My brother Francis Crinella and I would like to welcome you to the Crinella Winery web site. We planted our vineyards on lands in the Russian River Valley that we inherited from our parents, and, in almost every way, the story of our wine is also their story.
Does Anyone Still Get “A Message to Garcia?”
Francis Crinella and Ramona Crinella
A Message to Garcia was a short essay, written in a matter of hours by Elbert Hubbard, a successful entrepreneur whose businesses included magazine publishing and furniture manufacturing. It was first printed in one of Hubbard’s magazines, The Philistine, and so captured the imagination of the American public that millions of copies have now been printed. It has been translated into countless foreign languages and has been the subject of two movies, the most notable being the 1936 Twentieth Century Fox film, A Message to Garcia, starring Wallace Beery and Barbara Stanwyck.
It is reported that the idea came to Hubbard as he and his son argued over the heroes of the Spanish-American War. Hubbard favored Teddy Roosevelt, who led the charge up San Juan Hill, while his son argued that the real hero of the war was an obscure lieutenant named Rowan, whom President McKinley had entrusted with the task of delivering an important message to the Cuban insurgent, General Calixto Garcia. Hubbard reconsidered, and came to the conclusion that true heroes are those who will, without question, get the job done; this was the unmistakable message of A Message to Garcia.
Hubbard used the essay as fill space in The Philistine, not giving it much more thought until he was suddenly deluged with mail from readers who wanted reprints, among them, George Davies, president of the New York Central Railroad who ordered 500,000 copies, which he then gave to every railroad employee! Likewise, Prince Hilakoff, the director of the Trans Siberian Railroad had it translated into Russian and given to all of his employees. During the Sino-Russian War (1904-05), Russian soldiers fighting the Japanese were each given a copy and the Japanese, finding copies on captured Russian soldiers, had it translated into their language. Eventually each member of the Japanese government was given a copy, and in retrospect we wonder how much it contributed to the unique industrial strength of this small island nation.
During World War I, A Message to Garcia was distributed to every sailor in the U.S. Navy. By 1913, there were over 40 million copies in print. Now, it has been reprinted in over 200 magazines and anthologies; it is now estimated that a total of 100 million copies have been printed.
At some time in the mid-1920’s, our mother, Marian Zurlo Crinella, then employed by the Pacific Gas and Electric Co., was given a copy of Hubbard’s essay which was in the process of being passed out to all PG&E; employees. She was a young woman with a strong work ethic, and A Message to Garcia immediately and forever after resonated with her, to the extent that the phrase, ‘a message to Garcia’ was lifelong code for ‘no questions – just get the job done.’ How much of that rubbed off on us is a matter for our children and grandchildren to debate. We did get ‘the message.’
Today, we feel compelled to ask two questions: The first is whether anyone would still ‘get’ A Message to Garcia? Are there remaining souls among us for whom the message makes sense? After all, there is really nothing very subtle about the message; however, the zeitgeist has been rapidly transmogrified since 1899.
The second question, which applies only to those souls actually do ‘get’ the point of Hubbard’s essay, is whether the essay can still inspire them to ‘get’ the job done? Are there still those among us who, as Hubbard poetically notes, have vertebrae stiff enough to be loyal to a trust, act promptly, concentrate energy, and carry the message to Garcia? Below, enjoy the original message.
A MESSAGE TO GARCIA
Elbert Hubbard, February 22, 1899
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 States, it was very necessary to communicate quickly with the leader of the Insurgents. Garcia was somewhere in the mountain fastnesses of Cuba – no one knew where. No mail or telegraph could reach him. The President must secure his co-operation, and quickly.
What to do!
Someone said to the President, “There’s a fellow by the name of Rowan 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 name of Rowan” took the letter, sealed it up in an oil-skin 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 having delivered his letter to Garcia, are 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 in the land. It is not book-learning young men need, nor instruction about this or 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 man – the inability or unwillingness to concentrate on a thing and do it. Slipshod assistance, foolish inattention, dowdy indifference, and half-hearted work seem to be 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 assistant. You, reader, put this matter to a test: You are sitting now in your office -six clerks are within your call. Summon any one and make this request: “Please look in the encyclopedia and make a brief memorandum for me concerning the life of Corregio.”
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?
Shan’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 find Garcia – and then come back and tell you there is no such man. Of course I may lose my bet, but according to the Law of Average, I will not.
Now if you are wise you will not bother to explain to your “assistant” that Corregio is indexed under the C’s, not in the K’s, but you will smile 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 lift, 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 in his place.
Advertise for a stenographer, and nine times out of ten who apply can neither spell nor punctuate – and 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 to 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?
Nothing is said about the employer who grows old before his time in a vain attempt to get frowsy ne’er-do-wells to do intelligent work; and his long patient striving with “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, this sorting is done finer – but out and forever out, the incompetent and unworthy go. It is the survival of the fittest. Self-interest prompts every employer to keep the best-those 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 can not 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.
I have carried a dinner-pail and worked for a 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 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 strike for higher wages. Civilization is one long anxious search for just such individuals. Anything such a man asks will be granted; his kind is so rare that no employer can afford to let him go. He (or she) is wanted in every city, town, and village – in every office, shop, store and factory. The world cries out for such; he (or she) is needed, and needed badly – the one who can carry a message to Garcia.