s salary and Korzybski expected him to make good on that promise at least one more time as well. Altogether, Korzybski expected Crane to honor his commitment to give the Institute $20,750 more.

The Institute’s attorney, Samuel Clawson, had joined the Board of Trustees to replace Crane. He would continue negotiations with Crane’s attorney. And Alfred would continue to write to Crane about the Institute and its doings. He still hoped to persuade Crane to follow through on his initial obligation. And he hoped to do this sooner rather than later, for the very existence of the Institute was now in peril.

Even with Crane’s contributions, the Institute had been operating very close to the bone. The Institute’s earned income, mostly from Korzybski’s seminars, averaged a bit less than a third of what it needed to survive. Without Crane’s two remaining payments, the projected income would only suffice to pay the rent and some of the operating expenses for the rest of the year. How was Alfred going to get the money for other operating costs as well as for salaries—the main expense? Clearly, to maximize income he would have to keep to the grueling schedule of seven seminars for the year. Furthermore he would have to cut costs by letting go clerical staff other than Pearl Johnecheck and Charlotte Schuchardt, who both supposedly worked ‘part-time’. He and Kendig also would have to take half salaries. He had already started to draw money from the Institute savings-account reserves. In order to keep a positive balance there, he would have to borrow money from Mira and his hardly ample private accounts.

A private appeal was made to some of Alfred’s closest students who might have financial means to help. A number of them stepped forward. One, Frances Hall Rousmaniere Dewing, began to give a substantial monthly donation. Mrs. Dewing, as Korzybski addressed her in letters, had studied with Josiah Royce and in 1906 was one of the first women to graduate from Radcliffe with a PhD (in philosophy and psychology). She and the rest of her family had definitely become enamored with Korzybski’s work. Her husband, Arthur Stone Dewing—a retired professor of corporate finance at Harvard who had also studied with Royce—had already attended one seminar. Their daughter Mary— a social worker studying anthropology at the University of Chicago—had attended three. As for Mrs. Dewing, although she lived in Newton, Massachusetts, she was staying in Chicago to attend Korzybski’s 1940 January-February evening seminar. She soon returned to attend his next evening seminar as well, which ran through the month of April. The financial crisis, which began at the start of 1940, would last until the end of 1941. Without the Dewings’ support, Korzybski might have had to close the Institute. With it and the additional donations of others, Korzybski was able—in a piecemeal fashion—to fill the gap left by Crane’s withdrawal. Mrs. Dewing also paid a salary for Anne Cleveland, a young woman who had grown up with her daughter and with whom she felt close. Anne had gone to some seminars already and Mrs. Dewing seemed to feel she needed some personal direction that Alfred could give her. Anne would continue to work as a secretary at the Institute for several years.

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. 
1. Transcript labeled “Telephone Conversation. Report of Ischlondsky On Crane. (Rough semi-verbatim report)”, 1/5/1940. IGS Archives. 

2. Cornelius Crane files, IGS Archives.

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