Articles from the Vasváry Collection Newsletter
1989/1 (1) * 1989/2 (2) * 1990/1 (3) * 1990/2 (4) * 1991/1 (5) * 1991/2 (6) * 1992/1 (7) * 1992/2 (8) * 1993/1 (9) * 1993/2 (10) * 1994/1 (11) * 1994/2 (12) * 1995/1 (13) * 1995/2 (14) * 1996/1 (15) * 1996/2 (16) * 1997/1 (17) * 1997/2 (18) * 1998/1 (19) * 1998/2 (20)
The Vasváry Collection
The Somogyi Library of Szeged has been the home of the Vasváry Collection since 1978. The Collection is the largest in Hungary of the history of Hungarian-Americans.
The founder, Edmund Vasváry (1888-1977) was a Reformed pastor, an expatriate of Szeged. He travelled to the United States in 1914 to help the pastor of the Hungarian Reformed Church in Pittsburgh and its vicinity. After a while he became a researcher and chronicler of the history of Hungarian-Americans. He devoted more than fifty years of his life to researching and collecting data and documents concerning the history of Hungarians in the United States. In addition to a great number of articles, he wrote a bilingual (English and Hungarian) monograph on Lincoln's Hungarian Heroes (Washington, D.C., 1939), which contains short biographies of the Hungarian participants of the Civil War.
This unique Collection consists of 437 loose-leaf volumes containing press clippings, manuscripts, booklets, letters, photos — and over one thousand books including rarities that were published in the middle of the last century when Louis Kossuth, leader of the 1848-49 revolution and former Governor of Hungary made a trip in the United States (December 1851 to July 1852). The Collection is complemented with more than twenty thousand filing cards with biographical and bibliographical data. The Collection offers abundant information on the history of American Hungarian connections from the beginnings to the present day. It contains data about the activities of Hungarian-Americans in assorted walks of life including literature, religion, sciences, arts, politics, film, music etc., as well as information on various Hungarian-American organizations. The Collection was microfilmed in 1975, one of the two copies going to the American Hungarian Foundation (300 Somerset Street, New Brunswick, NJ 08903), the other to the Manuscript Division of the National Széchényi Library(6720 Budapest, Budavári Palota Főépület, H-6720 Hungary). The Collection is alive and continuously increasing as it receives articles, books, newspapers, off-prints, manuscripts and various materials from institutions and individuals both in the United States and in Hungary. The Vasvary Collection is an indispensable source for researchers and students of Hungarian-Americans. The material of the Collection is non-circulating and can be studied in the Library only.
Publications of the Somogyi Library in connection with the Vasváry Collection:
For further information, please contact Mária Kórász, Keeper of the Collection: Somogyi Library, Vasváry Collection. Szeged, Dóm tér 1-4. H-6720 Hungary. Mailing address: H-6701 Szeged, Pf.: 441. Telephone: (36-62) 322-322. Fax: (36-62) 321-921. E-mail:
Emília Kossuth with Horace and Mary Mann in Yellow Springs, Ohio, 1854— 1991/1 (5) [up]
Ms. Nina D. Myatt, Curator of Antiochiana, Olive Kettering Library, Antioch College, has recently sent previously unknown information about Lajos Kossuth's sister Emília to the Vasváry Collection. Thirty-seven photocopies of transcriptions of letters from Antioch's Horace Mann and Peabody Sisters Collections help clarify an important period of Emília's life in the United States and give us the names of some of the famous American men and women who assisted Emília with financial and emotional support.
In his 1955 article "Kossuth Emília síremléke" (Memorial to Emília Kossuth), which appeared in the Amerikai Magyar Népszava, Ödön Vasváry outlines Emília's difficult life after arriving in New York City in July 1852 with her husband, a Pole named Zsulavszky, and four sons László, Zsigmond, Kázmér and Emil, the oldest of whom was only 14. By the time of their arrival, Emília's famous brother had already left America, but he had bought farmland for them in Iowa, most likely close to the New Buda settlement. The Zsulavszky's decided not to go to this "remote territory", but rather tried their hand at soapmaking near New York. After this enterprise proved to be a failure, the Zsulavszky's returned to New York City where Emília opened a boarding house. For a short time this proved to be highly profitable, because wealthy American families, who supported the Kossuth Cause and who paid well, boarded there. Emília's husband, an alcoholic who severely mistreated her, robbed her to the point that she was unable to provide adequate meals for the boarders, who eventually left her. With the help of American friends, she was able to obtain a divorce and eventually purchase a farm near New York where she lived for several years. The farm also proved to be a failure, but by November 24, 1859, she was able to celebrate Thanksgiving in a New York City home where she lived with her sons and two Hungarian boarders. Vasv ry does not supply us with the exact dates of her stay on the farm, nor the names of the American friends who helped her. We do know that Emília passed away June 19, 1860 from pulmonary disease and that all four of her sons became officers in the Union Army during the Civil War.
While a Massachusetts Representative in the U.S. Congress, Horace Mann, the renowned pedagogue and educational reformer, became a close friend and firm supporter of Lajos Kossuth and the Hungarian War of Independence. He and his wife Mary Peabody Mann, a sister-in-law of Nathaniel Hawthorne, befriended Emília and her sons through the intervention of Mary's sister, Elizabeth Palmer Peabody, a leading transcendentalist and publisher of many famous American poets and writers. Emília was able to obtain a divorce from Zsulavszky through the assistance of a nephew of Catherine Sedgewick, a friend of Elizabeth. A fund raising campaign was begun to assist Emília and her sisters Zsuzsánna (Susanne) and Lujza (Louisa). Emília planned to purchase a one-hundred acre farm on the banks of the Little Miami River, a mile from Yellow Springs, Ohio where she would supply the wine presses of Cincinnati with grapes and the newly-founded Antioch College, where Mann was first president, with fruit and vegetables. We now know that by May 19, 1854 Emília was in Yellow Springs with her son Kázmér, who was "not a very good boy", according to his teacher, Mary Mann. Emília lived at the home of a Mrs. Dean where she "presided" at the head of her table. By June 28 she was a regular Sunday visitor at the Mann home. We know from a July 14 letter that Emília was still in Yellow Springs. We have no other facts of her stay in that beautiful Ohio village, which at the time was a major American resort, renowned for the curative waters of its springs and the famous Water Cure medical facility. We do not know if her three other sons lived there with her. We do know that Emília and her American friends were not able to raise sufficient funds to purchase the farm. We also know that Zsuzsánna's death on June 29, 1854 from pulmonary disease contracted in Austrian prisons so saddened Emília that she eventually returned to New York. It was after this return that her American friends were able to raise sufficient funds to purchase the New York farm. Elizabeth Palmer Peabody continued to raise funds for the Kossuth sisters through the sale of her pamphlet "Memorial of Madame Susanne Kossuth Meszlenyi" which she published in December 1855.
Emília Kossuth was most likely the first Hungarian-American to settle in Southwest Ohio, albeit for a very short time. It would not be until the turn of the century that large numbers of Hungarians would settle in Dayton's famous Westside and North Dayton "Kossuth" Colonies, to work at the Malleable Iron and the Barney and Smith Car Works. They would also settle in smaller numbers in Middletown, around the steel mill, and in Cincinnati. Emília's courage and persistence in the face of adversity were precusors of those of the hundreds of Hungarian-Americans who would follow her.
Jacob D. Moskowitz and the Dayton, Ohio Hungarian Colonies— 1991/1 (5) [up]
Mr. Mike Driscoll of the Dayton and Montgomery County Public Library has sent the Vasváry Collection information about the founding of Dayton Ohio's two Hungarian colonies at the turn of the century. In Stanley R. Cichanowicz's 1963 study, written for the University of Dayton, the story of Jacob D. Moskowitz, a Hungarian-American foreign labor-contractor who founded the colonies, is outlined through the use of contemporaneous newspaper articles and interviews with elderly Hungarians who lived in the colonies.
Very little has been written about the Westside Colony, which Moskowitz founded in 1898 around the Malleable Iron Works, because it was both noncontroversial and highly successful. The colony functioned in various phases until the early 1950's, when assimilated second and third generation Hungarians had all moved to other neighborhoods. Only the two church buildings (Hungarian Reformed Church, 1904, and the Holy Name Catholic Church, 1906) and the former Holy Name Elementary School still remain. The two social halls (hálé), meat shop, grocery, barber shop, two taverns and houses have all been torn down. The Hungarian bakery, however, still produces fine Hungarian-style breads for Dayton's specialty shops.
The North Dayton "Kossuth Colony", which Moskowitz built around the Barney and Smith Car Works in 1906, was, on the other hand, a source of great controversy from the very start. The entire colony, which consisted of forty double houses and a huge "clubhouse", containing stores, post office, bank, tavern, bowling alley and a ticket office for the Cunard Lines, was surrounded by a twelve foot high wooden fence. Because of the fence, which had only one entrance, manned by private guards, the native Daytonions began referring to the colony as the "Stockade". The Hungarian residents were required to make all their purchases in Moskowitz's stores within the colony, using brass tokens issued during payday. If any of the residents broke any rules or if they were fired from the Car Works, they were immediately evicted from the colony.
The Dayton Daily News began a two-week long, front-page newspaper "attack" against the colony, Moskowitz and, sadly, the Hungarian residents themselves in July 1906. While the newspaper did speak out for the rights of the Hungarian residents, there were articles entitled "Scum of Europe" and "Hungarians are Dangerous". Because of the furor created by the newspaper, the State of Ohio sent a labor investigator to inspect the colony. He later cleared Moskowitz of all charges of labor racketeering, and the colony continued without change for seven years. During the 1913 Dayton Flood, boards from the fence were used to build rescue boats and never replaced. The Car Works never fully recovered from the flood damage, and some residents of the colony moved to Columbus to work in another car works.
Almost all the buildings of the North Dayton Colony remain, including parts of the "clubhouse", which contained one of America's first central refrigeration septems and electric fans — unheard of innovations in 1906. The buildings were declared a City Landmark in the early 1980's, and the Old North Dayton Historical District was formed. Despite the fact that Dayton's Hungarian community has been assimilated for a long time, the Hungarian Reformed Church, now in Huba Heights, and Saint Stephen's Catholic Church, built on the grounds of the North Dayton Colony, still remain active. The churches are the center of Hungarian cultural life, with several Hungarian clubs.
Hungarian language classes for beginners and advanced students are held every year.
University Course in the Collection— 1993/2 (10) [up]
In the fall term the Vasváry Collection in Somogyi Library hosted a university seminar called "Hungarian Travellers in the US" for a group of students at JATE majoring in English, led by dr. György Novák. The objective of the course was to examine early and mid-nineteenth century Hungarian travellers' reports on America.
As the discussion of these works required ample background information and also an insight into secondary sources, the Collection with its hundreds of folders and books on Hungarian Americans was essential to the operation of the course. The main reason why the classes were held in the room which houses the collection was that in this way we had the possibility to check out certain details that had to be clarified right on the spot during the discussions — like the exact name of Haraszthy's property purchased in America, or more information about Kossuth's fellow emigrants, etc.
