Budapest museum opens show on Hungarians in the Californian Gold Rush

 

Gold coins of Wass, Molitor & Co., a mint founded by Hungarians during the California Gold Rush, shown at the Hungarian National Museum  Photo: MTI/Balázs Mohai

Gold coins from private mint Wass, Molitor & Co.,  founded by Hungarians during the California Gold Rush, shown at the Hungarian National Museum
Photo: MTI/Balázs Mohai

The first nuggets of gold were found in California in January, 1848, triggering a inflow of hundreds of thousands within a few years to the wild west, the director of the museum said.

 

Among them were a group of highly qualified, well-educated, foreign language speaking military officers who emigrated to the United States after the crushing of Hungary’s 1848/49 War of Independence, Benedek Varga told a press conference.

 

They made their fortune and career not as “average gold diggers”, but thanks to their skills and newly acquired knowledge as engineers, metallurgists, smelters and asseyers, he said.

 

One of them, Count Sámuel Wass from a family of Transylvanian aristocrats, arrived in San Francisco in Sept. 1850 and founded the Wass, Molitor and Co. assaying office with Ágoston Molitor and Károly Uznay in the following year, Csaba TÓth, the exhibition’s curator, said.

 

The company was able to process the raw material provided by the gold diggers and also effect payment in 48 hours as opposed to the official assay office of the United States which performed this process in 8 days. Between 1852 and 1855 their office issued 5, 10, 20 and 50 dollar gold coins sending a copy of each to the Hungarian National Museum.

 

The exhibition will run until May 28.