MC² Market & Competitive Convergence
A MESSAGE TO GARCIA
After addressing the student body and then delivering my acceptance speech for my high school's athletic Wall of Fame induction, my dad and I were talking about the challenges of public speaking. He told me about being given the onerous assignment of reciting to his high school english class (circa 1936) Abraham Lincoln's "Gettysburg Address." To his horror, at the last moment, his teacher changed her mind and had him recite "A Message To Garcia." Well, I never heard of this literary piece, and I asked him about it. He mentioned that Garcia was a Cuban rebel, but then we were interrupted and it wasn't brought up again.
When I got back home, I googled it, and discovered that it was truely a famous piece in its time, yet timeless. This mere magazine article, without a heading, was reproduced over forty million times, in all the written languages, the largest circulation at the time for any living author. It was written in 1899 by Elbert Hubbard, from East Aurora, a small community in Western New York State, which is fairly close to where I grew up.
For me, A MESSAGE TO GARCIA allegorizes the marketing process: There's message, delivery, and exigency.
Elbert Hubbard, who founded The Roycrofters in East Aurora, New York, was a rugged individualist, who worked long and hard throughout his life, and came to an untimely end in the sinking of the Lusitania by a German torpedo in 1915.
Hubbard was born in Bloomington, Illinois, in 1859, and is best known for the fine editions printed at The Roycroft Shop. While working at The Roycroft Shop, he published two magazines, The Philistine and The Fra, actually writing much of the material himself. He also devoted some of his time to public speaking, and was as much of a success on the lecture platform as in his writing and publishing.
A Message to Garcia had a phenomenal acclaim from the moment it was published, and nobody was more surprised than the author himself. He writes the account of its success in the Apologia which follows.
The hero of the story, the man who carried the message, was Colonel Andrew Summers Rowan, who, when the Spanish-American War broke out (April 1898), was a young lieutenant in the United States Army. He was proposed for the difficult mission by the chief of the Bureau of Military Intelligence when President McKinley requested the name of a suitable envoy.
Lieutenant Rowan was sent at once, alone and unguarded. When he landed on the island of Cuba in secret, he was furnished with native guides by Cuban patriots. His adventures, by his own modest account, were beset by obstacles, but he managed to make his way through the interior and to deliver his message to General Garcia (Calixto Garcia 1840-1898), who was in charge of the revolutionary forces.
There were certainly many fortuitous circumstances connected with the endeavor, but it was the sheer courage and indomitable spirit of the young lieutenant that were at the heart of the accomplishment of his mission. He was decorated for his achievement by the Commander of the United States Army, who said: "I regard this achievement as one of the most hazardous and heroic deeds in military warfare."
This was undoubtedly true, but it is for his fine moral character, rather than for his military prowess, that Lieutenant Andrew Summers Rowan will be remembered.
This literary trifle, A Message to Garcia, was written one evening after supper, in a single hour. It was on the Twenty-second of February, Eighteen Hundred Ninety-nine, Washington's Birthday, and we were just going to press with the March Philistine. The thing leaped hot from my heart, written after a trying day, when I had been endeavoring to train some rather delinquent villagers to abjure the comatose state and get radioactive.
The immediate suggestion, however, came from a little argument over the teacups, when my boy Bert suggested that Rowan was the real hero of the Cuban War. Rowan had gone alone and done the thingcarried the message to Garcia.
It came to me like a flash! Yes, the boy is right, the hero is the man who does the workwho carries the message to Garcia.
I got up from the table, and wrote A Message to Garcia. I thought so little of it that we ran it in the Magazine without a heading. The edition went out, and soon orders began to come for extra copies of the March Philistine, a dozen, fifty, a hundred; and when the American News Company ordered a thousand, I asked one of my helpers which article it was that had stirred up the cosmic dust. "It's the stuff about Garcia," he said.
The next day a telegram came from George H. Daniels, of the New York Central Railroad, thus: "Give price on one hundred thousand Rowan article in pamphlet formEmpire State Express advertisement on backalso how soon can ship."
