HUNGARIAN STUDIES 3. Nemzetközi Magyar Filológiai Társaság. Akadémiai Kiadó Budapest [1987]

András Csillag: The Hungarian Origins of Joseph Pulitzer

JOSEPH PULITZER arrears grew so high that in a few months she was unable to pay them and her property had to be seized. The family, heavily in debt, was plunged into poverty. Finally, following petitions to reschedule terms of payment, the widow was granted permission by the revenue office to settle her tax arrears in monthly installments beginning in February 1859 (4). The future fate of the Pulitzers after these events remains in relative obscurity. Joseph, now eleven and the eldest child in the family, along with his brother and sister became Fatherless, whose support and further education in those circumstances must have meant a real ordeal to their widowed mother. Nevertheless, by some later Hungarian newspaper accounts, Mrs. Pulitzer was said to have continued business activities by running a small flour shop while Joseph attended Hampel's Economic School in the following years (26). Yet another distress came to them when Joseph's little sister, Anna Fanny, suddenly died in July 1860, at the age of eleven. At this time the family, poverty-stricken, still occupied the same home in Göttergasse that their father had established (5). The fact that Joseph left home at seventeen against his mother's will to become a soldier in the United States may well have been the result of an effort made- to lighten the burden of the family as well as an outcome of some sort of disagreeement with his stepfather, Max Blau (Frey? ). His unsuccessful efforts, to enter the various armies of European countries are well-known from Hungarian and American sources published at the beginning of this century. Albert, his younger brother, shortly followed suit: he also sailed to America later to become a newspaperman himself. Reading biographies about Joseph's excellent knowledge of German after his immigra­tion to the United States one might raise the question: how is it that his German was so good if his mother was not Austrian born? After the defeat of the Snaggle for Independ­ence in 1849 the whole of Hungary was brought under the absolute political control of the Austrian government. Though Hungary had formed a part of the Habsburg Empire even before, now oppression became so strong after the Revolution that the Hungarian language was not acknowledged as official. German was introduced as obligatory in all the offices, schools and other public institutions all over the country. In such circumstances, it would have been more difficult for an open-minded young man to ignore German than to master it. The Vienna connection of the family must have been on the father's side. Earlier, about the middle of the century, three Pulitzers went from Hungary to study medicine at the University of Vienna. Theodore and Ignatio Pulitzer published their doctoral disser­tations there in Latin (23,24). Adam Pulitzer became the most famous of them, a well-known otologist and professor of medicine in Vienna, and already the author of several studies in the 1860's (25). They were probably closely related to one another, the latter being a cousin of Joseph's. The home where Joseph Pulitzer was born in Makó is no longer there in its original form. In 1895 the one-story building was remodeled by one of its new owners for use as a post office which functioned until the 1920's. The one-time residence of the Pulitzers is now No. 4. Dózsa György street, opposite the old Country Hall (vármegyeháza) - a last witness to Joseph's childhood.