The participants of the seminar taking turns in presenting the various works, each student had the opportunity to give two detailed presentations about one or two travelogues by Sándor Bölöni Farkas, Ágoston Haraszthy, Károly László, László Árvay, Samu Wass, Gedeon Ács, János Xántus, Károly Nendtvich, the Pulszkys and others.
The students' task was to introduce these works to the others as well as to give a short summary about their authors including their education, the role they had played in contemporary Hungarian society, the circumstances of their leaving Hungary and the conditions of their return. The discussion of the works concerned the places and dates of the various editions and the authors' intention concerning the publication. The emphasis was on discussing the actual journey, that is the conditions during the crossing, the itinerary on the map of America, etc.
We agreed on several topics which should be considered in every travelogue. One of them was contemporary American customs and way of life as opposed to those in Europe. We also paid attention to other Hungarian emigrants the author met during his sojourn in the States. The question of slavery and Native Americans through the eye of the traveller was also discussed. Last but not least, the travellers' opinion formed about the ideological ground of American democracy as well as about the political and social institutions of the republic and the States' technological progress were also treated. Finally, we have compared the various travelogues and mainly their authors' subjective judgements of America.
The end term papers handed in in December included titles like "John Xantus and the Indians in the New World", "Hungarian portraits of Hungarians", "Wass Samu on African Americans". Copies of the papers have been deposited at the Collection.
Unfortunately, the ninety-minute class often proved to be too short explore in sufficient depth the works and issues in question, but the seminar did fulfill its purpose both as an orientation towards this interesting section of Hungarian-American studies and an eye-opener on the Vasvary Collection and the facilities it extends to the serious student of Hungarians in America. Participants of the seminar hereby express their appreciation to the Library and the Collection for this possibility and for their patience to put up with a group of students marching in to the Collection every week.
Pálinkás Éva & Rotyis Anna
Two New Hungarian Histories from Dayton, Ohio— 1994/1 (11) [up]
The Dayton, Ohio Hungarian community celebrates two anniversaries in 1994: Captain János Vértessy, MD, the city's first Hungarian resident arrived 135 years ago and the Dayton Hungarian Reformed Church celebrates its 90th anniversary as an independent, self-supporting church. Mike Szakal, a third-generation Hungarian, is writing a book that includes oral histories of the local Hungarian-Americans, a history of the Hungarian community leaders, settlements, churches, social organizations, businesses, and a collection of photographs. Tom Angi is preparing a history of the Dayton Reformed Church that contains an outline of Hungarian immigration patterns to Dayton, as well as information about the earliest Hungarians in Dayton. In addition to these two works, several books, anniversary albums, a masters thesis, memoirs and photocopies of documents about the local Hungarians will be donated to the Vasv ry Collection. Although the community in Dayton is the second smallest major Hungarian settlement in the United States, its pride in its contributions to local history and culture make it one of the best documented.
János Vértessy served as a first lieutenant in the Hungarian National Guard during the 1848-49 Revolution. He was born in Csákvár, Hungary on December 25, 1825. He fought in the battles of Pákozd, Vác, Debrecen and Világos. After defeat at the hands of Russian troops, he was conscripted into the Austrian Army, but escaped and crossed Switzerland to Paris and London. With the help of Ferenc Pulszky and the English Committee, he and 33 other veterans arrived in New York City on May 1, 1852. Vértessy went to live in Troy, New York where he worked in a pharmacy, later passing the Pharmacy and Medical Boards. He set up a medical practice in Saginaw, Michigan, later moving to Milwaukee, Wisconsin. He opened a medical office in Dayton in 1859. The Williams Dayton Directory, Volume 3, 1860-61, lists him as one of thirty-six physicians practicing in the city at that time.
He lived in Dayton until 1862, for he wrote the Cleveland, Ohio Szabadság in 1902, that it was from here that he answered President Lincoln's call to arms. He served as Captain in Company E of the 106th Regiment, Ohio Volunteer Infantry, one of the last German regiments raised in Ohio. The Official Roster of the Soldiers of the State of Ohio in the War of the Rebellion indicates that he entered service on August 11, 1862, serving until June 29, 1865. He participated in the defense of Cincinnati against Kirby Smith and in several expeditions against John Morgan who raided Ohio. He later served as guard of the Nashville and Chattanooga Railroad, holding fast when it was raided by General Hood, even though he was completely cut off from the main army in Nashville. After the war he operated a pharmacy in Milwaukee and later retired to the Soldier's Home in that city. He lived there until his death in 1903 and is buried with honor in Wood National Cemetery. He is one of the Hungarian-American soldiers listed in Edmund Vasvary's Lincoln's Hungarian Heroes.
The local Reformed Church is Dayton's oldest and most active Hungarian institution. Its history dates back to 1898 when Hungarian ministers from the Central Reformed Seminary in Tiffin, Ohio began coming to Dayton to provide native language services to the small group of Hungarian Protestants who lived in Dayton's West Side Colony. These people had been recruited by the Malleable Iron Company and came from three areas in Historical Hungary: Szatmár County, especially from the villages of Sárköz and adjoining Ujlak; Abauj County, in particular the towns of Gönc and Gönc-Ruszka, and Bihar County's communities of Pocsaj and Nagy Léta. Although there were more than 100 children and many families that built comfortable homes, the majority were single men who planned to return home after about two years' work. The presence of a Cunard Line ticket office in the colony emphasizes the temporary nature of their stay and the difficulty of establishing a permanent church. The Home Mission Board of the Reformed Church in the United States eventually established a mission for the Dayton Hungarians.
As more immigrants came to the West Side, plans for a permanent church took on a more serious nature. The Reverend Istv n Hars nyi, a student at the Tiffin seminary, organized the congregation on November 23, 1902 and communion ware was purchased. The church, however, continued to receive financial assistance from the American church and remained in mission status. On October 2, 1904 the congregation, under the leadership of the Reverend János Bodry, voted to join the Miami Classis as an independent, self-supporting and free-standing church of the Reformed Church in the United States. The close ties with the American denomination continue to this day, as the Dayton Hungarian Reformed Church is a United Church of Christ. The congregation purchased lots and built a church and parsonage on Blaine Street in 1906, directly across the street from the Wolf Creek levy. During the Great Flood of March 1913, the levy broke and devastated the church buildings, destroying most of the early church records. The congregation rebuilt the church and parsonage within a few months, rededicating the sanctuary on November 30 of that year. In 1917 the church's Young People's Group, which owned and operated a major sick benefit society, purchased a large building and adjoining caretaker's house at the corner of Conover and Dakota Streets for a social hall (hálé). The Kossuth Hall was the scene of Hungarian plays, banquets, receptions and dances for over forty years. The financial success of the sick benefit society ensured security and stability for the congregation.
After World War One, when the sojourner period ended, the congregation grew to its largest size. Under the leadership of the Reverend János Azary, the church entered its "Golden Age", from 1922 until 1941. The church's Saturday and Summer Schools provided educational services for Hungarian children on par with the schools in the old country. The Young People's Group was the first Hungarian organization to join the Christian Endeavor Union in the United States. In 1922 Mrs. Azary organized the Lorántffy Zsuzsanna Ladies Aid Society, an unheard of innovation for women in a Hungarian church. During the same year, Hungarian theological students began to arrive to study at the Central Reformed Seminary, which had moved to Dayton from Tiffin.
The Reverend Azary's work with theology students from Hungary was one of three major achievements for the Dayton church. After World War One, Dr. James I. Good, a retired professor from the Dayton seminary, began a general relief mission to Europe. Each summer he traveled to Europe, and during the course of his visits he began studying Reformed Church history in Switzerland, Germany and Hungary. He was appalled by the misery the war had caused in Hungary, and he turned his activities into aid for the Reformed churches in Hungary. Hungarian exchange students coming to study in Dayton was one of his visits' outcomes, and he used his own personal funds to pay all expenses for the first two exchange students to Dayton, namely Béla Vasady from Debrecen and Kálm n Tóth from Pápa. Beginning in 1922 two Hungarians who had completed two years of study in Hungary came each year to complete degree work which usually lasted two years. The goal of this exchange program was to help mend differences between the Reformed Church in the United States and the Reformed Church in Hungary. This practice continued in Dayton until 1934 when the Seminary became a part of Eden Theological Seminary in Webster Groves, Missouri. A total of fourteen Hungarian exchange students graduated from the Central Theological Seminary in Dayton. Besides Béla Vasady and Kálmán Tóth, the Dayton graduates were: Károly Dobos, Zoltán Csorba, Antal Szabó, who spent his first year at the Lancaster, Pennsylvania Seminary, Béla Nagy, József Boda, Sándor Czeglédy, Jr., István Szabó, Géza Lőrincze, Ede Böszörményi, László Szőke, Lajos Héthy and István Szőke. All fourteen students had their Dayton diplomas honored in Hungary, where most of them continued their pastoral work. István Szőke and Antal Szabó remained in the United States where they took pastorship in Hungarian churches. István Szabó and Béla Vasady later returned to the United States from Hungary.
During and immediately after World War Two, the Dayton church contributed supplies and funds to assist Hungarians in the native land. It was the events of October 1956, however, which prompted it to achieve the second major highlight in its history. The church, under the leadership of the Reverend András Hamza and Treasurer Vilmos Angi began a major local effort to raise funds and gather supplies for the tens of thousands of Hungarians who began coming to the United States. The church raised over $30,000.00 and began to resettle Hungarians from Camp Kilmer, New Jersey to Dayton. During 1957 the church brought more than one hundred Hungarians of all religious backgrounds — families, young married couples and single men — to Dayton. It helped all of them obtain housing, find employment and continue their education. The church provided pastoral counseling and English language classes to assist the new people in their adjustment to their new homes. Many of these people remain in Dayton and help the church continue its mission.
A beautiful new church building was constructed on the West Side's Anna Street in 1955, but the rapidly changing demographic patterns of the Hungarian community soon made it unsatisfactory. During the 1970's the church built a new sanctuary and a new Kossuth Hall on Old Troy Pike in the north suburbs. The church has become a major fund raiser through its numerous recreational, social and cultural activities. It's major financial contributions to several organizations in the United States and Hungary, including its sister church and an orphanage in Budapest, mark the third highlight of its history. The church continues the 90-year-old tradition of the March 15 Banquet and weekly Hungarian language classes. During the summer of 1994, the church will have its first organized tour to Hungary and visit with its sister church.
Among the items to be donated to the Vasváry Collection, the most notable is the Reverend János Azary's Emlék Album a daytoni magyar Ev. Ref. Egyház huszonötéves jubileumára 1904-1929. In addition to its church history and priceless collection of photographs, it contains the only history of the City of Dayton written in Hungarian. Other donations include a copy of Elizabeth Zimmerman's 1979 masters thesis Hungarian Settlements in Dayton, Ohio, 1900-1921, and the Reverend András Hamza's Jubileumi Emlékkönyv a daytoni Magyar Evangéliumi és Református Egyház ötvenedik születésnapjára 1902-1952.