I replied giving price, and stated we could supply the pamphlets in two years. Our facilities were small and a hundred thousand booklets looked like an awful undertaking.
The result was that I gave Mr. Daniels permission to reprint the article in his own way. He issued it in booklet form in editions of half a million. Two or three of these half-million lots were sent out by Mr. Daniels, and in addition the article was reprinted in over two hundred magazines and newspapers. It has been translated into all written languages.
At the time Mr. Daniels was distributing the Message to Garcia, Prince Hilakoff, Director of Russian Railways, was in this country. He was the guest of the New York Central, and made a tour of the country under the personal direction of Mr. Daniels. The Prince saw the little book and was interested in it, more because Mr. Daniels was putting out in such large numbers, probably, than otherwise.
In any event, when he got home he had the matter translated into Russian, and a copy of the booklet given to every railroad employee in Russia.
Other countries then took it up, and from Russia it passed into Germany, France, Spain, Turkey, Hindustan and China. During the war between Russia and Japan, every Russian soldier who went to the front was given a copy of the Message to Garcia.
The Japanese, finding the booklets in possession of the Russian prisoners, concluded that it must be a good thing, and accordingly translated it into Japanese.
And on an order of the Mikado, a copy was given to every man in the employ of the Japanese Government, solder or civilian.
Over forty million copies of A Message to Garcia have been printed. This is said to be a larger circulation than any other literary venture has ever attained during the lifetime of the author, in all historythanks to a series of lucky accidents.
A MESSAGE TO GARCIA
In all this Cuban business there is one man stands out on the horizon of my memory like Mars at perihelion.
When war broke out between Spain and the United States¹, it was very necessary to communicate quickly with the leader of the Insurgents. Garcia was somewhere in the mountain fastness of Cubano one knew where. No mail or telegraph message could reach him. The President must secure his co-operation, and quickly.
What to do!
Someone said to the President, "There is a fellow by the name of Rowan who will find Garcia for you, if anybody can."
Rowan was sent for and given a letter to be delivered to Garcia. How the "fellow by the name of Rowan" took the letter, sealed it up in an oilskin pouch, strapped it over his heart, in four days landed by night off the coast of Cuba from an open boat, disappeared into the jungle, and in three weeks came out on the other side of the Island, having traversed a hostile country on foot and delivered his letter to Garciaare things I have no special desire now to tell in detail. The point I wish to make is this: McKinley gave Rowan a letter to be delivered to Garcia; Rowan took the letter and did not ask, "Where is he at?"
By the Eternal! there is a man whose form should be cast in deathless bronze and the statue placed in every college of the land. It is not book-learning young men need, nor instruction about this and that, but a stiffening of the vertebrae which will cause them to be loyal to a trust, to act promptly, concentrate their energies: do the thing"Carry a message to Garcia."
General Garcia is dead now, but there are other Garcias. No man who has endeavored to carry out an enterprise where many hands were needed, but has been well-nigh appalled at times by the imbecility of the average manthe inability or unwillingness to concentrate on a thing and do it.
Slipshod assistance, foolish inattention, dowdy indifference, and half-hearted work seem the rule; and no man succeeds, unless by hook or crook or threat he forces or bribes other men to assist him; or mayhap, God in His goodness performs a miracle, and sends him an Angel of Light for an assistance.
You, reader, put this matter to a test: You are sitting now in your officesix clerks are within call. Summon any one and make this request: "Please look in the encyclopedia and make a brief memorandum for me concerning the life of Correggio."
Will the clerk quietly say ,"Yes, sir," and go do the task?
On your life he will not. He will look at you out of a fishy eye and ask one or more of the following questions:
Who was he?
Where is the encyclopedia?
Was I hired for that?
Don't you mean Bismarck?
What's the matter with Charlie doing it?
Is he dead?
Is there any hurry?
Sha'n't I bring you the book and let you look it up yourself?
What do you want to know for?
And I will lay you ten to one that after you have answered the questions, and explained how to find the information, and why you want it, the clerk will go off and get one of the other clerks to help him try to find Garciaand then come back and tell you there is no such man. Of course I may lose my bet, but according to the Law of Averages I will not.
