Skip to Main Content
Have library access? Log in through your library
Budapest and New York

Budapest and New York: Studies in Metropolitan Transformation, 1870-1930

Copyright Date: 1994
Published by: Russell Sage Foundation
Pages: 416
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    Budapest and New York
    Book Description:

    Little over a century ago, New York and Budapest were both flourishing cities engaging in spectacular modernization. By 1930, New York had emerged as an innovating cosmopolitan metropolis, while Budapest languished under the conditions that would foster fascism.Budapest and New Yorkexplores the increasingly divergent trajectories of these once-similar cities through the perspectives of both Hungarian and American experts in the fields of political, cultural, social and art history. Their original essays illuminate key aspects of urban life that most reveal the turn-of-the-century evolution of New York and Budapest: democratic participation, use of public space, neighborhood ethnicity, and culture high and low.

    What comes across most strikingly in these essays is New York's cultivation of social and political pluralism, a trend not found in Budapest. Nationalist ideology exerted tremendous pressure on Budapest's ethnic groups to assimilate to a single Hungarian language and culture. In contrast, New York's ethnic diversity was transmitted through a mass culture that celebrated ethnicity while muting distinct ethnic traditions, making them accessible to a national audience. While Budapest succumbed to the patriotic imperatives of a nation threatened by war, revolution, and fascism, New York, free from such pressures, embraced the variety of its people and transformed its urban ethos into a paradigm for America.

    Budapest and New Yorkis the lively story of the making of metropolitan culture in Europe and America, and of the influential relationship between city and nation. In unifying essays, the editors observe comparisons not only between the cities, but in the scholarly outlooks and methodologies of Hungarian and American histories. This volume is a unique urban history. Begun under the unfavorable conditions of a divided world, it represents a breakthrough in cross-cultural, transnational, and interdisciplinary historical work.

    eISBN: 978-1-61044-040-0
    Subjects: Political Science, Business, Sociology

Table of Contents

Export Selected Citations Export to NoodleTools Export to RefWorks Export to EasyBib Export a RIS file (For EndNote, ProCite, Reference Manager, Zotero, Mendeley...) Export a Text file (For BibTex)
  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-x)
  3. Foreword
    (pp. xi-xii)

    When Budapest celebrated the millennium of the Hungarian monarchy in 1896, New York’s most famous newspaper reporter, Richard Harding Davis, was there, in part because he had been in Europe to cover the coronation of Czar Nicholas II. He was unprepared for what he saw in Budapest. The energy and modernity of the city, as well as the drama of the celebration, deserved to be known beyond Hungary’s borders. He explained to his New York readers that Budapest was nearer to New York than they supposed. While he found it “interesting” that civic leaders “delighting in electric tramways” dressed themselves...

  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xiii-xiv)
  5. Introduction Budapest and New York Compared
    (pp. 1-28)

    In 1870 new york and budapest were peripheral cities, one on the western perimeter of the European core, the other on the eastern. Yet both harbored metropolitan ambitions. Their civic leaders were eager to have them join the select company of Western European metropolises (London and Paris in New York’s case, Vienna and Paris in Budapest’s). Political events in the United States and Hungary, moreover, propelled—and facilitated—this civic aspiration. The consolidation of a more clearly defined, empowered, and aggressively modernizing national state effectively enhanced the authority, ambition, and political significance of the two cities. The creation of the...


    • Introduction
      (pp. 29-34)

      The dramatic expansion of the population and territory of Budapest and New York and the restructuring of their economies put enormous pressure on traditional social and political institutions. The two cities were mercantile/administrative centers in 1870, but by 1900 they had become industrial centers and national financial and business administration hubs. The resulting enlargement of social life—both in scale and in degree of differentiation—occurred at all levels.

      This growth complicated inherited categories of political identity. Would existing political institutions accommodate the newcomers and these structural changes in society? What political means were available to traditional elites and to...

    • Chapter 1 Transformations in the City Politics of Budapest: 1873–1941
      (pp. 35-54)

      Between 1873, when Budapest officially became the capital of Hungary) and 1941, when the country entered World War II, Hungary witnessed fundamental changes which deeply influenced the city’s politics. The national political system changed dramatically three times in that period. The liberal dualistic system was followed by a bourgeois democratic revolution and a soviet-type dictatorship. Then came the conservative nationalistic regime headed by Regent Miklós Horthy. Two themes in the city’s history remained unchanged, however: (1) the ambition to develop Budapest as much as possible; and (2) the fight for universal suffrage, since urban workers and even members of the...

    • Chapter 2 Political Participation and Municipal Policy: New York City: 1870–1940
      (pp. 55-80)

      Between 1870 and 1900, New York City changed with bewildering speed. Its area was increased by 713 percent, its population ballooned, and its people became more diverse. It created new industries in the manufacture of women’s ready-to-wear clothing and in commercial entertainment. Its great merchants ceased to dominate the nation’s economy, yet the new national manufacturing corporations located their headquarters in the city. Once controlled only by the state of New York, it became more and more subject to the influence of federal resources and federal policy.

      But the more New York changed, the more it remained fundamentally the same....