The First History of the Hungarians in the Lone Star State— 1994/2 (12) [up]
James Patrick McGuire: The Hungarian Texans. The University of Texas Institute of Texan Cultures at San Antonio, 1993. 312p. ISBN 0-86701-041-X
In June 1990 I spent some time in Texas on my way from Connecticut to Oregon, and this included a couple of days in San Antonio. After admiring the historical site of El Alamo, walking along the river with the flat river taxis on it, and having Frankfurter sauerkraut for lunch in a German restaurant, my host Jeff Pennington, a former student at the Hungarian Studies Program of József Attila University (JATE), took me to the Institute of Texan Cultures (ITC). The Institute had a permanent exibition, with the histories, traditions, the past and present of the various ethnics of the Lone Star State on display, in which the Hungarians were also represented with a series of exhibits that began with pictures of the Újházy family, and ended with documents and objects in connection with contemporary, 1956 and later, immigrants. The exhibition was expertly arranged, the assembled material was relevant, and visitors could get a clear idea of the people that made up the three important waves of Hungarian immigrants to Texas. Before leaving, I wanted to buy a catalogue or a book about the exhibition, but there was none about the Hungarian section. I also wanted to find out where Sírmező, László Újházi's former estate was because Jeff was ready to drive us there, and with some help from the Institute staff, I called dr. Leslie André of the San Antonio Hungarian Association (who has a law degree from the University of Szeged, 1942), who told me that Sírmező did not exist any more, and if there was one person who knew where it had been it must be James McGuire, who was writing a book about Texan Hungarians. Unfortunately, I was leaving San Antonio the following day, so I never got to visit Sírmező, nor met dr. McGuire. Dr. André, however, has since visited the Vasváry Collection in Szeged, and thanks to his kind assistance the Collection is now in possession of the book on the Hungarian Texans.
The book, dedicated "To the Exiles," is one of a series on the peoples who have contributed to the history and heritage of Texas, called The Texians and the Texans including pamplets The Afro-American, Anglo-American, Belgian, Chinese, Czech, French, German, Greek, Indian, Italian, Jewish, Lebanese, Syrian, Mexican, Norwegians, Spanish, Swiss Texans, and books The Danish, English, German, Hungarian, Irish, Japanese, Polish, Swedish, Wendish Texans.
Its structure follows the basic pattern of Hungarian immigration into Texas and is accordingly divided into the following chapters: 1 Hungary and Texas (1-10); 2 Early Hungarians in Texas (11-34); 3 László Újházi, the Great Exile (35-78); 4 Újházi's Family in Texas after 1870 (79-110); 5 Hungarian 48ers in Bexar County, Texas (111-134); 6 Other 48ers in Texas (135-167); 7 The Great Economic Migration, 1880-1914 (169-226); 8 Post-Word War II Immigrants in Texas (227-256); Acknowledgements, Notes, Bibliography, Photo Credits, and Index (257-312).
Chapter One provides a useful summary of Hungarian history, based on good sources, such as Steven Béla Várdy's The Hungarian-Americans. (Professor Várdy, by the way, must be credited also as one of the readers of the manuscript.)
Chapter Two begins with a survey of the early connections between Hungary and America — McGuire always gives the whole picture, sometimes because the Texan story is only part of the whole, but in this way the history of the Hungarian Texans is seen as integral part of the history of Hungarian Americans. So it is only after the names of Tyrker (who, incidentally, sailed to Vinland not with Eric the Red, as McGuire claims after Várdy, but with Leif Ericson), Stephen Parmenius of Buda, then Col. Michael Kováts and Maj. John L. Pollereczky have been mentioned that the stories of the first Hungarians in Texas begin. They included George Fischer (1795-1873), Texas' first Hungarian adventurer, born in Székesfehérvár, who participated in important events leading to the rebellion against Mexico; a Count Zondogi, who spent a few weeks in Central Texas in 1845 hunting big game; Anton Lochmar (1812-1848), the first Hungarian to become a permanent Texas resident in 1833, and came to own the best house of entertainment in San Antonio; Baron Paul von Szirmay, who, as a member of the Adelsverein, bought Texas land on credit in the 1840s, but never paid for it, and finally appeared in New Buda in 1851 as a political emigrant, and after a short stay probably moved on to California.
Gottfried Joseph Petmeczky (1809-1871) was among the Aldersverein colonists, moved to Texas in 1845 and started a big family there. One of his sons, Joe Carl (1842-1929) was a gunsmith in Austin. His "Petmecker spur", a spring-shank steel spur that kept the rider from injuring his leg if he fell from his horse in a cattle drive, became the sign of the well-dressed cowboy.
Rudolph Schorobiny (Charobiny) (1817-1908) was a member of another colonizing effort in Castroville, Medina Co.; his young wife, Francisca nearly became the captive of raiding Kickapoo Indians in 1847. He was the only farmer among the Hungarians who came to Texas before 1848, and the only Hungarian-Texan Mexican War veteran.
These early Hungarians were brought to Texas by economic possibilitites ans well as by wanderlust. They were witnesses of dramatic changes in Texan history. Some of them departed while others stayed, but none of them started a chain of immigration of friends or relatives to follow them.
In the early 1850s a new kind of Hungarian immigrant appeared: they were the 48ers, the political refugees of the Hungarian Revolution. Chapter Three, one of the longest in the book, is dedicated to the life of "the Great Exile", László Újházi, while Chapter Four follows the histories of the members of his family.
It must be noted that the author undertook a difficult task when setting out to write a history about Hungarians without knowing the language. And he did a splendid job of it, thanks no doubt mostly to his faithful team of translators, who included Rose Kovary Safran, dr. Stephan Juhasz, Maria Nagy Peterson, dr. Margit Nagy, Toni Juhasz, Stephen Johannes, Zoltan Balogh, dr. Leslie André, all of San Antonio (TX), dr. Bela Vassady, Elizabethtown (PA), dr. Eniko Molnar Basa, Silver Spring (MD), but first of all dr. John J. Alpar of Amarillo (TX), who translated Péter Bogáti's two books on the Újházi family, Édes Pólim! and Flamingók Új-Budán. These two chapters made extensive use of these two books, but McGuire also uses plenty of sources that are available for a Texas based researcher, namely newspapers, birth/death registers, deed records, etc. The picture that emerges of Újházy is a well-balanced one, not at all too favourable, as Professor Várdy claims, saying that McGuire was too impressed by Újházy's personality, faith and perseverance. ("Magyarok az Újvilágban. Újházi László és az első magyar települések Amerikában" Kapu (Budapest) 1992/6, 47-51.) Nor did Újházi's titles mislead him — indeed, he mentions several times that the titles "Count", "Governor", "Colonel", etc., which the American records use, cannot be found in Hungarian sources. McGuire knew that "local gossip about Újházi's life at Sírmező [had been] wildly embellished, especially with the passing of time" (p.76). One of the sources of the legends, including the one about Újházi's suicide, was probably dr. Ferdinand Herff, who bought Sírmező in 1877.
In fact, I have noticed only one case of erroneous use of sources in the book (I was not looking for errors, nor did I check the book against the sources). On p. 43 McGuire has Kossuth arriving in America on the American war vessel Mississippi. None of the sources he lists in the note to this passage (Deak, Lawful Revolution, pp.342-343; Konnyu, Acacias, p.27; Vassady, "Kossuth and Újházi", pp.28-39.) says that, so it must have been his own conjecture; actually, Kossuth left the Mississippi in Gibraltar, proceeded on land to Britain and from there to the United States by a passanger ship.
James McGuire did indeed know the location of Sírmező: in his description a modern street map of San Antonio would define it as "running along McCullogh Avenue from Anne Street northward to Jackson-Keller Road and then northwest to Blanco Road, northward again, then east on Oblate Drive (once called Újházi Road, then apparently Lorenz and Újházi Road) to Jones-Maltsberger Road. The boundary then went southward, becoming Devine Road to its southern boundary, which follows the present southern boundary of the City of Olmos Park." (This description is printed twice, in n.36 on p.267, and again, after n.86, p.270.)
Of Újházi's five children who went with him to the States, Tivadar and Klára returned to Europe before 1870, László went back to Hungary in 1870, and Farkas was the last to repatriate in 1878, taking their parents' remains with him to Budamér. The only Újházi descendant to remain in Texas was Helen (Ilka), originally an irresponsible young mother, who became a "capable busineswoman with high standing in the comunity" of San Antonio. She kept house for her two sons, Louis and Ladislaus. Louis became a well known teacher of calligraphy and penmanship, and lived in New York until his death of pneumony in 1910. Ladislaus' interest and expertise in horticulture led him to establish the Ilka Nursery about 1885, his mother eventually moving there and running the business. In 1895 he suddenly disappeared from San Antonio, his accounts at the National Bank, where he was employed as bookkeeper, being short by approximately $3,000, ended up in South America, and died in Buenos Aires in 1905. Their mother's end was the most tragical and shocking. On the night of April 30, 1899 "she was robbed and raped, her skull bashed in, and her body burned in a fire set to hide the evidence" (p.108). Two men were later apprehended and confessed to the crime. Péter Bogáti names one of them (John Sands and another Black) in a recent article ("Amerika magyar felfedezői. Gyilkosság Texasban". Köztársaság 1992/11, 60-61.) This was the end of the Újházi saga in Texas, but the Hungarian story did not end there.
Chapter Five discusses the fates of other 48ers in Bexar County and elsewhere in Texas, and that makes at least as fascinating reading as the gesta of the more prominent aristocrats. I, for one, found it reassuring that Julcsa (b. 1839), Helen Újházi's maid from Hungary, who left for the New World at half a day's notice in June 1858 only to be fired in November 1859 because she wanted to become the lady of the house, did not disappear without a trace but two years later married Anton Lorenz (1829-1911), who had come to the States from Hungary in the1850s. They acquired a farm and became the parents of ten children, some of whom bore distinctive Hungarian names like Árpád, Attila and László (Ladislaus). According to family memories, they also had a tragic encounter with the natives, one small son being carried away and killed by Indians. In the 1880s all five Lorenz daughters caught smallpox and died because they had fetched water for some sick people (p.132). None of the surviving boys married before the death of their mother in 1916.
The other 48ers included J ános Xantus, who in 1853 had plans to settle in Texas, but never returned there. György Pomutz (1828-1882), one of Újházi's comrades also visited Texas briefly in 1852, but remained in Iowa when Újházi moved to Texas in 1853. As is well known, Frigyes Kerényi, the romantic poet (1822-1854) wanted to join Újházi in Texas and died in the attempt. Márton Koszta (1818Ä1858) was the first known Hungarian slave owner in Texas since the farm he bought included a 40-year-old female slave and her son, although it is uncertain whether he kept the slaves. Újházi and other Hungarians firmly opposed slavery. Gábor Katona, Mihály Eötvös, and Ferenc Böröndy were also friends or associates of Újházi.
