In the spring of 2013 I had the pleasure to research in the Vasváry Collection at the Somogyi Library for my dissertation on nation-building and identity politics among migrants from Austria-Hungary to the United States from the 1880s to 1920s.
As readers of this newsletter well know, the range of materials in the Vasváry Collection is extensive, conveniently consolidating over a century of source material and scholarship on Hungarian Americans in one accessible location. Vasváry collected widely, particularly from the press, on all facets of Hungarian-American life and also included relevant documents from his personal papers. I was particularly surprised to find a pair of letters to and from my grandfather, Rev. Francis Vitéz, among Vasvárys correspondence. I was also delighted to find two letters between Vasváry and journalist Theodore Andrica, a reporter and advocate for the Cleveland areas large population of Central and Eastern European immigrants. The vast majority of Andricas papers in the United States are, predictably, in English, but his correspondence with Vasváry offers a rare example of his writing in Hungarian.
Also incredibly useful for historians are the short bibliographies that Vasváry compiled on the research that he did for various newspaper articles he wrote. Many of his articles were short memorial essays to recently departed figures in Hungarian-American life, containing biographical information on individuals we often do not know enough about, a perspective on the significance of their contributions, and glimpses into historical memory among Hungarian-Americans. Particularly helpful for my project were notes and short memorial articles on Hungarian ministers who served immigrant communities in the United States. While background information on them can sometimes be found in church anniversary albums, Vasváry frequently provided additional details on their early years in Hungary and their written works.
Even in the age of Interlibrary Loan, a well-defined print collection like the Vasvárys book holdings can provide access to rare print sources that are otherwise nearly impossible to obtain. Among my finds on this visit were a pamphlet published in 1938 titled Hozzuk haza az amerikai magyarokat, a collection of migrant letters from 1900 to 1950 called Vidd el a levelem szép magyar hazámba! (2001), and the tenth anniversary issue of Szabadság from Christmas 1901, subtitled Az amerikai magyarság multja, jelene és jövője.
Special thanks to Prof. András Csillag, the original bibliographer of the collection and Professor of Modern Languages and Cultures in the College of Education at the University of Szeged, for his assistance. Professor Csillag was also so kind as to show me around the town. Among other sites of historical interest, we viewed Pál Vágó's painting of Ferenc József surveying the damage along the Tisza after the great flood in 1879 at the Móra Ferenc Museum, particularly fitting since the Danube was threatening to inundate Budapest right then.
Thanks, finally, to the Hungarian-American Fulbright Commission for sponsoring my research in Hungary this spring.