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Hungarian Migration to Pittsburgh

Hungarian Migration to Pittsburgh

by Larry Ciptak

from Out of This Kitchen: a History of the Ethnic Groups and Their Foods in the Steel Valley


The emerging steel industry of the 1880s required cheap unskilled laborers, and found an abundance of them in the Hungarians, who first arrived in ample numbers in the 1880s to man the mills of McKeesport.

After the strike of 1892, the Carnegie Company increased the number of immigrant workers. The hard-working Hungarians soon became the labor nucleus in Homestead.

The Hungarians were among the lowest-paid mill workers; as a result, many of the men were forced to live in boarding houses that often housed up to 40 men of similar lineage. The boarding houses served as a support group to ease the loneliness and acclimation into a foreign culture.

The immigrants from Austria-Hungary were as diverse as they were industrious. While politically Austrians or Hungarians, ethnically they were Slovak, Polish, Ruthenian, Croatian, Serbian, Slovenian, Vendish, Rumanian, German or Gypsy. Their religious affiliation varied as well: they were Roman and Greek Catholics, Greek Orthodox and Protestants as well as Orthodox and Reformed Jews.

Of the various groups, the Catholics were the first to successfully organize a Hungarian church (late 1890s), the first Hungarian Catholic church built in McKeesport. Between 1900 and 1910 various Hungarian religious sects expanded in western Pennsylvania. In 1893 several hundred Hungarian immigrants, under the leadership of a Protestant minister, decided to leave then ecomically-downtrodden Pittsburgh to settle to the Canadian prairies in Saskatchewan.

The Balkan Wars of 1912-13 in Europe brought a new wave of immigrants to the region. By this time, however, the Hungarian community was stabilized by many workers who had already brought over their families and who chose permanent residency in America. The hardships earlier Hungarian immigrants faced were lessened by the fellowship.