Benjamin Varga (1805-1889) was different; although he fought in the Hungarian Revolution, and left the country for the United States after that, he got acquainted with Újházi in San Antonio in 1853 only, when the latter considered apprenticing his youngest son in the saddle trade. He was also different in that having been saddlemakers in Hungary, he and his four sons "were equipped with skills to meet consumers' demands on the Texas frontier" (pp.120-121). The family business flourished, and in 1954 the San Antonio Chamber of Commerce saluted the Ben Varga Saddlery as one of the few century-old businesses in the city. Ben's four sons, John, Alexander, Joseph and Paul all served the Confederacy in the Civil War.
At the end of this chapter a Ferenc Badalik (Badalek, Budalik), a journeyman born in Szeged in 1826 is mentioned, "who worked in Hungary, Turkey, and Wallachia (Rumania) during the 1840's. His death in San Antonio at the age of 36 was witnessed by another Hungarian, John Varga, on April 23, 1863" (p.134). The source of this piece of information is Ferenc Badalik Journeyman's Travel Pass Book in the Hungarian Files at the ITC. These files, which are available to scholars and the public, must be the repository of invaluable and extremely interesting documents on Hungarian Texans.
Other 48ers, not connected with Újházi, are discussed in Chapter Six. Perhaps the only Hungarian in Galveston, Charles Vidor (1834-1904) was the founder of a Texas dynasty. He came to the US as a journalist, fought in the Civil War, and became a successfull businessman and the father of ten children. Of the survivig five children, Charles Shelton Vidor (1866-1931) had a spectacular career in the lumber industry, and his son, King Wallis Vidor (1894-1982), a pioneering film-maker went to Hollywood to make more than 50 feture films there. The Újffy family started their life in Texas with John Henry Újffy (1820-1867), pharmacist and merchant in La Grange, Fayette Co., his eldest son, Maurice Újffy (1857-1930) becoming a successful Galveston businessman. The growing city of Houston also attracted Hungarian exiles, like Alexander Szabó (1831-1905); John M. Bartay, owner of a shoe and leather emporium, was one of the earliest Hungarian settlers in Dallas; Anton R. Rössler (1826-1891), cartographer, geologist, and "'the most thorough and ideal crank of any age'" (p.156) was one of Austin's first Hungarians. Imre Hamvassy (1820-1901), legal doctor, master of seven languages, sciences and mathematics, one of the seven leading exiles invited by Congress to Washington and dining there with President Taylor in 1850, tried farming at New Buda, operated a cigar store in New York, moved to Texas, where he was ordained an Episcopal priest in 1872, and was the founding rector of Tyler's Christ Church Parish in the same year.
This group included Albert Kayser (1827-1890), longtime friend of Hamvassy; Albert Ruttkay (1841-1888), cotton merchant, the last of Kossuth's nephews in America; Imre Szabad (1828-1894), writer, Unionist soldier, whose gravestone was erected in Kendall 97 years after his death; and dr. Arthur Wadgymár (1824-1899), physician, probably the most colourful character among them. Their experiences in Texas were little different from those of the earliest settlers. They helped civilize the state.
It is no wonder that the description of the 48ers' immigration takes up twice as much space in the book as the other two great Hungarian migration waves. The former was an influx of individuals, many of whom had fascinating careers, fit for being written up in romantic novels. It is also significant that Benjamin Varga proved to be the real dynasty founder, who apparently knew what he wanted, and instead of trying to return to the old country, had his sons follow him. He would seem to have been rather an economic immigrant than a political exile, a forerunner of the mass of new immigrants around the turn of the century. These latter, mainly peasants and workers, went to work in the mines, factories and in the cities of the American Northeast. Many wished to accumulate money and return to resume farming, although the great majority settled permanently in the USA.
Although Magyars represented about half of the population of Hungary at that time, they made up only 30% of the Hungarians emigrating to the US. Accordingly, most of the persons mentioned in Chapter seven are not Magyars, but Slovaks (the Pakan Community), Germans, Croats, Italians and Jews emigrating from pre-World War I Hungary. A number of Magyar families settled in Navarro and Ellis Counties in North Central Texas to become cotton farmers. The story of the Nagy and Szénásy families are recounted as typical of other Magyar families who learned to grow cotton. The story of the Nagys also stands out as one where the parents (John and Christine Nagy, [1845-1929, and 1853-1929, respectively]) followed the children into emigration, never giving up their old country ways, never learning English, and relying on their children for conducting business for them. Other individual Hungarian immigrants included Ignatius G. Gaál (1843-1933), who ended up as mayor of Ysleta, El Paso Co., where in the 1890s he was involved in a famous gun battle. Gustav Jermy (1832-1980) was the founder of the first museum in San Antonio.
The Hungarian Jews are difficult to distinguish among the Hungarian immigrants since they spoke Hungarian and considered themselves Hungarian. The most outstanding among them were the Taub family, whose youngest son, Ben (1889-1982) became a well-known philanthropist in Houston; Rabbi Maurice Faber (1854-1934) of Tyler, who as a member of the Board of Regents of the University of Texas became involved in a controversy, which caused Governor Ferguson to be removed from office in 1917; Rabbi Samuel Rosinger (1877-1960?), who served the Beumont congregation for half a century; and Max Rottenstein (1897Ä1978), born in Kiskunfélegyháza, who used the first electrocardiograph machine in Texas. Other immigrants, like Martin Weiss in Dallas (1865-1955), Adolph and Maurice Schwartz in El Paso, and Jacob Schmidt in Austin and Adolph Klein in San Antonio became prosperous merchants, while Eugene Roth (1898-1976) and his family got involved in the broadcasting business. Finally, a strange but sympathetic account concludes the chapter on "Big-Nosed Kate" (1850-1940), "an almost legendary 'soiled dove' of the Old West" (p.217).
Although there are two subsections on "Hungarian Names in the Texan Landscape" and on "Hungarian Language and Tradition in Texas", there is really not very much to show, apart from Vidor and Midvid (towns) on the map, and Hungarian language and traditions did not survive very long in the alien environment. The members of the pre-World War I Hungarian immigration wave failed to establish their own ethnic organizations. There were no Hungarian churches, clubs or mutual benefit societies, nor did boarding houses, those resilient keepers of Hungarian identity in Ohio and Pennsylvania exist in Texas. This is not surprising if we look at the statistics provided by McGuire. The 1910 census indicates 1,351 Texas residents who claimed Hungarian nativity or ancestry (p.170), most of them living in 27 counties. (Of these, seven counties had had Hungarian immigrants from 1860, i.e. Hungarian "presence" had been more or less continuous in Dallas, Smith, Travis, Fayette, Harris, Galveston and Bexar Counties.) This means that simply there were not enough Hungarians to form cohesive communities among themselves. This hardly changed by 1930, when the number of Hungarians in Texas was still 1,626 (p.225).
According to Chapter Eight, the Hungarian minority in Texas grew significantly with the arrival of political refugees after 1945, including "a wide spectrum of Hungary's middle and upper elite from government, military and police, society, and conservative and rightist political parties" (p.228). An interesting addition to this spectrum was formed by Cistercian monks who came to the USA seeking freedom of worship, and founded the Monastery of Our Lady of Dallas in 1957, Abbey since 1964. The first prior and then abbot of the new monastery was the Right Reverend Anselm A. Nagy (1915-1988).
The immigrants of 1956 were of a different generation and tradition from the earlier DPs. They were mostly professionals, who had a future in the education and industry in the United States. They were also different in that they organized associations, such as the San Antonio Hungarian Association (SAHA) in 1956, and the Hungarian American Cultural Association of Houston (HACA) in 1957. These organizations were intensely active in the years after 1956, then went into decline only to see a new revival of interest in the 1980s. The census of 1980 indicated 27,964 citizens of Hungarian nativity or ancestry, Texas having the 12th largest Hungarian minority among the states of the Union (the first and second being New York and Ohio with nearly a quarter million Hungarians each).
James Patrick McGuire, a former teacher, expert on German frontier artists in Texas, and author the ITC publications on German, Lebanese, Syrian and Jewish Texans, did a thorough and excellent job with this book. He had spent nearly seven years on it, and the work was in the early stages of production when he died in January 1992. Obviously, he had no time to finish the last chapter, and some of the telephone interviews in it were conducted by ITC editor Sandra Hodsdon Carr. The excellence of the work, a credit to the Institute of Texan Cultures, stands out in even sharper relief if we remember that no previous attempt had been made to write a history of the Hungarians in Texas before that. It should be an example to be followed, although possibly with different approaches, in other regions of the United States.
The Dual Role of Hungarian Collections of American Public Libraries in Assimilation and Identity Maintenance (summary of a dissertation)— 1995/2 (14) [up]
In the first decades of the twentieth century Hungarian mass immigration reached the shores of America. In the regions where significant number of Hungarians settled, the American public libraries founded Hungarian language collections to meet their needs. This study analyses the history of these collections and their role in identity maintenance and assimilation. These library collections played important role in both American and Hungarian policies toward immigrants.
The activity of a public library is based on the concept of providing a service for everyone in the community. As a result of the new immigration, the public library service that was designated essentially for English speaking American users, in many cities faced drastic demographic changes in its environment, and the manner in which it fulfilled its mission needed reconsideration. To fulfill the task the public librarians developed special methods. First of all, they opened foreign language collections in the branch libraries of foreign neighborhoods, and then they invested great efforts in reaching the immigrants and assisting their acculturation process. They surveyed the neighborhood to define the demographic changes, built up contacts with ethnic organizations, made attempts to bring ethnic activities into the library, located book importers, employed foreign language assistants, and prepared and distributed booklists and information in foreign languages about the services of the library. Their approach to the second generation was different. Although their problems were handled with professional care, the children's service was basically designed to be of a general American type. The foreign language service for the first generation, however, became an accepted program of American public libraries by the early 1900s.
The attempts to establish foreign language service led to a long standing debate in the columns of the Library Journal and other professional papers. The debate stemmed from a confrontation between different nativist views. The librarians found a humanistic, a democratic and a professional answer, which was closest to the most tolerant and most creative approach of the Americanization trend, to the settlement movement of Progressive Democrats. They considered the immigrant culture as a contribution to American civilization. The purpose was to serve the immigrants and, through this service to teach them, and help them to integrate for their own sake and also for the sake of American society. The tolerance they showed towards immigrants survived through the following decades even during the war years. In this period Americanization was given priority over the idea of preserving immigrant culture. But in practice the foreign language collections were maintained and the service for foreigners continued.
At the same time, the Hungarian government launched a program under the title "American Action" in 1903 to help to maintain Hungarian identity among Hungarian immigrants in America. Support was provided for Hungarian churches, schools, associations and newspapers. As part of the program, Hungarian books were also sent to libraries.
Books paid for by the government and sent through the Hungarian Library Association arrived from Hungary at the New York Public Library in 1907, 1909 and in 1911, at the Philadelphia Public Library and the Newark Public Library in 1909, at the Cleveland Public Library and at the Carnegie Public Library in Pittsburgh in 1911, and at the St. Louis Public Library in 1913 and 1914. The Annual Reports published or preserved in the archives of these libraries are very important sources for the history of these collections.
