Anikó-Borbála Izsák, August 26th 2020
When examining the urban elite groups of Baia Mare/Nagybánya, the repetition of names isn’t the only thing that becomes apparent. Looking at the obituaries, and wedding notices in the newspapers, we can also deduce the kinship relations among significant families in the city. What’s more, these family ties linked the city to professional and political networks beyond local society. Examining the transition, continuity, or change of persons in elite positions is not the only relevant aspect here, but rather also the relationships between individuals: on one hand, whether the fostering of certain relationships could have provided a kind of safety net for members of the pre-war urban elite; on the other, what kind of bonds linked the members of the post-war elite to the pre-war one. My point is that using prosopographic and genealogical approaches could bring us closer to answering these questions.
In this blogpost, first I bring some arguments to support this point, and then I present a family which played an important role in the city’s political and economic life before the First World War. Through their professional connections and kinship, they were not only part of the urban elite of Baia Mare/Nagybánya, but linked also to the elites across a wider territory and at higher levels. After the war, these individuals lost most of their political importance, but could preserve their positions in the economic life of the city. Some individuals who held leading positions in Baia Mare/Nagybánya’s municipal administration, or in its economic life in the interwar period, were also part of this stratum even before the war. Descendants of old land-owning families, or of Greek-Catholic priestly families, were members of the municipal and regional elites, often working as lawyers, mine owners, newspaper editors, or board members of financial institutions.
For example, the lawyer and mine owner Victor Pop de Băsești (in Hungarian sources, listed as illésfalvi Pap/Papp Viktor), 1873–1930/31, was mayor of the city for a short term at the turn of the 1920s and 1930s. Before the First World War, he held a position on the board of directors of the “Aurora” Savings and Loan Institute. In 1923, he was a member of the board of directors of the Baia Mare Savings Bank. His father, Alexandru Pop de Băsești, was a district court judge. Their family had come from Poland in the seventeenth century, and earned their noble title in the eighteenth. They played a role in the history of neighboring Szilágy County, in the Kingdom of Hungary, holding elite administrative positions. Furthermore, the brother of Alexandru Pop and the uncle of Viktor, Gheorge Pop de Băsești, was an important personality of the Romanian national movement in Transylvania. Between 1902 and 1919, he was the president of the Romanian National Party, and the president of the Alba Iulia National Assembly held on December 1, 1918, at which event he declared the annexation of Transylvania by Romania. According to the 1897 edition of the Directory of the Landowners in the Kingdom of Hungary, Gheorge was a great landowner, owning an estate of over 2300 cadastral acres in Băsești/Szilágyillésfalva. This family was linked to the pre-war regional elite through their nobility, landed property, and administrative positions, but at the same time played an important role at the national level through the Romanian national movement.
Hungarian institutions and churches were the main channels of Hungarian nation-building and, concurrently, the assimilation of minorities in Transylvania. Romanians had some of their own “national” institutions, like the “Aurora” Savings and Loan Institute in Baia Mare — founded in 1906, which functioned as a separate Romanian financial institution in the city — or the local Romanian periodical, Gutinul, launched in 1889. Still, the ethnic dividing lines among these institutions are far from clear. It is often the case that identities cannot be reconstructed through documents alone; they rather appear to be plastic when one reads between the lines. Indeed, even the spelling of the names varies from one text to the next. So, for this reason, attention should also be directed towards processes of socialization, engagement in local society, and personal relationships. While I aim to create a database to map out these personal networks, it is still under construction and thus incomplete. Right now, I would rather like to highlight the example of one particular family to illustrate their significance as well as the interesting and diverse nature of the issue of plastic national identities.
