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       Kovats was the only Hungarian known to have served in the Continental Army; however, there were numerous Hungarians who took part in the American War of Independence with the French troops sent to aid the colonies in 1776.

       "Lauzun's Foreign Legion" was one of the troops made up of primarily foreign volunteers. The legion consisted of infantry and cavalry; the cavalry of 400 men was further divided into a squadron of lancers and a squadron of hussars. It has been estimated that, discounting officers, 140 men in the squadron of hussars were Hungarian. Taking into account that many hussars in French service at this time were from Hungary, this figure is not surprising. Lauzun's Legion served until the end of the war. The cavalry was noted in particular for serving with distinction. Two Hungarian officers were mentioned as enlistments in Lauzun's Foreign Legion: Major John Polereczky in the squadron of lancers and Lieutenant Francis Benyowsky in the squadron of hussars. The Polereczky family received Hungarian nobility as far back as 1613. Following the American Revolution, John Polereczky settled in Dresden in the state of Maine. Francis Benyowsky died in America in 1789.

C. Explorers, Writers, Adventurers

       Numerous Hungarians journeyed to the United States in the years following the revolutionary war. For the most part they were adventurers who came out of curiosity. Some traveled the new country for a few months or even years and returned to Hungary, eager to relate all they had seen and experienced. The majority of those who stayed were successful at building a new life for themselves.

 


 

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       Baron Majthényi visited the United States out of interest. When he returned to Hungary, he introduced the maple tree and the boiling down of its sap into syrup as he had seen it done in the United States on his estates at Abaújfüzér and Radvány. Benjamin Spitzer was a well-known merchant in New Orleans in the 1780s. Spitzer emigrated from Old Buda and sought to establish trade relations between Hungary and the United States. Dr. Charles Luzenberg came from Sopron and settled in New Orleans in 1829. He joined the medical staff of Charity Hospital and became the founder and first president of the New Orleans Medical Society.

       Charles Nagy, noted astronomer and mathematician, arrived in the United States in 1832. He established permanent ties between the Hungarian Academy of Sciences and the American Philosophical Society founded by Benjamin Franklin. He gained the friendship of President Jackson and was made an honorary citizen of the city of Philadelphia. When he returned to Hungary, the following incident occurred; when the Austrian police searched his home in Bicske in 1849, they found a small red, white and blue American flag underneath his mattress. This was considered high treason in those days.

       Samuel Ludwigh, a native of Koszeg, came to this country in 1837 and lived in Philadelphia and Baltimore. He was a lawyer by profession, but soon became a writer and lecturer, editing a German-language newspaper in Philadelphia. At the end of the Hungarian War of Independence (1849), he wrote several articles entitled "Hungary and Hungarian Sketches" in Horace Greeley's New York Tribune. In the 1850s Ludwigh became publisher and editor of an English-language periodical, The Torch.

Attila Kelemen, a tailor from Hungary, immigrated to the United States and invented a cure-all known as "Tinctirus Papricus." Kelemen sold the

 


 

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substance, which was nothing more than a mixture of paprika and whisky, as a cure for cholera. His "medicine" was so successful, that according to Hungarians who visited Kelemen in New York, he had obtained a position as a medical doctor and became the owner of a large hospital and pharmacy on Broadway.

       One of the earliest letters sent to Hungary from America was written by Gáspár Printz, who settled in Baltimore, Maryland in 1803. In the letter, dated January 7, 1818, Printz wrote:

 

...This is a free country, we have no king, but a president. Here a man can choose the means of supporting himself. No man is better than the other, as we are all noblemen here. People do not take off their hats to one another, the poor man is equal to the rich man. Our country is a free republic.5

 

Extensive eyewitness reports about life in America were written by three Hungarians: Alexander Bölöni Farkas, Agoston Haraszthy and John Xantus. After a year of traveling in the United States, Alexander Bölöni Farkas wrote Traveling in North America (1831), which dealt with the political, educational and social aspects of life in this country. Agoston Haraszthy, renowned entrepreneur, wrote a book published in 1844 entitled, A Journey in North America. Haraszthy emphasized the commercial and practical aspects of American life. The correspondence of John Xantus, naturalist and explorer, was compiled and published in two books, Letters from North America (1857) and Travels in Southern California (1859). Both works dealt with life in the unsettled west and southwest.