The present study covers mainly the history of the Hungarian collections in St. Louis, New York, Cleveland and in Pittsburgh. The history of the Hungarian communities in these cities provides the background information for defining the character and volume of Hungarian reading interests. The number of Hungarians, their occupational distribution, their educational level, their social activity, their contact with American institutions were all factors that determined the degree of interest in, and the circulation of, the Hungarian books. As a result of these differences, all four Hungarian collections displayed different characteristics. Although the earliest communities were established in St. Louis and New York in the 1850s, soon followed by Cleveland and Pittsburgh, the earliest library collections started in New York between 1904 and 1906 and in Cleveland in 1908. For various reasons, the contacts of the Hungarians with the public library started only in the 1910s in St. Louis and Pittsburgh. The size of the collections ranged from about one thousand volumes in St. Louis and Pittsburgh to six-nine thousand in New York and Cleveland.
As soon as the Hungarian collections were opened for the public, they achieved a high level of circulation; for example, in Cleveland the circulation of the 1.275 volumes was 3.866 in 1909, of the 1.811 volumes 11.390 in 1911. In New York the 6.062 Hungarian volumes had a circulation of 63.599 in 1906, while in Pittsburgh the 563 volumes were used 2.517 times in 1911. In St. Louis the approximately 150 volumes had a circulation of 1.295 in 1913/14. At the time of the greatest interest a book could be used eight to ten times a year. In general, the Hungarian book circulation in all libraries reached the circulation level of the total collection and was higher than the circulation of the foreign language collection at large. The detailed statistics show the differences by year.
As regards the first generation, the support of the Hungarian collections by Hungary served its goal, but the size of the Hungarian public library users in comparison with the size of the Hungarian communities as a whole was small. Using the public libraries represented only a fragment of their cultural activity and reading interests. The effort of American librarians to americanize the immigrants, together with the schools was successful in the case of the second generation. They did a great deal for the acculturation of the first generation, too. Although the collections they used were Hungarian, the spirit and the methods of the service were American. The librarians developed a form of communication to fulfill the needs in Hungarian, and through the service were able to shape the users' relations with American society.
The venture on both the American and the Hungarian sides represented different policies towards immigrants; still they both contributed to the development of Hungarian library collections in American public libraries in the first four decades of the twentieth century.
Fulbright Visitors in the Somogyi Library of Szeged— 1996/1 (15) [up]
May is a good time for excursions in Hungary and Szeged is certainly a place to visit. Hungary has had the Fulbright Exchange Program since 1992. Through the Hungarian Fulbright Association many outstanding scholars do teaching or carry out research year after year. In order to get acquainted also with different parts of the country, those who are given this fellowship regularly take part in field trips, organized with the help of local enthusiast. Currently the head of the Hungarian Fulbright Committee is Huba Brückner. <firstname.lastname@example.org>
In Szeged the program included a visit in the Mayor's Office, several sights of the city and also some museums. One must not leave Szeged without seeing the recently restored Panorama Painting which is a 30-minute ride from the city showing the Hungarians coming into the Carpathian Basin 1100 years ago.
The 35 participants enjoyed not only the hospitality but also the food provided by the organizers. Szeged style Fisherman's soup and Cottage cheese noodles were one of the special events at the bank of the River Tisza, accompanied by authentic gipsy music.
The program also included a visit to the Somogyi Library where the well known Vasváry Collection was introduced by the expert guidance of Mária Kórász the librarian and keeper of the vast collection of books and other materials. Although the Vasváry Collection is housed in only one room, it really opened up a whole world to all those who listened to the introduction.
Original documents, newspaper cuttings, photos and all this in hundreds of folders on the shelves as well as a wide scale reference catalogue. Hungaians in America, their lives, works and contribution to the giant community of mankind. As we could hold the old and new relics in our hands one by one, it became more and more obvious that Somogyi Library is doing something very important in the life of Hungarians. They preserve heritage in a very scholarly way which is much more than simply talking about it.
Here I would like to express my deepest appreciation also on behalf of the Fulbright visitors and I am convinced that all of us know by now who to contact if they come across some Hungarian documents in the USA. It is Mária Kórász in Szeged with the Vasváry Collection.
Put down by the program facilitator: Péter Sík JATE University,
Szeged. Department of English and American Studies. E-mail: email@example.com
Hungarians and the American Civil War — 1996/2 (16) [up]
The American Civil War (1861-1865) transcended the borders of the North American continent. It brought into prominance those ideals which Mazzini, Garibaldi, and Kossuth had struggled for in Europe. At stake was whether humanity could create and maintain a republic. America represented the democratic ideals and possibilities for those who struggled for national freedom in Europe. Consequently, many foreigners, including Hungarians, joined in America's war to fight for these ideals. The majority enlisted to serve the Union cause. Significantly, as it will be discussed later, it was during the early years of this struggle that they made their greatest contributions.
The ranks of Civil War armies reflect the participation of vast numbers of immigrants. Unlike the larger contingent of Irish or German soldiers, Hungarians, with the exception of Béla Estván and a few other individuals, overwhelmingly sided with the North. Even though their total numbers are minimal in comparison with these other nationalities, proportionately to their overall population Hungarian soldiers were well represented in the war. These Hungarian participants, particularly those who initially fought in the Hungarian War of Independence, and afterwards possibly in the Crimean War, Italian Wars of Unification, and/or the Polish Revolution of 1863, represent an interesting subject for scholarly research.
Thanks to historical societies, museums, the National Archives in Washington and Budapest, and in particular to the Vasv ry Collection in Szeged, scholars have a plethora of resources available which document the exploits of these individuals. Some, such as Estván, Gyula Stahel-Számvald, and Imre Szabad, published works describing the general nature of war as well as their own participation. Estván's War Pictures from the South, is a romantic view of the war during those brief years he fought for the Confederacy. However, a soldier by profession, Estván in his writings betrays a distaste for the lack of discipline by the Southern troops, as well as an admiration for the Union General George B. McClellan. On the other hand, Szabad's Modern War, Its Theory and Practice is a solid piece on military theory and strategy. Whereas Stahel-Számvald's manuscript on his own military career was never published and is located in the National Archives in Washington. Naturally, there are also secondary works, such as Lajos Lukács' Magyar politikai emigráció 1849-1867 and Az olaszországi magyar légió története és anyakönyvei 1860-1867, Eugene Pivány's Hungarians in the American Civil War, and Edmund Vasvary's Lincoln's Hungarian Heroes, among others, which discuss various aspects of Hungarian participation in the Civil War.
Unfortunately, even with these sources available to them, scholars in the United States have neglected Hungarian participation in the war. Naturally, part of the reason is the lack of Civil War scholars who know Hungarian. Another reason is that the Hungarian emigration was more recent and significantly smaller than that of other nationalities. These Hungarians were also dispersed throughout the North from New York to Iowa. Consequently, they were scattered and too few in number to equip even a regiment. On the other hand, German and Irish immigrants were able to muster several regiments and brigades to fight on both sides during the war, although German sentiment overwhelmingly sided with the North. Therefore, there are numerous works that focus on the role of these nationalities in the war.
The lack of organized fighting units is significant because great attention is given to brigade and regimental histories as an important part of Civil War research. Hungarians, however, did form three companies of the Garibaldi Guards, also known as the 39th New York, and received Lincoln's endorsement to fight, along with soldiers of "Bohemian & Sclavonic origin," as part of the Lincoln Riflemen. This group eventually became the 24th Illinois Volunteer Regiment, but only had six Hungarians in its ranks. Even though Hungarians fought in different battles and theaters of the war, they did not have the opportunity to fight as a cohesive unit during the conflict.
Another reason why Hungarian participation is often overlooked is a result of the prejudice that was exhibited towards foreigners on both sides. Even though these foreigners brought valuable military experience, it was partly this experience itself, combined with the belief that this was an American conflict and should be fought by Americans, that deprived foreign soldiers and officers of the possibilities of further advancement and recognition. Yes, they were allowed to fight, but they were rarely promoted. Foreign officers were passed over for promotions, and eventually replaced by natives when the opportunity afforded itself.
By 1862 or 1863, usually, foreign officers were out of the service. Hungarian officers such as Stahel-Számvald and Sándor Asbóth are exceptions to this trend. Asbóth, who accompanied Kossuth on the USS Mississippi to America, became a Major General and died in 1868 while serving as US minister to the Argentine and Paraguay Republics. Stahel-Számvald, who also achieved the rank of Major General, was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor for his exploits at the battle of Piedmont, Virginia, on 5 June 1864. Eventually, he received a military pension because of a gun shot wound to his left shoulder, and on the grounds he contracted hemorrhoids as a result of cavalry service during the war.
Not all Hungarians represented the idealism of the age. Some were soldiers of fortune, opportunists, or both. These individuals wanted to take part in the adventures of war and in the process use their opportunities to promote themselves. Estván and Frederick György Utassy are two Hungarian examples. Utassy, who passed himself off as Count D'Utassy, was eventually court-martialed and dismissed from the Union army in 1863. He claimed to be a nobleman and a veteran of both the Hungarian War of Independence and the Crimean War. He even attended medical classes and on occasion assumed the title of "Doctor". (The Civil War is replete with such individuals. Even Sir Henry Stanley of African fame found time to fight for the South during this war.)
America, a land of immigrants, relied heavily upon individuals born outside of the country in this struggle. Some, like Géza Mihalótzy, Miklós Fejérváry, and Sándor Gáll, paid the ultimate price with their lives. Others, like Stahel-Számvald, Mátyás Rózsafy, Fülöp Figyelmessy, and the members of the Rombauer family, became important citizens in America after the war. Still others, like Miklós Perczel, who was later appointed to the Upper House of Parliament by Francis Joseph in 1886, returned to Hungary.
The Vasváry Collection is a vital source for appreciating and understanding the exploits of these Hungarian soldiers. It has preserved the very human side of individuals who took their struggle for freedom to another continent. It also offers scholars the opportunity to explore a new side of the Civil War and to consider individuals whose stories have yet to be completely told.
Samuel J. Wilson Associate Professor of History,
University of Rio Grande, Rio Grande, Ohio
The Founder's Granddaughter in the Collection— 1996/2 (16) [up]
On July 31, Mrs. Susan Shapiro Feldman, granddaughter of the late Reverend Edmund Vasvary and her family paid a visit to the Vasvary Collection.
During their visit they were deeply touched seeing the Collection, which they had seen the last time in their beloved grandfather's home in Washington D.C. They recalled family memories, and studied the family tree, drawn up with the help of relatives in Szeged and kept in the Collection, which reaches back as far as the eighteenth century. They showed great interest in the acquisitions, the users, researchers and visitors of the Collection as well as in books and other publications written with the help of our materials.
