Hungarian Americans

Last updated
Hungarian Americans
amerikai magyarok
Total population
1,763,081 - 4,000,000
0.7%-1.75% of the US population (2013)
Regions with significant populations
Ohio, New York, California, Pennsylvania, Texas, New Jersey, Michigan, Florida
American English, Hungarian, Yiddish, Romani
Roman Catholicism, Protestantism (Hungarian Reformed Church), Judaism, Greek Catholicism, Eastern Orthodoxy
Related ethnic groups
Hungarian Canadians, European Americans

Hungarian Americans (Hungarian: amerikai magyarok) are Americans of Hungarian descent. Estimates of the number of Hungarian Americans and the their descendants in the United States exceed 4 million, but also include the large number of ethnic Hungarian immigrants most of whom have emigrated from Romania, Czechoslovakia, or the former Yugoslavia.

Hungarian language language spoken in and around Hungary

Hungarian is a Finno-Ugric language spoken in Hungary and parts of several neighbouring countries. It is the official language of Hungary and one of the 24 official languages of the European Union. Outside Hungary it is also spoken by communities of Hungarians in the countries that today make up Slovakia, western Ukraine (Subcarpathia), central and western Romania (Transylvania), northern Serbia (Vojvodina), northern Croatia and northern Slovenia. It is also spoken by Hungarian diaspora communities worldwide, especially in North America and Israel. Like Finnish and Estonian, Hungarian belongs to the Uralic language family. With 13 million speakers, it is the family's largest member by number of speakers.

United States Federal republic in North America

The United States of America (USA), commonly known as the United States or America, is a country composed of 50 states, a federal district, five major self-governing territories, and various possessions. At 3.8 million square miles, the United States is the world's third or fourth largest country by total area and is slightly smaller than the entire continent of Europe's 3.9 million square miles. With a population of over 327 million people, the U.S. is the third most populous country. The capital is Washington, D.C., and the largest city by population is New York City. Forty-eight states and the capital's federal district are contiguous in North America between Canada and Mexico. The State of Alaska is in the northwest corner of North America, bordered by Canada to the east and across the Bering Strait from Russia to the west. The State of Hawaii is an archipelago in the mid-Pacific Ocean. The U.S. territories are scattered about the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea, stretching across nine official time zones. The extremely diverse geography, climate, and wildlife of the United States make it one of the world's 17 megadiverse countries.



In 1583, a Hungarian poet Stephanus Parmenius, joined Humphrey Gilbert's expedition to North America with the intention of writing a chronicle of the voyage and its discoveries. Parmenius reached Newfoundland, likely becoming the first Hungarian in the New World.

Stephanus Parmenius was a Hungarian scholar and Humanist poet who traveled to Oxford and became involved in the English exploration of the New World. He joined Humphrey Gilbert's expedition to North America with the intention of writing a chronicle of the voyage and its discoveries. Parmenius reached Newfoundland, likely becoming the first Hungarian in the New World. However, he died on the return voyage in 1583 when his ship was lost at sea.

Humphrey Gilbert English explorer, politician and soldier

Sir Humphrey Gilbert of Compton in the parish of Marldon and of Greenway in the parish of Churston Ferrers, both in Devon, England, was an adventurer, explorer, member of parliament and soldier who served during the reign of Queen Elizabeth I and was a pioneer of the English colonial empire in North America and the Plantations of Ireland. He was a uterine half-brother of Sir Walter Raleigh and a cousin of Sir Richard Grenville.

Newfoundland (island) Island portion of Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada

Newfoundland is a large Canadian island off the east coast of the North American mainland, and the most populous part of the Canadian province of Newfoundland and Labrador. It has 29 percent of the province's land area. The island is separated from the Labrador Peninsula by the Strait of Belle Isle and from Cape Breton Island by the Cabot Strait. It blocks the mouth of the Saint Lawrence River, creating the Gulf of Saint Lawrence, the world's largest estuary. Newfoundland's nearest neighbour is the French overseas community of Saint-Pierre and Miquelon.