 

*  *  *  *  *  *

 

       Alexander Bölöni Farkas was a young Hungarian writer who covered more than 2,450 miles of the United States in 1831 as the secretary of Count Ferenc Beldy. When he returned to Hungary he compiled his writings in

 


 

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Travels in North America, published in Kolozsvár in 1835. It reached two editions in the first year. The perceptively written book dealt with many aspects of American life, in particular with the political, educational and social structure of the new democracy.

       This country made a lasting impression on Bölöni Farkas. In Washington he was received by President Jackson, along with two other Hungarians; they were the first Hungarians to be received at the White House. In several places along his journey he met Hungarian merchants, travelers and adventurers. Bölöni Farkas wrote about these fellow countrymen and his varied experiences. The book reflects a fond admiration and respect for the United States. His writings often brought attention to the archaic ways of Europe when compared to the United States. He was impressed by the public school system, the libraries and by the multitude and different types of newspapers and journals.

 

...there is no standing army! No privileged class or nobility! There are no titles... There is no secret police! But there are schools, libraries, museums, scientific institutions, ...and above all newspapers and journals.6

 

       Travels in North America related the workings of democracy and was widely read in Hungary. The book portrayed an image of the United States as a "happy fatherland, where everyone is equally born into freedom and independence."

 

*  *  *  *  *  *

 

       Agoston Haraszthy was a native of Hungary who led a very colorful life in the United States. He was a talented writer. After touring the United States in 1840 he wrote a book about his experiences which was published in Hungary in 1844. The book, entitled, A Journey in North America, emphasized the commercial and practical aspects of American life.

 


 

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       Haraszthy was a pioneer and explorer. He bought, jointly with an Englishman named Bryant, 10,000 acres of the Territory of Wisconsin and founded a town called Haraszthyville. Later, this became the site of Sauk City, Wisconsin.

       In Washington Haraszthy and his wife were celebrated socialites. They were received by President Tyler; Daniel Webster, the great American orator and statesman, arranged dinner parties in their honor on numerous occasions.

       Haraszthy was a renowned entrepreneur. Some of his ingenious business ventures included: running a steamboat on the Missouri and a ferry on the Wisconsin River, opening a general store in Haraszthyville and in Baraboo, a short distance away, building houses with brick burnt in his own kilns and planting the first hop-yard in Wisconsin. Moreover, he was appointed to melt and refine the United States Mint.

       Ágoston Haraszthy served in various official capacities. He was twice elected vice president of the Wisconsin Historical Society. He led an immigrant association sponsoring settlers from England, Germany and Switzerland. Haraszthy was elected sheriff of the county in which he resided in San Diego, Calfornia. It was neither an easy nor safe job to hold in such unsettled territory. Subsequently, a street was named after him which to this day can be found in the city of San Diego. He was elected to the legislature at Sacramento in 1850.

       Haraszthy's most outstanding contribution was made to the development of California's wine producing industry. He was named the "Father of California's Viticulture" for the many new and innovative methods he discovered. He was the first to introduce a wide variety of grapes from Europe, including

 

John Xantus in U.S. Naval Uniform (Source: Letters from North America)

 


 

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the famous California Tokay, originally from Hungary. Haraszthy was appointed the State Commissioner for Viticulture and wrote a book entitled, Grape Culture, Wines and Wine-Making. With Notes upon Agriculture and Horticulture, published by Harper Brothers in New York in 1862.

 

*  *  *  *  *  *

 

       Janos (John) Xantus immigrated to the United States in the 1850s. He lived in this country for only thirteen years, during which time he attained renown as a naturalist and explorer, collecting all forms of birds, fish, mammals, insects, reptiles and plants never before documented. Xantus explored many uncharted areas of the west and was acknowledged by several distinguished scientific societies in America and Europe.

       Born in Csokonya, County of Somogy, Xantus studied law. He served as a lieutenant during the Hungarian War of Independence and when it failed, immigrated to the United States. Xantus landed in New York with $7 in his pocket. He tried many times without success to obtain a position commensurate with his high degree of education and intelligence. Xantus found himself earning a daily wage through odd jobs, which often meant digging ditches, up to his waist in water for days. After months of unsuccessful searching, a discouraged Xantus wrote: "...speaking six languages, playing piano and being a good topographical draftsman, after all efforts, I could never bring my existence higher up than to $25 a month."7

       In 1852 Xantus was hired as a cartographer for the Pacific Railroad. He was assigned to travel with a group through the western United States in search of the best railway route from St. Louis to California. During the expedition, Xantus devoted all his free time to writing detailed descriptions

 


 

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The Xantus Expeditions (1852-1856)

 


 

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       of the land, climate, vegetation, animals, towns and people they encountered. In particular, he described the Indian tribes in meticulous detail, making drawings of their weapons, clothes and customs.