Susan Feldman handed over documents, sent by her mother, Mrs. Elizabeth Shapiro, the daughter of the Founder of the Collection. The documents included two autograph letters, one by Francis and the other by Theresa Pulszky. Both letters were written in the United States, one in Albany, the other in New York, during the days of Kossuth's American visit. One other letter, or rather a note, in German, was written by Béla Balázs in 1927. The gift also included a number of banknotes issued during the Hungarian War of Independence of 1848-1849 and three picture postcards from Alad r Poka-Pivny to Edmund Vasvary. These documents were acquired by Mrs. Shapiro at an auction about four years ago. The gift is a significant addition to the Collection's assembly of Hungarica. Mrs. Feldman also gave the Collection a present of $500.00 on behalf of the whole Vasvary family.
Before leaving the Collection after a visit of more than two hours, they signed the visitors' book. After that they looked at the exhibition on the groundfloor of the Library, entitled (c)Hungary and the World, as reflected by the rare Books of the LibraryŞ. Some of the documents displayed on this exhibition, which was open from July to October, also came from the Vasvary Collection. The family spent the rest of the day sightseeing in Szeged, visiting the birthplace of Edmund Vasvary and the former Piarist High School, which he had attended.
Walter I. Farmer, the Wiesbaden Art Collecting Point and the Holy Crown of Hungary— 1997/2 (18) [up]
On August 9, 1997 retired U.S. Army Captain Walter I. Farmer died at Christ Hospital, Cincinnati, Ohio. While the western world paid tribute to his many achievements (see the obituaries in The New York Times, The Daily Telegraph, The Economist, etc.), his death passed unnoticed in Hungary. This should not have happened, since Captain Farmer served as a "crown guard" immediately after World War II. The aim of the present essay is to summarize the late Captain Farmer's activities in 1945 and 1946, and to pay him the well-deserved tribute he never received from the Hungarians.
When the end of the Second World War seemed imminent and when the U.S. Army found out about the large-scale looting by the Wermacht in occupied territory, the high command decided to create a special unit to deal with looted art treasures. On the initiative of university professors and museum staffs, the American Commission for the Protection and Salvage of Artistic and Historic Monuments in War Areas was established by President Roosevelt's executive order dated June 21, 1943. Accordingly, special units, the so-called Monuments, Fine Arts & Archives (hereafter MFA&A), were attached to the various U.S. Army units fighting all over the world. On May 26, 1944 the Supreme Commander of Allied Forces in Europe Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower issued an order calling on his commanders to "protect and respect" the "historical monuments and cultural centers" that the U.S. Army would come across during its advances on enemy territory, since these "symbolize to the world all that we are fighting to preserve." It was the newly created European MFA&A that Captain Walter I. Farmer, 373rd GS Engineer Regiment, requested a transfer to in May 1945. He could argue that he held a degree in both architecture and mathematics from Miami University, Oxford, Ohio. In June 1945 he was awarded that transfer, and he was instructed to take over the Landesmuseum at Wiesbaden and turn it into a collecting center where treasures owned or looted by the Germans would be moved. The victorious U.S. Army established four such centers: (1) Wiesbaden (under Farmer's command) to take care of German-owned works of art; (2) Marburg (under Walter Hancock) for the same purpose; (3) Munich (under Craig H. Smyth) to take care of art treasures looted by the Germans; and (4) the Archival Collecting Point at Offenbach (under Leslie I. Poste). Meanwhile, the art treasures of the various Berlin museums were removed from the German capital to salt mines in the Bad Ischl region to protect them from allied bombing during the final months of the war. The Americans moved these treasures to the Reichsbank, Frankfurt, which thus functioned as a fifth such collecting point. The case of Walter I. Farmer suggests that heads of the various collecting points were qualified experts rather than ordinary army officers.
In June 1945, when Captain Farmer arrived in Wiesbaden, the building of the Landesmuseum was in a bad shape: it was occupied by German military authorities, the roofing was rearranged for military purposes (which turned it into a target for bombing), and all the windows were smashed. Farmer had to turn the building into a safe art collecting point by August 20th. This he did with considerable help from the local authorities, hired German museum staff, and with the enthusiastic support of Renate Hobirk, his interpreter whom he later married. Farmer had a protective fence put up around the building (the possibility of looting still loomed large on the horizon), and he had all the windows repaired. He had 75 of the 300 rooms in the Landesmuseum ready in time to receive the first shipment from the Reichsbank on August 20, 1945.
It would be impossible to list all the treasures that passed through the Wiesbaden Art Collecting Point after World War II. A choice selection includes: the Welfenschatz, the Lüneburg Rathaus-silver collection, Greek and Roman coins, Egyptian scrolls, the bust of Queen Nefertiti, hundreds of paintings, Michelangelo's Madonna, and last but not least the Holy Crown of Hungary and the other coronation regalia except for the robe.
On November 6, 1945 Captain Walter Farmer received a telegram from U.S. Army headquarters, a telegram that he would remember for the rest of his life. He was instructed to select and arrange for the shipment of more than 200 German-owned paintings to the United States of America. More than half a century later, Captain Farmer summed up his reaction in the following words: "My emotions overcame me, and I wept tears of rage and frustration. It seemed to me that everything that had been done to demonstrate the integrity of the United States government in the matter of its handling of German cultural properties would be discredited if this shipment took place. So great was my personal confidence in the value of our mission that I was prepared to face court-martial by disobeying orders. After I calmed down, I called all the members of MFA&A in Europe to come to a meeting in my office on the following day. We had to protest this disastrous decision."
And that was exactly what they did. Farmer and his fellow officers worded what came to be called the Wiesbaden Manifesto on November 7, 1945, and promptly sent it on to headquarters. The Manifesto stated that the staff of MFA&A unanimously objected to the order that had come from above, and warned that it would establish a "precedent which is neither morally tenable nor trustworthy." Despite their protest, 202 German paintings (including several Rembrandts) were shipped to the United States of America as "spoils of war." These pictures ended up in the National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C. The justifiability of the shipment was repeatedly contested in the American press, but nothing seemed to happen.
Then in February 1948 Lucius D. Clay, the military governor of the American occupation zone in Germany, proposed the return of all 202 paintings. Army bosses in the U.S. responded by putting the paintings on display in a public exhibition. This renewed public interest in the future of the paintings, and the former MFA&A boss Bancel La Farge explained in a letter printed in The New York Herald Tribune that the Russians were using the 202 paintings taken from Wiesbaden as a precedent to justify their looting of German museums. Clearly, steps were needed to be taken, and the paintings were returned to Germany in the spring of 1948. For his services rendered to protect German works of art, and for initiating the Wiesbaden Manifesto, Captain Walter I. Farmer received the highest civilian medal available in Germany: the German Foreign Minister Klaus Kinkel awarded him the Commander's Cross of the Federal Order of Merit in February 1996. So very late, but only because Captain Farmer disclosed the details as late as 1995 at a symposium held in New York City. But more of that later.
As has been indicated, the Holy Crown of Hungary also spent some time at the Wiesbaden Art Collecting Point. The chest holding the Holy Crown, the orb, the scepter and the sword was taken to the Landesmuseum from Heidelberg on September 17, 1945. Once there, the regalia, on order from Farmer himself, were photographed by Marburg Foto, undoubtedly the best German photographers of the time. These pictures were used later by Patrick Joseph (Joe) Kelleher, then a deputy of Farmer, in writing his doctoral thesis. His dissertation on the Holy Crown of Hungary was published in Rome in 1951, and the photos included were used by several later historians and art experts, among them Joseph Deér in his famous Die Heilige Krone Ungarns (1966). The Holy Crown and regalia were moved from Wiesbaden to Frankfurt and then to Munich in the early months of 1946. The actual reason why this happened is yet to be clarified, but two explanations, separately or combined, seem to offer some guidelines.
The obvious, administrative explanation suggests that the Wiesbaden Art Collecting Point was established to house and care for German-owned art treasures, and the Holy Crown clearly did not fit this category. In the directory of art treasures at Wiesbaden Farmer listed the Holy Crown and regalia (1 chest), Polish church treasures (773 objects), and Polish archaeological items (13 chests) as the only "Major Displaced Treasures of Other Countries." Thus one reason why the U.S. Army moved the Holy Crown and regalia around in Frankfurt and Munich may be that they were trying to find an appropriate place to store it. Added to this were concerns, according to Mrs. Farmer, that the Russians might make an attempt to steal the treasures. Furthermore, the regalia were "property of special status," since the American authorities freely admitted that they were handed over to the U.S. Army by the Royal Hungarian Crown Guard. A supplementary reason for moving the Holy Crown and regalia to Munich was that the other Hungarian properties waiting to be restituted were also stored there. (It was at Munich that Sándor Hahn and Zoltán Oroszlán, two members of the Hungarian Commission for Restitution, saw the Holy Crown. They were the last Hungarian citizens to see it until mid-December 1977, when two Hungarian experts checked the regalia at Fort Knox.)
The other possible reason may be that the Holy Crown, which even today represents something special to many Hungarians, was used for phony "coronations" at Wiesbaden, Farmer recalls: "The Holy Crown of St. Stephen, which symbolizes the soul of Hungary, was brought to Wiesbaden by Captain Jim Rorimer; it later spent years at Fort Knox and was returned to the emerging democratic government of Hungary by President Jimmy Carter in 1977. I was horrified by one Colonel who had the audacity to put the Hungarian Crown on his head." Another source, however, links Captain Farmer himself to such a "coronation." In order to understand the issue fully we must widen our focus and take a closer look at the background and authenticity of that second source. In 1965 the Hungarian Foreign Ministry collected all of its files on the post-war history of the Holy Crown. This collective file includes a newspaper article (from a paper called A.B.C.) and a report by Ambassador Tibor Lajti from Belgium. Both discuss the same event. (In fact, the report is a check on the article which came out in 1963.) During the course of Belgian restitution, immediately after World War II, Emil Langui, a high-ranking official in the Belgian Ministry of Culture, visited the Wiesbaden Art Collecting Point. There he met Captain Farmer, who enthusiastically showed him the various treasures held in the Landesmuseum. They had dinner and a few drinks together, and at the height of the party, Farmer supposedly "crowned" Langui with the Holy Crown of Hungary. Langui claimed he was certain that this happened with the real Crown. Langui also recalled that Farmer told him that the Crown was later moved to Frankfurt. The second part of Langui's testimony raises some questions. One wonders how a Belgian expert could say that he saw the real Crown and not a reproduction, and how could Farmer tell him that the Crown was moved to Frankfurt, when it was at Wiesbaden.
