|Regions with significant populations|
|Ohio, New York, California, Pennsylvania, Texas, New Jersey, Michigan, Florida|
|English (American English dialects), Hungarian, and Yiddish|
|Roman Catholicism, Protestantism, Judaism, Greek Catholicism|
|Related ethnic groups|
|Hungarians, Székely Hungarians, Csángó Hungarians, European Americans|
Hungarian Americans (Hungarian: amerikai magyarok) are Americans of Hungarian descent. There have been several waves of substantial Hungarian immigration, notably about 650,000-700,000 ethnic Hungarians leaving during the four decades leading up to World War I, the majority of whom were unskilled laborers.
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 principle waves of emigration.
Agoston Haraszthy, who settled in Wisconsin in 1840, was the first Hungarian to settle permanently in the United States and the second Hungarian to write a book about the United States in his native language. 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."
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. 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.
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. The majority of the 2 million immigrants from the Kingdom of Hungary were not ethnic Hungarians but belonged to the Slavic, Romanian or German minorities.
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 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. 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.
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% of the total population claimed Hungarian as their ancestry. Other places with over 10% are Fairport Harbor, Ohio (14.1%) and West Pike Run Township, Pennsylvania (11.7%). 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.
Notable Hungarian Americans
In entertainment, Szőke Szakáll, known as S.Z. Sakall, was a Hungarian 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. Actress Vilma Bánky starred in numerous silent films opposite Hollywood legends such as Rudolph Valentino and Ronald Colman. Actress Drew Barrymore's mother is Hungarian. 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 Weismuller, 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 'The 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 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 by the Queen of England and received the Presidential Medal of Freedom. In rock, Tommy Ramone co-founded the legendary punk band The Ramones.
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. Arena Football original Rich Salzer, who is also a musician. 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.
In physics, Edward Teller acquired the title of "the father of the hydrogen bomb," for his work in the Manhattan Project. His colleague on the project, physicist Leó Szilárd conceived the idea of a nuclear chain reaction and helped implement it. 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. Eugene Wigner laid the foundation for several important theories pertaining to the atomic nucleus, and won the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1963. 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 oversaw the creation of Microsoft Office and invented the concept of "intentional programming." Leslie L. Vadász and Andrew Grove were key leaders in the history of the Intel Corporation.
In biology and chemistry, Albert Szent-Györgyi 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 technics for mathematical calculations, of which the Lanczos algorithm and Lanczos approximation are named after him. John von Neumann, acknowledged as one of the foremost mathematicians 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; he still speaks some Hungarian today. Peter R. Orszag, the Director of the Office of Management and Budget under President Obama has Hungarian roots. 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 famous for helping create "yellow journalism" and posthumously establishing the Pulitzer Prizes. Csaba Csere 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 are notable Hungarian Americans.
Notable Hungarian Americans (fictional)
- S.Z. Sakall played Hungarian chef Felix Bassenak in Christmas in Connecticut and made famous the expression "everything is hunky dunky."
- Lisa Douglas (née Gronyitz), immigrant Hungarian wife of Oliver Wendell Douglas, protagonist of 1960s US CBS situation comedy series Green Acres.
- Three of the four main characters in Jim Jarmusch's award-winning 1984 film Stranger Than Paradise were Hungarian-Americans (one was a recent Hungarian emigre).
- Scot Harvath, the protagonist in many works by best-selling author Brad Thor.
- Hannah Horvath, protagonist of the contemporary HBO comedy-drama series Girls.
- The characters Helga Pataki, Robert (Bob) Pataki and Olga Pataki from the cartoon Hey Arnold! are believed to be of Hungarian descent due to their surnames.
Hungarian Reformed Church. Taken in Homestead, Pennsylvania
Saint Elisabeth of Hungary Church in Smethport, Pennsylvania
The First Church of Christ, Unitarian of Lancaster, Massachusetts
Birmingham Historic District, Roughly bounded by Genesee, York, Esther, Magyar, Consaul, and the Conrail tracks in Toledo, Ohio
- Hungarian Canadians
- Hungarian diaspora
- Hungarian Ohioans
- History of the Hungarian Americans in Metro Detroit
- Hyphenated American
- List of Hungarian Americans
- Steven Béla Várdy, "Hungarian immigrants" (immigrationtounitedstates.org)
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- 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.
- Steven Béla Vardy, "Lajos Kossuth and the Slavery Question in America," East European Quarterly (2005) 39#4 pp 449-464.
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- Vida, István Kornél. Hungarian Émigrés in the American Civil War: A History and Biographical Dictionary (Jefferson, NC: McFarland, 2012) 256 pp.