Hungarians have long settled in the New World, such as Michael de Kovats, the founder of United States Cavalry, active in the American Revolution. Hungarians have maintained a constant state of emigration to the United States since then; however, they are best known for three principal waves of emigration.

United States Cavalry military branch

The United States Cavalry, or U.S. Cavalry, was the designation of the mounted force of the United States Army from the late 18th to the early 20th centuries. The Cavalry branch became the Armor branch with tanks in 1950, but the term "Cavalry" such as "armored cavalry" remains in use in the U.S. Army for mounted reconnaissance, surveillance, and target acquisition (RSTA) units based on their parent Combat Arms Regimental System (CARS) regiment. Cavalry is also used in the name of the 1st Cavalry Division for heraldic/lineage/historical purposes. Some combined arms battalions are designated as armor formations, while others are designated as infantry organizations. These "branch" designations are again, heraldic/lineage/historical titles derived from the CARS regiments to which the battalions are assigned.

American Revolution Colonial revolt in which the Thirteen Colonies won independence from Great Britain

The American Revolution was a colonial revolt that took place between 1765 and 1783. The American Patriots in the Thirteen Colonies won independence from Great Britain, becoming the United States of America. They defeated the British in the American Revolutionary War (1775–1783) in alliance with France and others.

St. Stephen Hungarian Church in Birmingham, Toledo, Ohio Sign of Magyar street and St Stephen Hungarian Church 01.JPG
St. Stephen Hungarian Church in Birmingham, Toledo, Ohio

Agoston Haraszthy, who settled in Wisconsin in 1840, was the first Hungarian to settle permanently in the United States [1] and the second Hungarian to write a book about the United States in his native language. [2] After he moved to California in the Gold Rush of 1849, Haraszthy founded the Buena Vista Vineyards in Sonoma (now Buena Vista Carneros) and imported more than 100,000 European vine cuttings for the use of California winemakers. He is widely remembered today as the "Father of California Viticulture" or the "Father of Modern Winemaking in California." [3]

Agoston Haraszthy first winemaker in California

Agoston Haraszthy was a Hungarian-American nobleman, adventurer, traveler, writer, town-builder, and pioneer winemaker in Wisconsin and California, often referred to as the "Father of California Viticulture," or the "Father of Modern Winemaking in California". One of the first men to plant vineyards in Wisconsin, he was the founder of the Buena Vista Winery in Sonoma, California, and an early writer on California wine and viticulture.

Wisconsin A north-central state of the United States of America

Wisconsin is a U.S. state located in the north-central United States, in the Midwest and Great Lakes regions. It is bordered by Minnesota to the west, Iowa to the southwest, Illinois to the south, Lake Michigan to the east, Michigan to the northeast, and Lake Superior to the north. Wisconsin is the 23rd largest state by total area and the 20th most populous. The state capital is Madison, and its largest city is Milwaukee, which is located on the western shore of Lake Michigan. The state is divided into 72 counties.

Sonoma, California City in California, United States

Sonoma is a city in Sonoma County's Sonoma Valley, in California's Wine Country. Today, Sonoma is a center of California's wine industry in the Sonoma Valley AVA Appellation. Sonoma is similarly known as the home of the Sonoma International Film Festival and for its historic town plaza, a remnant of the town's Mexican colonial past. Sonoma's population was 10,648 as of the 2010 census, while the Sonoma urban area had a population of 32,678.

