Hungarian Immigrant Lives in Connecticut, 1909-1922

Bridgeport is the largest Hungarian city in America.  .   .  .  here in Bridgeport, one out of every ten men is Hungarian.  .  .  . The Hungarians of this country have nowhere else more chance and hope for material as well for social welfare, than right here in Bridgeport.”

—Rev. Stephen F. Chernitzky, as quoted in the Bridgeport  Evening  Farmer, September 1, 1915.

Introduction

Hungarian Metal Workers hold meeting of 700 in July of 1919.

Bridgeport Evening Farmer, July 22, 1915

The precise number of those who emigrated from the Kingdom of Hungary, itself a part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, has always been difficult to calculate.  The Empire did not collect these statistics and the U.S. authorities were bewildered by the multi-ethnic character of the Hungarian migration.  They often assigned place of national origin to the newcomers in a haphazard way.  Magyars and Slovaks made up the largest percentage of the immigrants from Hungary, but Croats, Slovenes, Germans, and Ruthenians were among the number.  It is estimated that approximately one and a half million people from Hungary entered the United States between 1861 and 1913, with the vast majority coming after 1899.  At least a third of these remigrated to Hungary, returning when there was an economic downturn in the U.S., or when they had saved enough money to try to make a go of it back in Europe.

The vast majority of the remainder settled in the big industrial centers or mining towns in Ohio, Illinois, New York, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and West Virginia.  Nonetheless, Connecticut looms large in the national story of immigrants from Hungary.  The Ráckόczi Hungarian Aid Association was founded in Bridgeport in 1887 and the American Hungarian Immigrant Aid Society there in 1892. The historian Julianna Puskás says that Hungarian workers’ organizations were forming by 1896 in New Haven, Danbury, and Bridgeport (1982, p. 158).

In 1915, the Rev. Stephen F. Chernitzky, pastor of the Roman Catholic Church in the West End of Bridgeport, claimed that because one out of ten  residents of that industrial powerhouse were Hungarian, a percentage of the total population greater than that of other Hungarian immigrant settlements, “Bridgeport is America’s largest Hungarian center” (Bridgeport Evening Farmer, Sept. 1, 1915).  Immigrants from Hungary in Bridgeport and other Connecticut locations were Magyar and Slovak.  They founded Catholic and Protestant churches and Jewish synagogues, fraternal aid organizations, socialist workmen’s organizations, and eventually political clubs.  In some organizations, the various ethnic groupings joined together but other groups were based on what was perceived as specifically Magyar or Slovak interests.

Bridgeport was of national importance in Hungarian American life.  Opponents of the Hungarian monarchy often traveled to Bridgeport to solicit support for reform or independence.  Hungarian machinists in the city were central to the organization of a massive 1915 city wide strike of women workers that won an 8-hour day. During the buildup to World War I, the Hungarian Socialist Federation opposed the conflict as a war for profit (Pittsburgh Press, August 14, 1914), but they were a minority. Once the U.S. intervention was underway, most Hungarian organizations in Bridgeport and other cities participated in the mobilization efforts, with the various ethnicities dreaming of independent homelands coming with the peace settlement.  All of these many organizations and efforts are chronicled in surprising detail in the digitized Connecticut newspapers in Chronicling America.

 

Timeline of Events

 

  • 1867   Austro-Hungarian Compromise of 1867 leads to economic upheaval and migration
  • 1881   First Hungarian law to attempt to regulate emigration
  • 1892    Federation of Hungarian Fraternal Societies founded in Bridgeport, CT
  • 1896   Hungarian workers organizations form in Bridgeport, Danbury, and New Haven
  • 1903   Hungary enacts law to regulate emigration and develops American Action plan
  • 1904    Hungarian government gives monopoly on immigrant travel to Cunard Line
  • 1907    Peak year of Hungarian immigration to the United States
  • 1911   Count Albert Apponyi visits the U.S.; arouses controversy re: Magyarization policy
  • 1914   First World War begins in Europe
  • 1914   Count Mihály Károlyi, “successor to Kossuth,” visits Connecticut
  • 1915   Hungarian machinists in Connecticut organize women workers
  • 1917    U.S. enters the European war
  • 1917   U.S. immigration restricted with literacy tests, new taxes, and ban on anarchists
  • 1918    Central Powers defeated in World War I
  • 1918    Károlyi government formed in Hungary
  • 1919    Béla Kun ‘s Hungarian Soviet Republic begins and ends; Admiral Miklόs Horthy takes Hungarian state power.
  • 1920   Peace Treaty of Trianon makes Hungary an independent state but cedes approximately 2/3 of the Kingdom’s former territory and ½ of the pre-1918 population to neighboring states, inducing more migration to the U.S.
  • 1921   U.S. immigration restricted by Quota Act
  • 1924    U.S. immigration further restricted by Johnson-Reed Act

