Friday, September 19, 2014

Chapter 20 - Manhood of Humanity: Part 3 - Going To California

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.

With the book now in the hands of the publisher, Mira and Alfred planned to return to Warsaw via London in mid April, only a few weeks away. If they were going to Europe, they had a lot of stuff to pack. They also had loose ends related to the book, now in production. To a few people, Alfred had indicated he thought it would be in print before they left. As soon became apparent, the process would take more time. They would be in Europe before the book came out. Alfred asked Walter to act as his U.S. representative in any book-related business. However, their plans soon changed. By the first week of April, they delayed their move to Europe once again. First, they would go to California.

Alfred told people he had been invited to lecture there. That may have been so—even though when he and Mira got to San Francisco a month later he did not have any immediate speaking engagements. More likely, their decision to go to California was at least partly a matter of money. They needed as much as they could get. They had been living on savings and, with the lousy economy in Poland their situation there would be difficult for an indeterminate period. In San Francisco, Mira could get a gallery exhibit and had hope of selling some paintings. She could also prospect for wealthy portrait clients there and in Southern California. In addition to the money motive, it would be surprising if either Alfred or Mira would have been happy being in Europe while their first ‘child’—Manhood—was being born in the U.S. Now that they knew it was actually going to be published, they both wanted to see it to fruition. Since Alfred had never been to the far western U.S., the trip would also give him a final opportunity to see California and points along the way before returning to Poland.

They still had lots of things to do. They needed to pack for their trip West (what they didn’t take they would store at the Manhattan Storage Company). According to their plan, when they returned to New York City later in the year, they would be more or less ready for the much delayed trip home to Europe.

Advance publicity for the book had begun. Alfred had given a talk on time-binding at the City Club on March 2. Some of his friends in the Time-Binding Club were preparing book reviews and related articles. Dutton was working on sales copy and book-cover blurbs, and compiling a list of whom to send review copies to. Polakov’s address on Gantt’s work, “Principles of Industrial Philosophy” with Alfred’s commentary (which needed some editing) was due to be published in the April 1921 issue of Mechanical Engineering. The editorial section of the April 10 New York World carried a front page story by Wood with the hyperbolic headline “Man Is Not An Animal, Says Count Korzybski, Advancing Mathematical Theory Which May Revolutionize World Thought in Every Field”. (8)

As they were preparing to leave, an unpleasant episode brought Alfred and Mira face to face with the antisemitism permeating parts of New York high society. Thirty-year-old Sol Abramson had been working for Alfred and Mira, helping them with the manuscript of Manhood. The multi-lingual Abramson was looking for work as a private secretary or traveling companion for someone among Mira’s upper-crust clientele. The Korzybskis wanted to give him a letter of recommendation. Since they were leaving New York and Abramson’s address was temporary, Mira suggested she could write an endorsement letter for him, including his photograph, which would also provide a forwarding address for him in care of one of the New York society ladies she knew. Mira talked to a Mrs. Stockton on the telephone, asking if the lady would allow a few letters to come to her house for a young man who had worked for them. Mira did not mention Abramson by name. Mrs. Stockton agreed to accept the letters for the young man and Mira proceeded to write the endorsement letter, dated March 21, and send it to a mailing list of prospective people who might want Abramson’s services. Mira and Alfred felt happy to provide this bit of help.

About a week later, Mira got an angry indignant letter from Mrs. Stockton after some of the women in Mrs. Stockton’s club had shown her copies of the letter. “You did not even tell me his name—much less show me the photograph…,” wrote Mrs. Stockton. How dare Mira try to make it seem as if Mrs. Stockton was endorsing “this person.”(9)  In fact, Mira’s letter did no such thing. The only mention of the Stockton name was at the end of letter, near the bottom, “Mr. Abramson’s permanent address is: c/o Mrs. Herbert Stockton, 150 East 53rd Street, New York City.”(10) There was no mention anywhere else in the letter of Mrs. Stockton, let alone any indication of an endorsement by her.

Things escalated quickly. The husband, Herbert Stockton, an attorney, sent a letter on his letterhead demanding that Mira send a notice to everyone on her mailing list saying: “By an error Mrs. Herbert Stockton’s address…was given as the forwarding address for Mr. Sol Abramson’s mail. …Mrs. Stockton’s name should not have appeared on the letter.”(11) Mira wrote back a strong letter to Mrs. Stockton while Alfred wrote a protest to Mr. Stockton. But ultimately the Korzybskis did send out a second letter indicating that Mrs. Stockton didn’t know Abramson or endorse him. They provided another forwarding address. Such a “to do” over such a trivial issue made sense in a New York where a Jewish name seemed ‘dirty’ to some socialites worried about preserving their reputations. The Stocktons clearly did not think they were making too much of a fuss about having their name associated with someone named Abramson. At this point, Alfred and Mira had no tolerance for that kind of attitude.

Before they left, Alfred also hired Ellen Kennan, a copyeditor/proofreader in New York City, and arranged for her to get the page and galley proofs as they came from Dutton. Macrae had no problem with this but felt irritated because Alfred wanted extra copies of the proofs sent to him in San Francisco. If any situation could further delay the book that would surely qualify. Macrae couldn’t understand why Alfred was in such a hurry to get out of New York before the publication. Alfred promised he would trust in his proofreader’s judgment and not interfere. In spite of this, he couldn’t help doing his own copyediting and trying to manage the proofreader’s work by mail from California. (12)

Alfred’s and Mira’s friends gave them a farewell dinner. They said their goodbyes. Then at the end of April, they took the train for San Francisco with a stop in Chicago along the way. By May 8 they had arrived in a cold and windy San Francisco, moving into an apartment on 2285 Broadway provided for them by an acquaintance. Mira had a two-week long portrait exhibit at the Helgeson Gallery scheduled to start on May 18. In the first few weeks in the city, Alfred spent much of his time giving Mira whatever help she needed to prepare for the exhibit. But gradually, he began to meet the contacts he had been given and other people in the area with whom he had corresponded. He had a major concern: how to set up speaking engagements for himself along the West Coast.

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. 
8. “Man Is Not An Animal, Says Count Korzybski...” by Charles Wood. New York World, 4/10/1921. AKDA 3.2. 

9. Miriam Stockton to MEK, 3/29/1921. AKDA 4.373. 

10. MEK to “To Whom It May Concern” (Endorsement letter for Sol Abramson), 3/21/1921. AKDA 4.369. 

11. Herbert Stockton to MEK, 3/30/1921. AKDA 4.375. 

12. John Macrae to AK, 4/29/1921. AKDA 11.531. 

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