A statue Lajos Kossuth stands on 113th and Riverside Drive in Manhattan, New York City Lajos-Kossuth-New-York-City.png
A statue Lajos Kossuth stands on 113th and Riverside Drive in Manhattan, New York City

The first large wave of emigration from Hungary to the United States occurred in 1849-1850, when the so-called "Forty-Eighters" fled from retribution by Austrian authorities after the defeat of the Hungarian Revolution of 1848. Lajos Kossuth gave a seven-month speaking tour of the US in 1851 and 1852 to great acclaim as a champion of liberty, thereby unleashing a brief outburst of pro-Hungarian emotions. He left embittered because his refusal to oppose slavery alienated his natural constituency, and his long-term impact was minimal. [4] By 1860, 2,710 Hungarians lived in the US, and at least 99 of them fought in the Civil War. Their motivations were not so much antislavery as a belief in democracy, a taste for adventure, validation of their military credentials, and solidarity with their American neighbors. [5]

Hungarian Revolution of 1848 European Revolution of 1848

The Hungarian Revolution of 1848 was one of the many European Revolutions of 1848 and closely linked to other revolutions of 1848 in the Habsburg areas. The revolution in the Kingdom of Hungary grew into a war for independence from the Austrian Empire, ruled by the Habsburg dynasty.

Lajos Kossuth Hungarian politician and orator

Lajos Kossuth de Udvard et Kossuthfalva 19 September 1802 – 20 March 1894) was a Hungarian nobleman, lawyer, journalist, politician, statesman and Governor-President of the Kingdom of Hungary during the revolution of 1848–49.

St. Stephen Hungarian Roman Catholic Church in Toledo, Ohio St. Stephen Hungarian Church Toledo.jpg
St. Stephen Hungarian Roman Catholic Church in Toledo, Ohio

During the last decades of the 19th century and the early decades of the 20th century, the United States saw an immigration boom primarily of Southern and Eastern Europeans, among them approximately 650,000-700,000 ethnic Hungarian speakers. Unlike the educated classes who formed the core of the 1849 wave, the second Hungarian wave was mostly poor and uneducated immigrants seeking a better life in America.

Hungarian Reformed Church Fairport Harbor, Ohio Hungarian Reformed Church Fairport Harbor.jpg
Hungarian Reformed Church Fairport Harbor, Ohio

An increase of immigration from Hungary was also observed after World War II and The Holocaust, a significant percentage of whom were Jewish.

World War II 1939–1945 global war

World War II, also known as the Second World War, was a global war that lasted from 1939 to 1945. The vast majority of the world's countries—including all the great powers—eventually formed two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis. A state of total war emerged, directly involving more than 100 million people from over 30 countries. The major participants threw their entire economic, industrial, and scientific capabilities behind the war effort, blurring the distinction between civilian and military resources. World War II was the deadliest conflict in human history, marked by 50 to 85 million fatalities, most of whom were civilians in the Soviet Union and China. It included massacres, the genocide of the Holocaust, strategic bombing, premeditated death from starvation and disease, and the only use of nuclear weapons in war.

The Holocaust Genocide of the European Jews by Nazi Germany and other groups

The Holocaust, also known as the Shoah, was a genocide during World War II in which Nazi Germany, aided by local collaborators, systematically murdered some six million European Jews—around two-thirds of the Jewish population of Europe—between 1941 and 1945. Jews were targeted for extermination as part of a larger event during the Holocaust era, in which Germany and its collaborators persecuted and murdered other groups, including Slavs, the Roma, the "incurably sick", political and religious dissenters such as communists and Jehovah's Witnesses, and gay men. Taking into account all the victims of Nazi persecution, the death toll rises to over 17 million.

The circumstances of the third wave of emigration had much in common with the first wave. In 1956, Hungary was again under the power of a foreign state, this time the Soviet Union, and again, Hungarians rose up in revolution. Like the 1848 revolution, the 1956 Hungarian Revolution failed and led to the emigration of 200,000 "56-ers" fleeing persecution after the revolution, 40,000 of whom found their way to the United States.

There was a renewed economic migration after the end of communism in Hungary during the 1990s to 2000s.