While this raises certain doubts about the authenticity of the Langui-story, it does not necessarily mean that the "coronation" did not take place. However, one is under the impression that Langui was telling a romanticized, movie-like story to a Hungarian Foreign Ministry collecting bits and pieces of information without doing much to authenticate them. Other related, and similarly "authenticated" stories include one according to which a former SS officer, a certain Wolff, unearthed the regalia and took them to Germany, and another one that the Germans sank the chest holding the regalia into the Danube and the Czechs were organizing an expedition to bring it up, etc. But why did the Hungarian Foreign Ministry take these stories seriously enough to file them? The answer lies in the fact that the Foreign Ministry knew that the Americans had the regalia, but nothing more. The rapidly deteriorating relations between the U.S. and Hungary after the fall of 1947 rendered discussions between Budapest and Washington, D.C. impossible, Hungary could not even find out where the Americans held the regalia. In 1951 Hungary demanded the Holy Crown as ransom for the release of Robert A. Vogeler, the regional director of IT&T, who was arrested and sentenced for spying. Later in 1956 de facto relations practically ended between the two countries (official relations were reduced to the level of temporary charge d'affaires). Secret talks were resumed as late as 1962. Then the two most important issues at stake between the U.S. and Hungary were the partial amnesty for those involved in the Revolution/War of Independence of 1956 and the removal of Cardinal Mindszenty from the American Legation in Budapest. It was during the course of this set of negotiations, at the turn of 1964 and 1965, that the State Department, in answer to an official query from the Hungarian Foreign Ministry, informed Budapest that the Holy Crown and regalia were in the United States and that the American government had no intention of returning them at the time. This incident obviously revived interest in the post-1945 adventures of the Holy Crown and explains why the Hungarian Foreign Ministry collected — sometimes totally incredible — stories.
Whatever happened at Wiesbaden, Walter I. Farmer now returned to civilian life, maintained his interest in the Holy Crown of Hungary. Sometime during the 1950s he publicly exhibited the Wiesbaden photos of the Crown and regalia and the Polish church treasures in Cincinnati and other American cities. Much later (probably around 1980) he was interviewed by Attila Simontsits (the author-editor of the excellent The Last Battle for St. Stephen's Crown /1983/), who recorded that Captain Farmer had come to accept the Doctrine of the Holy Crown, according to which the Holy Crown embodies all Hungarians and all Hungarian lands.
The late Captain Walter I. Farmer did not speak publicly and in detail of his immediate post-war experiences until the "Spoils of War" symposium held in New York City in January 1995. The authentic stories of "the loss, reappearance and recovery of cultural property" after World War II were told there for the first time, fifty years after the end of the war. Farmer raised considerable interest with his story, helped renew research in the field of restitution and the history of post-war looted art treasures. The German government took notice of his story, authenticated it, and expressed its gratitude by decorating him on February 9, 1996.
In mid-December 1977 two Hungarian experts, Éva Kovács and Joachim Szvetnik, were invited to Fort Knox to make sure that the Americans were returning the original Holy Crown and regalia to Hungary. Their report testifies to the fact that the Crown and regalia suffered no damage while in American custody. (They compared the treasures with the photographs taken in 1938, i.e. before the war.) Therefore, I beleive that it is the duty of the Hungarian government to find those Americans who contributed to the preservation of the Holy Crown of Hungary and thank them in an appropriate way, even posthumously if necessary.
This essay is based upon a selection of the Walter I. Farmer papers recently donated to the Vasváry Collection by Margaret Planton Farmer and Stanley Planton, as well as upon research done for the present author's recent volume: A Szent Korona amerikai kalandja, 1945-1978.
Hungarian-Americans in Memphis, Tennessee, USA— 1997/2 (18) [up]
Every visit to Hungary has been a memorable experience for me, from the first in 1966 to the latest in 1997. Many things have changed over the years, of course, and progress has overtaken the country — if lots of cars and pollution can be called progress! The continuing restoration and reopening of historic sites is of especial interest to the tourist and that was a grand part of our vacation. But the September, 1997, trip also included a first visit to Szeged, arranged by Melinda and Miklos Kiszin of Szeged. Knowing that I was a librarian and historian, they suggested a tour of the Somogyi Library. My guide, Maria Korasz, is the curator of the Vasvary Collection. She explained that the Reverend Mr. Vasvary assembled the materials over a long period of time, including items from early American history to the late twentieth century. The lives of Hungarians visiting America, of famous Hungarian-Americans and not-so-famous ones have been recorded in this collection.
The Vasvary Collection cannot, of course, possibly include information on every Hungarian-American. But after thirty-something years of marriage to one, you do meet some interesting Hungarian-Americans. And here in Memphis, Tennessee, there are some exciting and inspiring stories that need to be told. In the 1990s, scientists and physicians are the newcomers. The Doctors Andrea Demeter and Arpad Zolyomi came from Rumania to do a residency at the University of Tennessee, Memphis (Arpad Zolyomi still has a land grant in Transylvania awarded an ancestor in 1648). Dr. Tibor Szabo left Szeged in the late eighties, went first to Canada, then came to Memphis to practice his specialty of electrophysiology. The new chair of the Department of Mathematics at the University of Memphis, Professor Bela Bolassi, came from Cambridge, England. In the 1980s another young doctor couple arrived in Memphis. Both had, in fact, worked in Szeged — Dr. Lujza Balazs with the Department of Pathology at the Medical School and Dr. Gabor Tigyi at the Biological Research Center of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences. They first went to the University of California at Irvine to pursue a research program. From there they came to the University of Tennessee and now call themselves Memphians.
But the largest exodus from Hungary undoubtedly occurred after 1956 and these refugees are now found almost everywhere including Memphis, Tennessee. Dr. Jeno Sebes, at the time a third year medical student in Pecs, fled to Austria with his sister: from there they went to a refugee camp in New Jersey; and ended at the English Language Institute at the University of Michigan. There he met his future wife, a Memphian. They returned to Memphis for him to complete medical school. In 1956, my husband, Charles Tilly, was a 21-year-old first year university student in Budapest (a little older freshman because he had been refused admission for several years; even though qualified academically, he was not from a politically acceptable background). He has a diary chronicling his experiences from the day he left expecting never to return to his homeland. When he decided to get out, the Russian tanks were rolling back in and the borders closing. Arrested once and told to go home, he tried again and did make it to Austria with the help of a local farmer who guided them through the backlands to the border. Charles was also in a refugee camp in Austria before being sent to the United States. He then spent one month in an English language training camp at Bard College in upstate New York.
He and another refugee, John Adler, received full scholarships and headed for their new school, the University of Mississippi. Even their train trip to Memphis, where they were to be met and driven to the university, was an adventure. They had tickets and $5 each, but were on the wrong train and had to buy another ticket leaving them with no money for a 24 hour trip. And then they couldn't find their tickets when the conductor came by to stamp them. But it all worked out; they found the tickets just before being kicked off the train and a kind lady bought them a meal. That was only the first of their many unsettling events in their new environment. Thrown into a totally different environment, forced to study in a language neither knew, they persevered and succeeded. Both graduated with degrees in engineering. To tell their challenging experiences — from the humorous to the sad to the inspiring — in the New World would fill more than one article.
Go back a little further in time — to World War II and the saga of the most illustrious Hungarian-American in Memphis begins. Paul Penczner could not have foreseen his future when he became a prisoner of war of the United States Army in 1944. His unit of the Hungarian Army had been ordered to move to the eastern front; then the order was cancelled. Once again the order came: go to the eastern front. This time a professional soldier needing the experience of command came to Paul Penczner and asked to take his place. Finally called into battle, Paul Penczner went west, was injured, and taken prisoner by the Americans. In prison camp in Germany, he began sketching. Soon he had an appointments secretary arranging sittings for portraits. In time an American soldier asked his family back home in Tennessee to sponsor Paul Penczner's entry into the United States and in 1951 he and his new wife traveled to the United States and on to Memphis since they were required to live for one year in the sponsor's home state.
Paul Penczner's early life had not been easy either. Born in 1916 in the small town of Jaszfenyszaru, Paul lost his mother at the age of four. His father died when he was only eleven. He then spent eight years in an orphanage. He continued art training at the Commercial Art Academy in Budapest. When World War II began, he was serving in the military. And the next step took him to the western front and his imprisonment by the U.S. Army.
Paul met his future wife, Jolanda, in postwar Germany. She too was a displaced person, separated from her parents in what became East Germany. Her knowledge of English helped her find a job with the American Army. When the Iron Curtain closed down East Germany, an Army captain smuggled her into West Germany defying Russian orders forbidding German nationals from leaving. In Friedberg, she met and married Paul Penczner. Arriving in Memphis, Tennessee, in the heat of the summer, they had a few dollars and more paintings. Jolanda worked as a secretary and Paul started portrait painting and instructing in art. Eventually, he set up his own studio and art school.
Paul Penczner's portraits are in the boardrooms of universities and corporations around the United States. He also painted personal portraits on request. Portraiture helped him earn a living, but it was never just a job. Here is his description of portrait painting: "Every face has something beautiful in it. [...] I paint the eyes always so they look back at you, and follow you. I find the character in the eyes. I do not paint photographs — but the soul of a person." (Memphis Commercial Appeal, September 9, 1951)
His work is by no means limited to portraits, however. An observer might follow the painters life by reviewing his paintings. One of the most haunting is the "Refugee Rabbi", painted on a piece of canvas torn from the tent the artist used for living quarters while a prisoner of war. A 1956 work was entitled "Between two Countries". In time he went on to paint nostalgic scenes of old Memphis and the changing landscapes and once he could return to Hungary added paintings from there also. Paul Penczner has painted many other subjects and used different techniques through his long and distinguished career. In 1984 an oil graphic painting, "The Holy Dollar", was awarded Best of Show by the New York Times art critic, John Canada. In 1989, Pope John Paul II accepted his "Jesus Christ and the Twelve Apostles." These pen-and-ink drawings are in the Vatican's permanent art collection. He has paintings in other collections also, such as the estate of Sir Winston Churchill, Florida State University and the University of Missouri. Mr. Penczner has exhibited at the Smithonian Institution and the El Delgado Museum in New Orleans. The Philadelphia Academy of Fine Arts not only exhibited his paintings but also used his slides for teaching art students. In 1995, the City of Memphis officially recognized this famous artist proclaiming June 15, 1995, as "Paul Penczner Day." This distinguished artist deserves recognition not only in Memphis, Tennessee, and the United States, but also in his birthplace of Hungary, for it was in his childhood and youth that he developed the talent and the character that resulted in his successful career and life.
This brief account probably exludes more people than it includes, but these are a representative few.
Bette B. Tilly
Memphis/Shelby County Public Library. Memphis, Tennessee
Memphis Commercial Appeal
Memphis Press Scimitar
Fulbright Visitors— 1997/2 (18) [up]
On Friday, October 3, approximately two dozen American awardees of Fulbright fellowships to Hungary visited the public library of Szeged and were introduced to the Vasvary Collection while at the library by the curator of the collection, Maria Korasz, and Professor Csillag, director of American Studies at the local teachers college in Szeged. These Fulbright awardees are from many parts of the United States and serve in several capacities in Hungary. Some are high school teachers (two are teaching now at Deak Ferenc Bilingual High School in Szeged, some are graduate students studying in Hungary at several universities, and some are teachers at various colleges and universities in Hungary, both in Budapest and in the outlying regions.