    • Introduction
      (pp. 81-84)

      The nineteenth century emergence of the modem, large city in Europe and America sharpened the distinction between private and public life. The forms and extent of public life multiplied in the new metropolises. Scale, mobility, the market, and much else contributed to the development of a new world of strangers who shared the spaces of streets, parks, cafés, train stations, hotels, department stores, amusement parks, and the like. This novel social experience, organized neither by family ties and values nor by the hierarchy of the workplace, posed difficult questions about the maintenance of order. The elaboration of unprecedented social forms...

    • Chapter 3 Uses and Misuses of Public Space in Budapest: 1873–1914
      (pp. 85-107)

      Throughout europe in the nineteenth century, and in Hungary during the late nineteenth century, the norms of conduct in public life came to be sharply separated from conduct in the private domain. The bifurcation meant that the kind of sociability found in family domestic circles was less and less tolerated on the public scene. The underlying difference in modes of private and public life, as Richard Sennett has argued, was that:

      In “public” one observed, one expressed, in terms of what one wanted to buy, to think, to approve of, not as a result of continuous interaction, but after a...

    • Chapter 4 The Park and the People: Central Park and its Publics: 1850–1910
      (pp. 108-134)

      In july 1901 New Yorkers rioted. Through the nineteenth century New Yorkers had rioted over the price of bread, the abolition of slavery, and the draft. This time, the issue seemed trivial: a new park policy licensed a private entrepreneur to charge five cents to rent chairs in the city’s parks. The practice, common in European (including Budapest’s) parks, had been imported to the United States in June and met immediate howls of protest. In the city’s most famous public space, the 843-acre Central Park, the chair rental agents faced jeers and verbal abuse. “Some park patrons,” one newspaper reported,...


    • Introduction
      (pp. 135-138)

      Although the image of the metropolis as a city of strangers in public captures a fundamental truth, it is incomplete. Public life in the metropolis is a world of difference, but much of it is lived in smaller, more homogeneous contexts. The peoples who represent difference in public come from those smaller units of the city that are typically defined by ethnocultural and class values. István Teplán describes such a community of ethnic Hungarians, most of whom were former officials in parts of Hungary severed from the nation by the Trianon Treaty. They constructed and settled in the quite homogeneous...

    • Chapter 5 Class and Ethnicity in the Creation of New York City Neighborhoods: 1900–1930
      (pp. 139-160)

      For a century New York City, the immigrant entrepôt of the United States, has fascinated journalists, social scientists, and historians writing on ethnicity.¹ They have discovered on the streets of Manhattan the materials with which to build their models of ethnic residential patterns, including the imagery and concept of the ghetto in America.² The physical proximity of the Lower East Side to the financial and commercial center of New York at the turn of the century, coupled with its aggressively foreign character, drew observers who interpreted its significance for other Americans. The attention directed at New York prior to 1900...

    • Chapter 6 St. Imre Garden City: An Urban Community
      (pp. 161-180)

      In the book,Five Spirits, Béla Hamvas writes with remarkable lucidity about the “spirit of a location” that captivates people, about that strange impression certain places make on the observer: “… a place has metaphysical, as well as physical presence and, as such, is both a spirit and a spectacle. That is why one cannot define it, but merely describe it, because it is not calculable, because it is a face.”¹ For quite some time now I have been pondering the question of whether this face can be reconstructed. “Place” and “spirit” have a peculiar interrelation, claims Hamvas, they mutually...


    • Introduction
      (pp. 181-184)

      In the turbulent half-century after 1880, Budapest and New York cobbled together populations of the most diverse cultures into metropolitan entities of enormous political and economic power. Could they, out of polyglot masses, create a community identity? And what, if such were achieved, would be its relationship to the nations in which each would have to define its collective future? The very process by which the several subcultures, both ethnic and class, would modify their particularity to find a common consciousness as New Yorkers or Budapesters would inevitably separate them in a new and often more defined way from their...

    • Chapter 7 Immigrants, Ethnicity, and Mass Culture: The Vaudeville Stage in New York City: 1880–1930
      (pp. 185-208)

      In every sense of the term, vaudeville was the most popular form of theater in turn-of-the-century New York. Its form—separate acts strung together to make a complete bill—was the direct descendant of the mid-nineteenth century variety theater, which had catered to carousing working-class and middle-class men in saloons and music halls. But vaudeville was variety in a new context. Beginning in the 1880s, showmen seeking to attract the wives and families of male variety fans, and so to create a wider and more lucrative audience, banned liquor from their houses and censored some of their bawdy acts. They...

    • Chapter 8 The Cultural Role of the Vienna-Budapest Operetta
      (pp. 209-223)

      Operetta is one of the most rewarding topics of cultural history. Imagine a performance in an average musical theater. Its libretto is primitive and silly (if not idiotic), unbelievable and ridiculous. Its music is a mélange of cheap opera arias and fashionable dance music full of sentimental commonplaces and a few melodious hits for everybody’s home whistling. In most cases, operettas cannot be measured by high aesthetic or dramatic values. Yet, despite all deficiencies, operetta always was and is very popular, particularly in Central Europe, the old Habsburg Monarchy and its successors; not only with ordinary people and the lower...

