The Story of the Riverside Drive Kossuth statue in New York City

The main effort for the program was attributed to Géza Barkó, who, through the daily Amerikai Magyar Népszava, launched a campaign in early 1927. The fund raising was primarily via Hungarian-American civic and religious organizations. The American, especially the New York City, public as a whole helped as well: J. Kaufmann, prominent publisher, organized a benefit concert where a number of renowned artists performed. James Walker, mayor, undertook to head the statue committee and prevailed on council to assign a prominent location on Riverside Drive. The original plan previsaged a bust of Kossuth, however the fund raising was so successful that plans were modified to include a pedestal, full marble statue and supporting figures: a true monument. The sculptor, János Horvay, patterned the main figure after one in Cegléd, Hungary.

News of the project reached Hungary as well, where Zsigmond Perényi, president of the Magyar Nemzeti Szövetség (Hungarian National Alliance) and József Zsényi, director of the Amerikai Magyar Társaság (American Hungarian Society) jointly decided to institute a "pilgrimage" to the unveiling and on October 25, 1927, established the Magyar Nemzeti Kossuth Zarándok Bizottság (Hungarian National Kossuth Pilgrimage Committee) under the chairmanship of Count Albert Apponyi. Vice chairs were Zsigmond Perényi and Gyula Pekár. In addition to planning the trip, the committee collected thousand of books for the children of Hungarian- Americans .

On March 6, 1928, the group of about 500 "pilgrims" left by train for Paris and Cherbourg where they boarded the SS Olympic for New York. It included representatives from all Counties of Hungary, major cities, institutions, religious organizations as well as representations of the Hungarian minorities in the neighboring countries. Budapest was represented by mayor Jenő Sipőcz. They arrived in New York on March 13, 1928. The next day the group was welcomed by New York mayor James Walker in the same assembly hall, where Kossuth was received in 1851. Mr. Sipőcz replied and delivered Budapest's donation: a silver statuette of a Hungarian soldier.

On March 15 there was a large crowd at the unveiling. It has been estimated at over 20 thousand, confirmed by 14 thousand excursion tickets sold by the railroads. The unveiling speech made by baron Zsigmond Perényi and the memorial was deeded to the City by Mrs. Géza Berkó, accompanied by a 24 gun salute. Mayor Walker gave the acceptance speech, followed by Budapest mayor Sipőcz. Each of the represented jurisdictions presented a wreath. That evening reception at the Town Hall Club. The group split into two, with half visiting Pres. Coolidge in Washington, others travelled and were guests of the cities of Pittsburgh, Cleveland, Buffalo. The delegation returned to Hungary via Cherbourg.

(Story compiled using reports by bishop András Harsányi and private communications with István Bódy, resident of France).

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