The Vasvary Collection was of special interest to Dr. James Findlay, currently the Fulbright Laszlo Orszagh Distinguished Chair in American Studies at Kossuth Lajos University in Debrecen. Professor Findlay is a specialist in American religious history, and will be teaching a graduate seminar in that subject to Ph.D. students at Kossuth Lajos next spring. As a part of that seminar Professor Findlay will utilize the archival records of the Reformed Church of Hungary, both in Budapest and in Debrecen, which reveal much about Hungarian immigration to the United States and the church's role in influencing and shaping that migration, especially at the beginning of the twentieth century. Thus the Hungarian-American materials which form the core of the Vasvary Collection interested him greatly. He may well return to Szeged later to examine the collection in greater detail, and expressed his appreciation on October 3 for being able to view the materials for the first time. The presence of Ms. Korasz and Dr. Csillag certainly facilitated Dr. Findlay's visit, as well as that of the other Fulbrighters.
Governor Wilson Meets Multicultural America: The Ethnic Dimensions of the 1912Presidential Election Campaign 1998/2 [up]
The 1912 election is best remembered for the three-way race between William Howard Taft, Theodore Roosevelt, and Thomas Woodrow Wilson. A split in the ranks of the Republicans, a personal conflict between TR and Taft over matters related to environmental issues, opened the way for Wilson to the White House. Wilson then was a practically unknown Democrat, the governor of New Jersey, with very limited political experience. Wilson's 1912 campaign has been discussed by historians and political scientists alike, but its ethnic dimension has received very little attention so far – probably because the main theme of his campaign was the New Freedom, a government reform package intended to round up progressive reforms in the country.(1) The aim of the present talk is to evaluate the ethnic dimension of the campaign and point out its long-term effects of Wilson's conduct as US president.
In late January 1912 most Americans were surprised when the Hearst papers printed an attack on one of the Democratic candidates, Thomas Woodrow Wilson. The crust of the attack was that Wilson disliked the new immigrants from Southern and Eastern Europe, and described them as less desirable than the Chinese for his country. Hearst's men used a book that Wilson authored a decade before: the fifth (!) volume of his A History of the American People. In it the would-be president explained in no uncertain words what he thought of Italian, Polish and Hungarian immigrants, by calling them "men out of the ranks where there was neither skill nor energy, nor any initiative [or] quick intelligence. It seemed to him that the countries of Southern and Eastern Europe "were disburdening themselves of the more sordid and hapless elements of their population," and sending them across the Atlantic to America. He thought that
the Chinese were more desired, as workmen if not as citizens, than most of the coarse crew that came crowding in every year at the eastern ports. They had, no doubt, many an unsavory habit, bred unwholesome squalor in the crowded quarters where they most abounded in the western seaports...; but it was their skill, their intelligence, their hardy power of labor, their knack at succeeding and driving duller rivals out, rather than their alien habits, that made them feared and hated... The unlikely fellows who came in at the eastern ports were tolerated because they usurped no place but the very lowest in the scale of labor.(2)
Interestingly, the Hearst papers dug up these quotes not because they supported Taft or Roosevelt, but because they favored another Democrat, Champ Clark, then Speaker of the House of Representatives, for the job. A New York Times article went as far as to claim that Wilson did not have a single good word for any immigrant or minority group. And Wilson was indeed a nativist, one may even say that he had a WASP superiority complex, and these people were anything but WASP. However, he rightly claimed that the Hearst papers were "misrepresenting" him. Here was an issue he had to deal with in a way not to alienate people either with strong nativist tendencies or of Southern and East European stock.
The first protest came on the very day the Hearst papers cited Wilson extensively: on January 29 Agostino De Biasi, the editor of a New York-based Italian paper, politely questioned the Democratic candidate about his statements about the Italians. Wilson's reply, dated February 7, an indication of the fact that he did not take the challenge very seriously and was in no rush to answer the protests, initiated the logical themes of all his future responses: that the whole piece must be read together, and that "I yield to no one in my ardent admiration for the great people of Italy"(3) – and of course of Poland and Hungary, too.
On February 2 Francis Ignatius Drobinski, an unidentified Polish activist, also challenged Wilson, who went as far as to have his reply made public by allowing the New York American to publish it on March 25.(4) And this was not his first public reply to his attackers: two weeks before he had explained to John Arthur Aylward of Wisconsin what he really meant to say:
All that I commented upon was the undoubted fact that during the years of which I speak some of the baser elements out of these nations – elements such as might have come out of any of the nations of the world – had been brought in undesirable numbers into our ports... [T]he class to which I refer in my history is not the intelligent, liberty-loving class which came of its own volition, seeking a home and a land of freedom. I refer to the class of laborers which was brought here under pauper labor contracts... This vicious practice became so offensive and dangerous that Congress, yielding to a strong demand from the laboring classes which included Hungarians, Italians and Poles alike, passed a stringent law against the abuse.(5)
In yet another reply made public Wilson explained the "Chinese connection" to Nicholas L. Piotrowski, then city attorney of Chicago, whom he personally knew:
It was, of course, never in my mind to compare the normal immigrant from Europe with the Chinese laborer. Indeed I had no discrimination in mind which involved anything more than to call attention to the fact that whatever might be the merits of the question as to the admission of Chinese into this country from the point of view of general public policy, the labor of the Chinese had been intelligent and extremely useful in many fields which they had been permitted to enter.(6)
The Hungarians were quick to join the anti-Wilson campaign. On February 3 Marcus Braun, the president of the Hungarian Republican Club of New York and a personal acquaintance of TR's, wrote an open letter to Wilson. Braun challenged the candidate on his views and invited him to a public meeting of Hungarians that was to be held in the Webster Hall, New York City, on February 11. Wilson replied four days later and politely turned down the invitation, claiming that he would be away on a western tour at that time. He echoed his earlier statement made to De Biasi that he was being misrepresented, and added:
I pride myself on knowing something of the great history of Hungary; that history displays a struggle for liberty which all the world must admire and applaud. I know as well as any man can know what elements of strength and of energy the Hungar-an people have contributed to the variety and richness of the American people... If I have at any time deplored certain elements that have come to us in our later immigration, I count myself very unfortunate if I have been so awkward in my way of expressing what I had to say as to bring injustice to a people whom I admire and respect.
The Hungarian meeting was held anyway in Wilson's absence and it passed a resolution to publicly protest against the Democratic candidate's statements, and to ask him to withdraw those statements. Braun was entrusted to communicate the resolution to the governor's mansion at Sea Girt, New Jersey.(7)
One might wonder why Wilson took these protests seriously enough to try to annul them in public. The answer lies in the fact that one of the first attackers was Congressman George Fred Williams of Massachusetts. He described the passages in question as "Toryism of the blackest type," and as "not a history of the American people but a history of Woodrow Wilson's admiration for everything which the radical democracy now seeks to change, and a series of sneers and insults to every class of men who have sought to alleviate the injustices of capitalism." He also condemned Wilson for taking funds from Carnegie, funds that were "steeped in the human blood of Carnegie's workers, shot down by his hired Pinkertons, while struggling for a decent wage out of the hundreds of millions which their labor was rolling into the Carnegie coffers." It is hardly surprising that the Williams attack caused a minor stir in the Wilson camp and explains why the future president was so eager to have his replies printed by the various papers all over the States.(8)
Letters of protest continued to flood Wilson's Sea Girt mansion until the eve of the Democratic National Convention and Wilson had to spend invaluable campaign time meeting Italian, Hungarian and Polish representatives and answering their letters. In attempt to terminate the debate Wilson granted an ad hoc interview to Géza Kende, the assistant editor of the Amerikai Magyar Népszava, one of two leading Hungarian dailies of the time. Kende took the initiative – and the train – to Sea Girt to the "Little White House" to ask the one question that was a major concern for all Hungarian voters: What did Wilson mean by his reference to the Hungarians? This interview was of great significance since most Hungarian immigrants had problems reading even in Hungarian, so it was unlikely that Wilson's public replies had reached them. Wilson chatted with Kende for some time and then gave him the following statement for publication:
I believe in the reasonable restriction of immigration but not in any restriction which will exclude from the country honest and industrious men who are seeking what America has always offered, an asylum for those who seek a free field. The whole question is a very difficult one but, I think, can be solved with justice and generosity. Any one [sic] who has the least knowledge of Hungarian history must feel that stock to have proved itself fit for liberty and opportunity.
He assured Kende "that he would take up very fully the question of immigration either in his speech of accepting the nomination, or in a speech delivered later." Wilson's conduct in this matter provides the ground for suspicion that perhaps he suggested to Konta to share the statement and his impressions of the visit with a journalist of the New York Times. All in all, an account of the meeting was published the next day, July 23, by both the Amerikai Magyar Népszava and the New York Times, and both carried the statement cited above.(9) And when Wilson won the Democratic nomination, he did not speak of immigration in his acceptance speech...
Kende's trip to Sea Girt indicates that not all Hungarians were against Wilson. It was actually Kende's boss, Géza D. Berkó, who sent him to meet the candidate. Wilson received some additional – and welcome – support from Mór Cukor, the president of the New York Democratic Club, and from other prominent Hungarians including Edmund Gallauner and Alexander Konta.
Wilson made good on his promise to Kende by discussing immigration and immigrants in the opening address of his Connecticut state campaign on September 25. He compared the Golden Bull of Hungary and the Magna Charta of England and claimed of the latter that Americans looked upon it as the source of their constitutional liberties. This comparison was commonplace at the time, not least because Count Albert Apponyi reiterated it on several occasions when he spoke in America in 1904 and 1911. Still, Wilson presented the idea with a characteristic Wilsonian twist, a twist that would trigger yet another wave of protest from the Hungarians: "But Hungary never could get a foothold for the execution of those principles until she began to send eager multitudes across the ocean to find in America what they had vainly hoped for in Hungary."(10) Luckily for Wilson, protests mattered but little during the closing stages of the campaign when the focus of attention was firmly set on the three-way race between himself, Taft and Roosevelt, and on the possible ways of continuing progressive reform.
Even a brief overview of the ethnic dimension of the 1912 election campaign clearly highlights Wilson's WASP superiority complex and his tendency of sometimes being pathetic and paying little attention to detail. Wilson was not anti-Hungarian, anti-Polish or anti-Italian, he just painted a picture based upon contemporary stereotypes of these immigrants, which badly backfired on him during his presidential election campaign. His handling of the crisis and the attacks at the same time indicate that he had the political skills to defuse a potentially explosive issue. Furthermore, he was able to win supporters for himself in the process by not taking revenge on his attackers and by cultivating the contacts with people who sided with him.
The one question left is whether Wilson learnt from the mistakes of 1902 and 1912 or not. The answer is, yes. On the one hand as wartime president of the United States he managed to maintain ethnic peace at home despite the fact that his country was experimenting with global war for the first time and that it held the largest groups of enemy aliens of all the allies. For example in December 1917, when the U.S. declared war on Austria-Hungary, he exempted former Austro-Hungarian subjects from military service in the U.S. Army. On the other hand Wilson maintained his contacts with the Hungarians who helped him in 1912 and called on Konta and Gallauner to provide similar services in 1916, when he ran for reelection. Later in 1918 Konta was asked to head the American-Hungarian Loyalty League under the auspices of the Committee on Public Information, Wilson's own department of propaganda during the war. Clearly, the lessons of 1921 were well learnt, which shows that Wilson was a more down-to-earth politician than some of his biographers like to picture him.(11)