According to the 2010 US Census, there were 1,563,081 [6] persons of Hungarian ancestry in the United States as of 2006, with − according to 2000 census data − 1,398,724 of them indicating Hungarian as their first ancestry. [7] Estimates of the number of Hungarian Americans in the United States exceed 4 million, but also include the large number of ethnic Hungarian immigrants most of whom have emigrated from Romania, Czechoslovakia, or the former Yugoslavia.

Hungarian immigrants celebrating the sunflower harvest in Cleveland, 1913. Hungarian Immigrants Cleveland.jpg
Hungarian immigrants celebrating the sunflower harvest in Cleveland, 1913.

The states with the largest Hungarian American populations include: [8] [9]

StatePopulation [8]
Ohio 203,417
New York157,863
New Jersey115,615

The highest percentage of Hungarian Americans in any American town, village or city is in Kiryas Joel, New York (the great majority of its residents are Hasidic Jews belonging to the Satmar Hasidic dynasty, which originated in Hungary) where 18.9% [10] of the total population claimed Hungarian as their ancestry. Other places with over 10% are Fairport Harbor, Ohio (14.1%) [11] and West Pike Run Township, Pennsylvania (11.7% [12] ). About one hundred other municipalities have more than 5% of Hungarian-American residents, but the highest number of Hungarian Americans living in the same place is in New York City. Wallingford, Connecticut, has a vibrant Hungarian-American Club and community. Columbus has a Hungarian American neighborhood named Hungarian Village.

Distribution of Hungarian Americans according to the 2000 census. Hungarian1346.gif
Distribution of Hungarian Americans according to the 2000 census.

Hungarian-born population

Hungarian-born population in the US since 2010: [13]


Notable people

In entertainment, Szőke Szakáll, known as S. Z. Sakall, was a Hungarian-Jewish film character actor. He was in many films including In the Good Old Summertime , Lullaby of Broadway , Christmas in Connecticut and Casablanca in which he played Carl, the head waiter. The comic style of Ernie Kovacs influenced numerous television comedy programs for years to come. The Fox Film Corporation was formed by William Fox. Comedian, Actor and Producer Louis C.K (born Louis Székely) is a US-Mexican dual citizen. His grandfather, Géza Székely Schweiger, immigrated to Mexico with his family from Hungary. Actress Vilma Bánky starred in numerous silent films opposite Hollywood legends such as Rudolph Valentino and Ronald Colman. Actor Adrien Brody's mother was Hungarian. Actress Rachel Weisz's father was Hungarian inventor George Weisz. Actress Drew Barrymore's mother is Hungarian. [14] Actor Tony Curtis has been in over 100 films, including his iconic roles in Some Like It Hot and The Defiant Ones . Actress Jessica Szohr of Gossip Girl is of partial Hungarian descent. Actor Peter Lorre became famous after his role as a murderer in Fritz Lang's M and went on to play many antagonistic villain roles. Legendary actor Béla Lugosi played Count Dracula in the stage version and subsequent film of Bram Stoker's classic. Academy Award winner Paul Lukas is perhaps best remembered his acclaimed role in the film Watch on the Rhine for his Professor Aronnax in Walt Disney's classic 1954 film version of Jules Verne's Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea . Johnny Weissmuller, who formed Tarzan . Actress Ilona Massey was frequently billed as "the new Dietrich" and famously played the role of a femme fatale in Love Happy . Sex symbol Zsa Zsa Gabor was perhaps better known for her status as a socialite and nine marriages than her stint as an actress. Her younger sister Eva Gabor was known for her role on the television show Green Acres , and her older sister Magda Gabor famously helped save the lives of 240 Jewish families during the Second World War because of her relationship with a Portuguese ambassador. Harry Houdini, considered by many to be the greatest magician of all time, was an expert escapologist, introducing it as an art form. He was also a major critic and investigator of Spiritualists.