 

How to Search This Topic

To explore the topic of Hungarian immigrant lives in online Connecticut newspapers, go to http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/, click on the “Advanced Search” tab, select “Connecticut,” and enter a group of single-word terms in the box called “with ALL these words” and two, or more, word phrases in the box named “with the phrase.”  Hit search.

You can also try using a “proximity search” by entering terms in the box called “with the words” and then choosing just how close in the text these words should be by using the drop down menu to the right.

Useful search terms and combinations

  • Hungarian American
  • Magyar American
  • Magyar celebrations
  • Slovakian American
  • Hungarian Jews
  • Slavonians
  • Slovak American
  • Hungarian machinists
  • Hungarian strike
  • Hungarian education
  • Hungarian Americanization
  • Hungarian patriotic
  • Előre
  • Kossuth
  • St. Stephen’s Bridgeport
  • Hungarian Reformed
  • St. John Nepomucene
  • Rakoczy Aid
  • Rakoczi Aid

 

Sample Search Results

Mourning and Celebrations

“Big Celebration of Hungary’s War for Independence,” Bridgeport Evening Farmer, March 20, 1911, page 4, col. 4.  Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. Lib. of Congress. <http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn84022472/1911-03-20/ed-1/seq-4/>

“Count Karolyi Will Talk to Bridgeporters,” Bridgeport Evening Farmer, July 1, 1914, page 1, col. 3.  Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. Lib. of Congress. <http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn84022472/1914-07-01/ed-1/seq-1/>

“Cablegram of Condolence is Sent to Hungary,Bridgeport Evening Farmer, May 26, 1914, page 1, col. 2.  Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. Lib. of Congress. <http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn84022472/1914-05-26/ed-1/seq-1/>
“”Scoop” O’Brien on Job,” Bridgeport Evening Farmer, January 1, 1916, page 12, col. 2.  Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. Lib. of Congress. <http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn84022472/1916-01-01/ed-1/seq-12/>

 

Education

“Father Chernitzky, Leader of Hungarian People Here, Pleads for More General Education,” Bridgeport Evening Farmer, September 1, 1915, page 5, col. 3-4.  Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. Lib. of Congress. <http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn84022472/1915-09-01/ed-1/seq-5/>

“New Rules are Again Held Up,” Bridgeport Evening Farmer, May 28, 1912, page 3, col. 3.  Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. Lib. of Congress. <http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn84022472/1912-05-28/ed-1/seq-3/>

 

Labor

“Machinist’s Plans to Form Women’s Unions Discussed at Interesting Conference, Bridgeport Evening Farmer, July 21, 1915, page 2, col. 3-4.  Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. Lib. of Congress. <http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn84022472/1915-07-21/ed-1/seq-2/>

“Hungarian Metal Workers Organize,” Bridgeport Evening Farmer, July 22, 1915, page 6, col. 5.  Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. Lib. of Congress. <http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn84022472/1915-07-22/ed-1/seq-6/>

“Girl Strikers Hustle Men from Hall When They Hear Charge of Double Crossing,” Bridgeport Evening Farmer, August 19, 1915, page 3, col. 2-3.  Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. Lib. of Congress. <http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn84022472/1915-08-19/ed-1/seq-3/>

 

World War I

“Poetry: A New America,” Norwich Bulletin, October 10, 1918, page 9, col. 1.  Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. Lib. of Congress. <http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn82014086/1918-10-10/ed-1/seq-9/>

“Noted Rabbi Working as Day Laborer,” Norwich Bulletin, July 27, 1918, page 1, col. 2. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. Lib. of Congress. <http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn82014086/1918-07-27/ed-1/seq-1/>

“Liberty Chorus at Hungarian Rally,” Bridgeport Times and Evening Farmer, May 10, 1918, page 3, col. 3.  Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. Lib. of Congress. <http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn92051227/1918-05-10/ed-1/seq-3/>