       Xantus wrote about his adventures in America in letters sent to his family in Hungary. He indulged in some self-aggrandizement in his early letters, being unable to admit to initial failures. For the most part, however, they were interesting and informative accounts of the people, customs and life-style in North America in the mid-1800s. In 1865 the letters were compiled and published in Hungary in a book entitled, Letters from North America. Later, a second book, Travels in Southern California, was published, based on his experiences in the southwestern part of the United States. The books were successful and earned Xantus acclaim in his native country. His writings captured the untamed excitement of the West:

 

The California horseman in many respects resembles the Andalusian knights of De Vega or Cervantes. He wears a wide-brimmed peaked hat, a silver-braided dolman, trousers slit at the side from the knee down, revealing red socks underneath, and he sits on a saddle decorated with peacock feathers. The jackboot is armed with huge spurs which are fastened to the heels with heavy chains-the clinking sound can be heard a half mile away. Ordinarily he carries on the pommel a pistol with a long barrel, trimmed with fox or squirrel tail, and a sharp dagger; sitting thus in the saddle, he no doubt believes his is nothing less than 'California's pride and the scourge of the terrified universe.8

 

       In 1855, in a desperate attempt to obtain a reliable source of income, Janos Xantus enlisted in the army as a private. He was so ashamed of this action that he used an assumed name. It was while he was in the army that his fortunes improved. He served at Fort Riley in Kansas where he met Dr. William A. Hammond, who recognized the intelligence and talent of Xantus and introduced him to the procedures of collecting and preserving natural

 


 

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Drawing of Xantus: The Weaponry of North Americans Indians. c. 1856

 


 

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specimens. In 1856 the distinguished Philadelphia Academy of Sciences elected Xantus to life membership.

       Xantus obtained a transfer to Fort Tejon, California through the influence of Spencer F. Baird, secretary of the Smithsonian Institute. He was promoted to the rank of hospital steward, which enabled him to devote more time to his collections. Fort Tejon was located in territory which was uncharted by naturalists, the region of the great Central Valley of California and the Sierra Nevada. The work of Xantus in this region proved to be of immeasurable importance. Within eighteen months, he had sent twenty-four cases of preserved specimens to the Smithsonian, "...including nearly 2,000 birds, 200 mammals, many hundreds of birds' nests and their eggs, and large numbers of reptiles, fishes, insects, plants, skulls, skeletons, etc., all in the highest condition of preparation and preservation, and furnishing such accurate and detailed information of the zoology and botany of Fort Tejon as we possess of but few other points in the United States."9

       After receiving a discharge from the army, Xantus took up new duties as a tidal observer for the US Coast Survey near Cape San Lucas, where he explored the flora and fauna of an area extending over 350 miles. His accurate documentation was lauded on several occasions by colleagues at the Smithsonian.

 

The Crotalus lucifer is easily recognizable, and it is just as well, for it is the most aggressive and venomous of the species. The color is shiny black with tiny, pale yellow intersecting squares stretching the length of the body. The fully-grown specimen is five feet long. When it reaches this stage it no longer grows in length but in bulk. I killed an exceptionally fat specimen. Its length was four feet ten inches, the neck four and a half inches and the waist ten and a half inches thick. I found two undigested hamsters, hair and skin intact, in its stomach, which accounted for the unusual bulk.10

 

In 1861 Xantus visited Hungary, where he was given a hero's welcome. He was named honorary president of the Zoological Gardens at Budapest and

 


 

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was elected to membership in the Hungarian Academy of Sciences. The following year, Xantus returned to the United States and was appointed U.S. consul, taking up his duties in Manzanillo, Mexico. Next to his consular duties, he collected and documented the natural wildlife of another unexplored area, the Pacific slope of the Sierra Madre. In 1864 Janos Xantus returned to Hungary where he became the first director of the Budapest Zoo and later, curator of the ethnographical section of the Hungarian National Museum.

       Through the descriptive writings of Xantus, the Hungarian people obtained first-hand information and insight into North American life. The collections of Xantus made a substantial contribution to the scientific knowledge of the United States. Moreover, his work initiated an exchange between the Smithsonian Institute and the Hungarian National Museum. Xantus was described by one colleague as "the most accomplished and successful explorer in the field of natural history I have ever known or heard of, the results of his operations enriching the Smithsonian Museum in a very high degree."11

 

 


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