In filmmaking, Vilmos Zsigmond was nominated for four Academy Awards for Cinematography (won the Oscar for Close Encounters of the Third Kind ). Laszlo Kovacs, most famous for his work on Easy Rider and Five Easy Pieces , won three Lifetime Achievement Awards for cinematography. Ernest Laszlo, who worked on over 60 films, won an Academy Award for cinematography for 1965's Ship of Fools . Andrew Laszlo, worked first in television (Ed Sullivan's Beatles at Shea Stadium and the miniseries Shogun with Richard Chamberlain) and made over 30 films including the cult classic The Warriors .

Director Frank Darabont, nominated for the Academy Award for Best Director three times, is most popular for Stephen King adaptations, including The Shawshank Redemption , ranked among audience polls as one of the greatest films of all time. Michael Curtiz was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Directing four times, finally winning for Casablanca , considered by many critic polls to be one of the greatest films ever made. George Cukor, who was of Jewish descent, won an Academy Award for Best Director for My Fair Lady . King Vidor was nominated for the same Academy Award five times. Independent directors and the films that have brought them acclaim include Nimród Antal for his cult film Kontroll ; Peter Medak, infamous for his B-movies; and László Benedek for the Golden Globe Award-winning film rendition of Death of a Salesman .

Joe Eszterhas wrote the screenplay for Basic Instinct , dubbed a cult classic. Andrew G. Vajna produced the Die Hard , Rambo and The Terminator sequels. Ladislas Farago wrote numerous books on World War II espionage, including a screenplay for the film Tora! Tora! Tora! . Animator Gábor Csupó created the Rugrats series, an increasingly popular children's show.

Animator George Pal was known for producing landmark science fiction films, considered to be first to introduce the genre to film. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences founded the "George Pal Lecture on Fantasy in Film" series in his memory.

In music, Miklós Rózsa composed numerous film scores; perhaps his most recognizable score was for the 1959 epic Ben-Hur . In classical music, Eugene Ormandy, music director for the Philadelphia Orchestra, was appointed an honorary Knight Command of The Order of the British Empire [ citation needed ] by the Queen of England and received the Presidential Medal of Freedom. In rock, Tommy Ramone and Gene Simmons, both of Jewish descent, founded legendary bands The Ramones and Kiss respectively

In sports, Monica Seles won nine Grand Slam singles titles and is the former No. 1 professional tennis player in the world. Joe Namath is a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame, as Larry Csonka or Lou Groza, too. Notable players were the Gogolak brothers, especially Pete Gogolak, who invented the soccer style kicking. Famous coach was Don Shula. Former Mr. Universe Mickey Hargitay hit the spotlight when he married Jayne Mansfield. Olympic gymnastics coach Béla Károlyi coached nine Olympic champions, fifteen world champions, and six US champions. Al Hrabosky was a popular Major League Baseball player, nicknamed "the Mad Hungarian". And Joe Medwick was, also Charles Nagy. Gene Mako won four Grand Slam doubles titles in the 1930s. In volleyball, Karch Kiraly is the only person to have won Olympic gold medals (or indeed medals of any color) in both indoor and beach volleyball.

Jewish physicist Edward Teller [15] acquired the title of "the father of the hydrogen bomb," for his concept of a thermonuclear weapon that uses the energy of nuclear fusion. But he also worked in the Manhattan Project along with other Hungarian physicists like Eugene Wigner (who won the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1963 for his work on the discovery and application of fundamental symmetry principles of elementary particles) and Leó Szilárd. It was Szilárd who persuaded Albert Einstein to write his infamous letter to Franklin Roosevelt concerning atomic warfare. Theodore von Kármán was responsible for a number of key theories in aeronautic and astronautics research and development. László Bíró made "biro" the ballpoint pen.

In computer science, John George Kemeny co-developed the BASIC programming language in 1964 with Thomas Eugene Kurtz. Computer software businessman Charles Simonyi [16] oversaw the creation of Microsoft Office and invented the concept of "intentional programming." Leslie L. Vadász and Andrew Grove [15] were key leaders in the history of the Intel Corporation.