“To Forever Stop Feeding of Men to Guns: Buy War Savings Stamps Now, Bridgeport Times and Evening Farmer, June 17, 1918, page 4, full page.  Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. Lib. of Congress. <http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn92051227/1918-06-17/ed-1/seq-4/>

“Express Loyalty to Our Country,” Bridgeport Times and Evening Farmer, May 13, 1918, page 3, col. 5.  Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. Lib. of Congress. <http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn92051227/1918-05-13/ed-1/seq-3/>

“Mayor Wilson Issues Trumpet Call to Zion,” Bridgeport Times and Evening Farmer, December 5, 1918, page 12, col. 1-2.  Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. Lib. of Congress. <http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn92051227/1918-12-05/ed-1/seq-12/>

 

Fraternal Organizations and Mutual Aid

“Hungarians Have Notable Banquet of Confederation,” Bridgeport Evening Farmer, July 29, 1915, page 4, col. 6.  Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. Lib. of Congress. <http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn84022472/1915-07-29/ed-1/seq-4/>

“Thousands Will Witness Laying of Cornerstone,” Bridgeport Evening Farmer, May 26, 1910, page 4, col. 3. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. Lib. of Congress. <http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn84022472/1910-05-26/ed-1/seq-4/>

“Hungarian Society Forms American Class,” Bridgeport Times and Evening Farmer, December 23, 1919, page 2, col. 1-2.  Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. Lib. of Congress. <http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn92051227/1919-12-23/ed-1/seq-2/>

“Knapp Arrested on Fraud Writ; Furnishes Bail,” Bridgeport Evening Farmer, September 8, 1915, page 1, col. 5.  Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. Lib. of Congress. <http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn84022472/1915-09-08/ed-1/seq-1/>

 

Slovakian Immigrants from Hungary

“Slavonians Ban Flag of Magyars: Only American Flag Will Be Permitted in New Sokol Hall,” Bridgeport Evening Farmer, October 15, 1909, page 1, col. 3-4.  Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. Lib. of Congress. <http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn84022472/1909-10-15/ed-1/seq-1/>

“Slovak Loyalty,” Bridgeport Evening Farmer, February 12, 1917, page 12, col. 3. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. Lib. of Congress. <http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn84022472/1917-02-12/ed-1/seq-12/>

“Churchmen, Stirred by Words of Hungarian Minister, Set Forth Slovak Conditions,” Bridgeport Evening Farmer, May 25, 1915, page 8, col. 1-4.  Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. Lib. of Congress. <http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn84022472/1915-05-25/ed-1/seq-8/>

 

Bibliography

Bardin, Hillel et al.  [look up in Chicago]  The Hungarians in Bridgeport: A Social Survey.  Bridgeport, CT:  University of Bridgeport, Department of Sociology, 1959.

Fairfield Museum and History Collection.  “Fairfield’s Hungarian Residents’ Oral History Collection,” Ms B111, 1975-1976. Finding Aid Accessed on April 14, 2016. http://www.fairfieldhistory.org/wp-content/uploads/Hungarian_OralHist_MsB111.pdf .

Lengyl, Emil.  Americans from Hungary.  Philadelphia:  J. B. Lippincott, 1948.

“Hungarians Plan Long Anti-War Agitation Tour,” Pittsburgh Press, August 14, 1914, page 8, col. 4.

Puskás, Julianna.  From Hungary to the United States (1880-1914). Budapest:  Akadémiai Kiadό, 1982.

Puskás, Julianna.  Ties That Bind, Ties That Divide:  100 Years of Hungarian Experience in the United States.  New York:  Holmes & Meier, 2000.

Ross, Steven John; Coonley, Donald; Corrigan, Ralph; and McConkey, Larry, “Searching for Wordin Avenue” (1980).  Videos. Paper 1.  Accessed April 6, 2016.  http://digitalcommons.sacredheart.edu/media_video/1

Schermerhorn, R. A.  “The Hungarian or Magyar American: Exponent of Honor or Sociability,”  in These Our People.  Boston:  D. C. Heath, 1949, pp. 320-346

Suess, Jared H.  Handy Guide to Hungarian Genealogical Records.  Logan, UT:  Everton Publishers.

Széplaki, Joseph, Ed.   The Hungarians in America, 1583-1974.  Dobbs Ferry, NY:  Oceana Publications, 1975.

 

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