Now, if you are wise, you will not bother to explain to your "assistant" that Correggio is indexed under the C's, not in the K's, but you will smile very sweetly and say, "Never mind," and go look it up yourself. And this incapacity for independent action, this moral stupidity, this infirmity of the will, this unwillingness to cheerfully catch hold and liftthese are the things that put pure Socialism so far into the future. If men will not act for themselves, what will they do when the benefit of their effort is for all?
A first mate with knotted club seems necessary; and the dread of getting "the bounce" Saturday night holds many a worker to his place. Advertise for a stenographer, and nine out of ten who apply can neither spell nor punctuateand do not think it necessary to.
Can such a one write a letter to Garcia?
"You see that bookkeeper," said the foreman to me in a large factory.
"Yes; what about him?"
"Well he's a fine accountant, but if I'd send him up town on an errand, he might accomplish the errand all right, and on the other hand, might stop at four saloons on the way, and when he got to Main Street would forget what he had been sent for."
Can such a man be entrusted to carry a message to Garcia?
We have recently been hearing much maudlin sympathy expressed for the "downtrodden denizens of the sweatshop" and the "homeless wanderer searching for honest employment," and with all often go many hard words for the men in power.
Nothing is said about the employer who grows old before him time in a vain attempt to get frowsy ne'er-do-wells to do intelligent work; and his long, patient striving after "help" that does nothing but loaf when his back is turned. In every store and factory there is a constant weeding-out process going on. The employer is constantly sending away "help" that have shown their incapacity to further the interests of the business, and others are being taken on. No matter how good times are, this sorting continues: only, if times are hard and work is scarce, the sorting is done finerbut out and forever out the incompetent and unworthy go. It is the survival of the fittest. Self-interest prompts every employer to keep the bestthose who can carry a message to Garcia.
I know one man of really brilliant parts who has not the ability to manage a business of his own, and yet who is absolutely worthless to anyone else, because he carries with him constantly the insane suspicion that his employer is oppressing, or intending to oppress him. He cannot give orders, and he will not receive them. Should a message be given him to take to Garcia, his answer would probably be, "Take it yourself!"
Tonight this man walks the streets looking for work, the wind whistling through his threadbare coat. No one who knows him dares employ him, for he is a regular fire-brand of discontent. He is impervious to reason, and the only thing that can impress him is the toe of a thick-soled Number Nine boot.
Of course, I know that one so morally deformed is no less to be pitied than a physical cripple; but in our pitying let us drop a tear, too, for the men who are striving to carry on a great enterprise, whose working hours are not limited by the whistle, and whose hair is fast turning white through the struggle to hold in line dowdy indifference, slipshod imbecility, and the heartless ingratitude which, but for their enterprise, would be both hungry and homeless.
Have I put the matter too strongly? Possibly I have; but when all the world has gone a-slumming I wish to speak a word of sympathy for the man who succeeedsthe man who, against great odds, has directed the efforts of others, and having succeeded, finds there's nothing in it: nothing but bare board and clothes. I have carried a dinner-pail and worked for day's wages, and I have also been an employer of labor, and I know there is something to be said on both sides. There is no excellence, per se, in poverty; rags are no recommendation; and all employers are not rapacious and high-handed, any more than all poor men are virtuous. My heart goes out to the man who does his work when the "boss" is away, as well as when he is at home. And the man who, when given a letter for Garcia, quietly takes the missive, without asking any idiotic questions, and with no lurking intention of chucking it into the nearest sewer, or of doing aught else but deliver it, never gets "laid off," nor has to go on a strike for higher wages. Civilization is one long, anxious search for just such individuals. Anything such a man asks shall be granted. He is wanted in every city, town, and villagein every office, shop, store and factory. The world cries out for such; he is needed and needed badlythe man who can CARRY A MESSAGE TO GARCIA.
"How I carried the Message to Garcia," by Colonel Andrew Summers Rowan (1923)