Hungarian presence in North America dates back to 1583 when Stephen Parmenius of Buda reached American shores. Hungarian immigration to the United States took shape at the beginning of the 19th century and occurred in several major phases. The 1830s and 1840s saw the arrival of a number of learned travelers, including Sándor Bölöni-Farkas (1795-1842) and Ágoston Haraszthy (1812-1869), both of whom wrote books about their experiences in the New World. In 1844, Haraszthy returned permanently with his family and became the founder of California viticulture.

The first significant Hungarian political immigration took place in the early 1850s. Following the defeat of the Hungarian Revolution and War of Independence of 1848-1849, several thousand Hungarians found refuge in the United States. The ‘49-ers were also known as “Kossuth immigrants” (after the leader of the revolution, Lajos Kossuth). Close to one thousand Hungarians – 25 percent of all Hungarians then in the United States – would go on to serve in the Union Army during the Civil War.

The next wave of immigration came at the turn-of-the-century and landed about 1.7 million Hungarian citizens in the United States. These economic migrants were mostly from rural areas, but almost all of them settled in industrial American cities and mining regions of the northeast. Ultimately, most Hungarians who migrated to the United States arrived between 1890 and the start of World War I in 1914. The significant increase of Hungarians flowing into America at the start of the 20th century was instrumental in the establishment of strong Hungarian American communities across the U.S., a development that helped to preserve their own language and culture. By far the three most common cities for Hungarian immigrants were Cleveland (OH), Chicago (IL), and New York City (NY). Many of these communities retained their language and cultural ties to their home country through churches, fraternal organizations, and Hungarian-language newspapers. The establishment of formal diplomatic ties and the establishment of consulates provided another important link between the two cultures. It was around this time that prominent Hungarian Americans began to excel. Among them was Hungarian-born journalist and publisher Joseph Pulitzer, who set new precedents for journalism with his aggressive news coverage, and was instrumental in raising funds for the base of the Statue of Liberty.

The most significant Hungarian immigration took place during the 1930s. The spread of fascism and Nazism in Europe forced thousands of highly educated scientists, scholars, artists, and musicians to leave Hungary and Central Europe to find a safe haven in America. Following World War II, thousands of Hungarians were living in camps throughout Italy, Germany, Austria, and France after fleeing Russian troops and Communist oppression. These people were classified as Displaced Persons (DP), and many entered the United States under the Displaced Persons Act of 1948.

The last great wave of migration was triggered by the Hungarian Revolution of 1956 when students stood up to communism and the Soviet Empire. In the days and months following the failed revolution, more than 20,000 Hungarian were imprisoned and another 200,000 were forced to flee their motherland. In 1956 and 1957, more than 35,000 Hungarians immigrated to the United States from Hungary, usually by first escaping across the border to Austria. President Dwight D. Eisenhower established the Committee for Hungarian Refugee Relief to help resettle refugees from the Hungarian Revolution of 1956.  Between November 1956 and June 1957, Camp Kilmer (NJ) served as an initial place for the housing of Hungarian refugees. Many of the ‘56-ers and Hungarian Americans went on to make great scientific and cultural contributions in their country of adoption, the United States, including John von Neumann, Edward Teller, Andrew Stephen Grove (former CEO of Intel Corporation), Steven Udvarhazy (former CEO of Air Lease Corporation), and Microsoft Excel Developer Charles Simonyi, just to name a few. A list of prominent and famous Hungarians and Hungarian Americans can be found here