In sociology, Thomas Szasz was a prominent figure in the antipsychiatry movement, as well as a vocal critic of state control over medicine.

In astronomy, Victor Szebehely became a leading figure in NASA's Apollo program.

In biology and chemistry, Albert Szent-Györgyi [15] won the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1937 for discovering the biological process of Vitamin C in the human body. Georg von Békésy won the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for his research on the mammalian ear. George Andrew Olah won the Nobel Prize in Chemistry for his research on carbocations, and later hydrocarbons and their applicability to ethanol fuel. Ernő László, a prominent dermatologist, found the Erno Laszlo Institute for cosmetic research. Andor Szentivanyi discovered "The Beta Adrenergic Theory of Asthma."

In mathematics, Paul Halmos contributed significantly to probability theory, statistics, and logic. László Lovász made pioneering developments in the study combinatorics, winning both the Wolf Prize and Knuth Prize in 1999. Cornelius Lanczos developed numerous techniques for mathematical calculations, of which the Lanczos algorithm and Lanczos approximation are named after him. Jewish mathematician John von Neumann, acknowledged as one of the foremost mathematicians [15] of the 20th century, contributed to a wide variety of fields, including computer science, economics, quantum theory, statistics, and hydrodynamics. Neumann's work on nuclear physics was influential in the Manhattan Project. The John von Neumann Theory Prize and the IEEE John von Neumann Medal are named in his honor. Peter Lax is a winner of the Wolf Prize in Mathematics and the Abel Prize known for his contributions in several mathematical fields.

In art, Bauhaus artist Marcel Breuer became known as one of the first modernists for his modular construction and simple forms. Another Bauhaus artist László Moholy-Nagy, highly influenced by Russian constructivism, helped introduce the movement to the United States; he was a strong advocate of the integration of technology and industry into the arts. Lajos Markos was a significant portrait artist, having created portraits for iconic celebrities such as John Wayne. Photographer Sylvia Plachy published several photobooks detailing her personal history in Central Europe.

In politics, Tom Lantos was a US Representative for San Francisco, being the only Holocaust survivor to serve in the US Congress. The father of former New York governor George Pataki is ethnic Hungarian; [17] he still speaks some Hungarian today. [17] Peter R. Orszag, the Director of the Office of Management and Budget under President Obama has Hungarian roots. [18] Besides US Representative Lantos there were other Hungarians in the Congress, like Ernest Istook, Joseph M. Gaydos, Eugene Jerome Hainer or Ernie Konnyu.

Others include famous Holocaust survivor Nobel Peace Prize winner Elie Wiesel known for his activism and for writing the critically acclaimed Night . Agoston Haraszthy, a famous traveller and writer, became known as the "Father of California Viticulture" and perhaps one of the most accomplished viticulturists in US history. Joseph Pulitzer, a journalist of Jewish descent famous for helping create "yellow journalism" and posthumously establishing the Pulitzer Prizes. Csaba Csere [19] was Editor-in-Chief of Car and Driver from 1993 to 2008. In the world of business, billionaire aircraft leasing, philanthropist Steven F. Udvar-Házy, billionaire-philanthropist-political activist George Soros, a Jewish Holocaust survivor, are notable Hungarian Americans. [15]

Fictional people

See also

Related Research Articles

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  2. Útazás Éjszakamerikáában (Travels in North America), Pest, 1846, 2d ed., Pest, 1850; McGinty, Strong Wine: The Life and Legend of Agoston Haraszthy, 101.
  3. Pinney, Thomas, A History of Wine in America (University of California Press, 1989), 269; McGinty, Strong Wine: The Life and Legend of Agoston Haraszthy, 1.
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  18. "From the Banks of the Danube to the Banks of the Potomac".
  19. "In Memory of the Original Road Warrior and a Car and Driver Institution - Column". Car and Driver . January 2008. Retrieved 2008-12-16.

Further reading