Chicago emerged as a primary destination for Hungarian
immigrants at the end of the nineteenth century. From only
159 in 1870, Chicago's Hungarian population increased
dramatically, to 1,841 in 1890, 7,463 in 1900, 37,990 in
1910, and 70,209 in 1920. These figures, however, do not
always reflect the actual numbers of ethnic Hungarians
(Magyars): some pre–World
War I figures include nonethnic Hungarians of the
Austro-Hungarian Empire; post-World
War II data exclude ethnic Hungarians from the newly
created Yugoslavia, Czechoslovakia, the enlarged Romania,
and eastern Austria.
The first Hungarians reached Chicago in
the 1850s as part of broader westward migration within the
United States. The first arrivals were tradesmen,
shopkeepers, artisans, and their families. Among them were
also the emigrants of the 1848–49 Hungarian Revolution
against the Hapsburg Empire. Escaping the retribution of
the Austrian authorities, a handful of the Hungarian
revolutionaries who were on their way to New Buda in Iowa
stopped in Chicago and decided to settle in the city. Many
of them were from the gentry, with formal education and
therefore able to move into positions of civic leadership.
Julian Kuné, a member of the Board of Trade, established
Chicago's first private foreign language school. Some of
the forty-niners went to fight in the American Civil
War in Lincoln's Riflemen corps, organized by Géza
Mihalótzy. The early immigrants were mainly men.
Hungarian immigration increased
dramatically between 1889 and 1913, largely as an exodus
from the countryside. Emigration overseas was the most
intensive from the mountainous northeastern and
southwestern regions which lay beyond the influence of
Budapest, Hungary's major industrial center. Migratory
traditions of villages and familial chain migration played
a major role. These rural immigrants tended to form
communities in the industrial South and West Sides of
Chicago, where they could find a steady supply of jobs.
Immigrants from Eastern Europe, Sweden, and Italy lived
Side housed four main Hungarian enclaves, in South
Pullman, and Roseland.
The earliest settlement was established in South Chicago
in 1890 near the factories of the Illinois Steel Company.
The area populated by Hungarians was known as the Bush (Bozót)
and counted approximately 330 people in 1910. Hungarians
gradually abandoned South Chicago and by the 1920s had
moved to the industrial areas of East
In the 1910s Hungarians settled mainly
in Burnside (Bronszajd), also called Triangle because it
was bordered on three sides by the shops and tracks of the
Illinois Central and Nickel Plate Railroads. Burnside
became even more prominent in the 1920s with its numerous
Hungarian stores, shops, and restaurants located near the
intersection of Cottage Grove and 95th Street running just
outside the Triangle. Hungarians, 25 to 40 percent of the
residents on some streets, lived alongside people of Ukrainian,
origin. West Pullman and Roseland also had large Hungarian
groups working in the district's mills, railroads,
and large factories. In most families women went out to
work in the factories to contribute to the family income.
Some women stayed at home and made some money by doing
sewing jobs. Others earned additional income by taking in
On the West Side, the factories of the Northwestern
Railroad attracted immigrant workers. Although the
Hungarians living on Crawford (now Pulaski), Madison,
Lake, and Carroll were fewer than three hundred in the
1920s, it was the West Side settlement that became known
as Little Hungary. A large Hungarian-owned factory, the
Sinko Tool Company, was situated there and employed many
skilled Hungarian workers.
War I and the restrictive U.S. immigration laws of the
1920s curbed immigration, Hungarians continued to arrive.
The Trianon Treaty had deprived Hungary of two-thirds of
its territory, leaving three and a half million Hungarians
as an ethnic minority living outside the nation's new
borders. Many decided to leave, and Hungarian Americans
waged a steady campaign to raise the immigration quota.
Ensuing years of chaos, revolution, counter-revolution,
extreme nationalism, and anti-Semitism created many
Immigrants coming from Hungary between the two wars
were predominantly intellectuals and of urban background.
They had little in common with the older working-class
immigrants and tended to settle around Logan
Square and Humboldt
Park. On the Near
North Side, Hungarians formed scattered enclaves
around the edge of the old German
community from North Avenue and Wells into Lake
View and up Lincoln Avenue. They intermingled with the
more prosperous Hungarian-speaking Germans and Jews
who ran stores, restaurants,
trade companies, law offices, and banks in the region.
Although community building began with the creation of
social clubs and mutual
benefit societies in 1892, the most important tool of
ethnic cohesion was the parish.
Hungarians founded the first Protestant
church in South Chicago in 1898. In West
Town, the Roman
Catholic Parish of St. Stephen, King of Hungary,
emerged as a major cultural center for Hungarians
regardless of their religious affiliation. Hungarian
language and cultural traditions were maintained by the
Hungarian Cultural and Educational House (1969), which
also published the literary periodical Szivárvány.
In addition, events such as the annual grape festival
helped to sustain Hungarian folk traditions. Women played
active roles in the creation of sick-benefit societies.
They were also highly visible in the communal and
religious groups. The Scout Leaders of the Hungarian Scout
Troop Association (1946), which is still active, have
mainly been women. They, together with the Women's League
of the Evangelical Church, have organized English-language
classes for the newly arrived immigrants and
Hungarian-language classes for the children of Hungarian
The post–World War II era brought more political
refugees to the United States, with one thousand
Hungarians taking up residence in Chicago under the
Displaced Persons Acts of 1948 and 1950. After the
suppression of the Hungarian Revolution of 1956, thousands
of Hungarians, called fifty-sixers, sought refuge in the
United States, with many settling in Chicago.
Yet the arrival of new immigrants could not stop the
gradual dissolution of the Hungarian neighborhoods. Most
Hungarians married outside the Hungarian community, and
many South Siders moved to suburbs such as Lansing,
City, and Burnham.
On the North Side, the last vestiges remained around
Belmont, Clark, and Lincoln Avenues until the 1970s, when
most Hungarian American families moved to Skokie,
Hungarians have participated in the growth and
development of Chicago as entrepreneurs, designers,
and scholars. László Moholy-Nagy, Marcel Breuer, and
Albert Kner, formerly leading figures of the Bauhaus
artistic tradition, became successful entrepreneurs by
ingeniously combining art design with business. Conductors
Sir George Solti and Fritz Reiner helped bring
international fame to the Chicago
Symphony Orchestra. Since the 1960s, Hungarian
immigrants to the United States have been mainly
professionals. A considerable number of scholars of
Hungarian origin work at Chicago's institutions in medical
research, computer science, engineering, and mathematics.
“Hungarian Americans.” In Gale Encyclopedia of
Multicultural America, vol. 1, 1995, 692–709.
Fejűs, Zoltán. A Chicagói Magyarok két nemzedéke,
1890–1940. [Two generations of Hungarians in
Chicago, 1890–1940]. Summary in English. 1993.
Schaaf, Barbara. “Magyars of the Midwest.” Chicago
Tribune Magazine, May 6, 1979.