    • Chapter 9 The Budapest Joke and Comic Weeklies as Mirrors of Cultural Assimilation
      (pp. 224-247)

      In central europe, jokes as a new genre appeared with the birth of modem large cities. Their contextual and formal development paralleled the evolution of metropolitan society.

      Humor has long been as integral to Hungarian as in the literature of other languages. In fact, humor can be traced back in Hungary to the time before a written literature. Popular anecdote collections from different regions began to appear in the 1840s and 1850s and they resembled collections of folk poetry and tales.¹ The so-called Pest joke first surfaced in the 1860s. What initially appears to be a continuity in development, however,...

    • Chapter 10 Covering New York: Journalism and Civic Identity in the Twentieth Century
      (pp. 248-268)

      Old newspapers are as difficult to interpret as they are stimulating to read. Their capacity to shed light on almost every question of form and content inevitably hinders efforts to limit discussion. There is hardly any set of attitudes, practices, or values that American newspapers have not in some way either reflected or helped to shape.

      This chapter will not focus upon any single event, group of people, or set of opinions. Rather, it suggests that, in their modes of presentation and systems of coverage, the city’s newspapers of the early twentieth century helped define the self-consciousness of New Yorkers...


    • Introduction
      (pp. 269-274)

      The four chapters that comprise this section reflect themes that have by now become familiar: tension between metropolis and nation; the relation between the city’s self-image and commercialism; the search for an integral metropolitan identity. Since we deal here with creative intellectuals, the self-conscious makers of meaning for their societies, we are brought into the most immediate confrontation with the differences between our two cities despite all that unites them. The artist’s act of transmuting feeling into form or perception into symbol presents us with radical condensations of historical experience that can never be representative. Yet it is out of...

    • Chapter 11 The Artist’s New York: 1900–1930
      (pp. 275-308)

      Circa 1900 a few adventuresome artists began to paint and photograph New York City—its skyline, harbor, skyscrapers, and congested street life. Since artists had long lived in Manhattan but rarely depicted it in their art, this sudden attention to the city landscape is an event of note in the history of American culture. In earlier decades, illustrators had produced depictions of the city for magazines, and genre artists had created picturesque paintings of street vendors and barefoot urchins, but none of the country’s important landscape artists painted much in the way of city views. While the countryside was respected...

    • Chapter 12 Avant-Garde and Conservatism in the Budapest Art World: 1910–1932
      (pp. 309-331)

      Where are the painters of Budapest?” asked art critic Ernő Kállai in 1947.¹ For, in sharp contrast to the many and varying representations of New York, we do not find a fascination with the cityscape of Budapest in the Hungarian art of the early 1900s. While New York, as Wanda Corn points out, “lured away American artists from the natural landscape,” and even seduced artists from overseas to come and paint its freshly minted beauties, exactly the opposite occurred in Hungary.² Painters who were Budapest residents walked out of the city with their easels and set them up in suburbs...

    • Chapter 13 The Novel as Newspaper and Gallery of Voices: The American Novel in New York City: 1890–1930
      (pp. 332-351)

      The history to be traced here is a paradoxical one. It is the change within the city novel from the type of victim narratives that are typical of literary naturalism to narratives of bohemian freedom; from accounts of suffering to catalogues of pleasure; from a picture of the city as a single-minded machine of indifference and destruction to a picture of a small-scale field of daily opportunities for adventure, experience, excitement—a world rich in novelties of personality and fate. If we consider the use of the so-called narrative accident we can quickly grasp this change. In the naturalist novel...

    • Chapter 14 The Role of Budapest in Hungarian Literature: 1890–1935
      (pp. 352-366)

      Hungarian literature was rooted in the provinces until the 1880s, and it has retained its provincial character to this day, though its capital city, Budapest, has long been the center of literary activity. Provincialism was a natural consequence of socioeconomic developments in Hungary and of its late and limited modernization. In step with the conservative liberalism of the ruling nobility, an ideology that dominated Central Eastern Europe in the nineteenth century, Hungarian literature developed in close symbiosis with nationalism. The liberalism of the nobility differed from the more cosmopolitan Western European liberalism in its intellectual roots: in Hungary it sprang...

  11. Afterword Historical Perspectives and National Cultures
    (pp. 367-372)

    The comparisons of New York and Budapest yielded by this study are far from comprehensive. Nor are they derived from two general histories of the two cities built on a single metanarrative. Neither group of historians attempted to construct a consolidated account of their city’s development; indeed, the very choice of the city as focus was prompted by the search for an object of study which, though bounded in space and time, was a social entity sufficiently multifaceted to be responsive to the many forms of illumination that our pluralized contemporary discipline of history could play upon it.

    Among both...

  12. Appendix Papers Presented at the Conference on the Comparative History of Metropolitan Transformation of Budapest and New York: 1870–1930 (Budapest, 1988)
    (pp. 373-374)
  13. Contributors
    (pp. 375-378)
  14. Index
    (pp. 379-400)