The trading company of the Harácsek family—Harácsek Vilmos és utódai (Vilmos Harácsek and Descendants), founded at the end of the eighteenth century—operated within the Harácsek House, on the north side of the main square in Baia Mare/Nagybánya (Image 1). Originally, the company dealt in iron, but before 1918 it sold tobacco too. In the interwar period, aside from the iron trading section, it had sections that dealt in spices and other commodities of the global colonial trade. According to the register of citizens (Bürgerbuch) of Baia Mare/Nagybánya, issued around the turn of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, Maximilianus Haracsek arrived in Baia Mare/Nagybánya from Hornstein in Sopron County in 1792. Until now, I could only reconstruct the family tree for the descendants of József Harácsek (Image 2). In one source, a Transylvanian “Who’s Who” published in 1934, he was listed as the son of Maximilanus. József Harácsek was a merchant, city representative, and a founding member of the Nagybányai Kaszinó. He died on February 20, 1902, at the age of 85. The newspaper Nagybánya és Vidéke published a lengthy obituary on the front page, praising his role in the public life of the city. He had a brother, Ignác, who was the mayor and chief judge of the city before 1869. József Harácsek and his wife, Augusta Lollok, had four children: Vilmos, Emma, László, and Imre.
The first son, Vilmos, became a merchant. He did not outlive his father, and left behind four children from his nineteen-year marriage to Katinka Boitner. Emma, the daughter of Jozséf and Augusta, married Gusztáv Lovrich, a lawyer living in Budapest, who had been a member of the board of directors of the Magyar Országos Központi Takarékpénztár (Hungarian National Central Savings Bank) starting in 1895, and was elected Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Nagybánya-felsőbányai vasút részvénytársaság (Baia Mare–Baia Sprie Railway Joint Stock Company) at the time of its establishment in 1904. Emma Harácsek and Gusztáv Lovrich died one after the other in 1916, the wife on August 12, at the age of 70, the husband on November 24, at the age of 72, both in Budapest. However, they were both laid to rest in the Harácsek family crypt in Baia Mare. A wreath was sent to the wife’s grave by Pál Teleki, his wife, and the widow of Géza Teleki. Pál Teleki was later (in 1920–1921 and again in 1939–1940) Prime Minister of Hungary; Géza Teleki was his father. The Teleki family were large landowners in Satu Mare County, particularly in Pribékfalva. Emma Harácsek and Gusztáv Lovrich left three sons behind: István, József and Gyula, all three of whom had legal careers in Budapest.
László Harácsek, the second son of József and Augusta, was the Chief Financial Adviser of the Central Directorate of Tobacco Excise and from 1913, its director. Like his brother-in-law, he was a member of the board of directors of the Nagybánya-felsőbányai vasút részvénytársaság (Baia Mare–Baia Sprie Railway Joint Stock Company), and at the time of its formation he was elected vice chairman, along with Jenő Farkas, mayor of Baia Sprie. In 1881, László married Irén Hock, the daughter of the medical doctor József Hock. Information about any children is unavailable. The youngest son, Imre Harácsek, was a lawyer, and of the four, he is the only one whose exact date of birth is currently known: he was born on November 1, 1859, in Baia Mare. He attended elementary school and the first year of high school in his hometown. From there, he studied in Eger, then in Pozsony (Bratislava/Pressburg), where he graduated with his Baccalaureate. He graduated from the Law Faculty of the University of Budapest, and moved home after passing the bar examination in 1886. For a time, he was editor of the oldest local newspaper, Nagybánya és Vidéke. He was a member of the city council, legal advisor and member of the Board of Directors of the Baia Mare Commercial Bank. He died in 1904, at the age of 45, after a long illness. He married Berta Diószeghy, but they had no children.
Of the next generation, apart from the Lovrich boys, only the four children of Vilmos Harácsek are known: Vilmos, Erzsébet, László, and Károly. In 1917, two of them were listed as members of the board of directors of local financial institutions: Vilmos Jr. held his position at the City Savings Bank, founded in 1868, while Károly was at the Baia Mare Commercial Bank, founded in 1890. According to the trilingual (Romanian, Hungarian, and German) economical compass issued in Cluj-Napoca in 1923/24, Károly still held his position in that year, while Vilmos served on the board of directors of the Nagybánya Stock Savings Bank, established in 1890. He held the same position in the early 1930s as well, according to Pál Krizsán (journalist, publisher of a bilingual directory about the municipal administration, churches, cultural and economic institustions of Baia Mare). Erzsébet Harácsek married Mihály Makray, who was the mayor of the city between 1907 and 1918 and held the position of government commissioner of Satu Mare County from the beginning of December 1918. László died in the war, in 1916. Deceased family members, of whom obituaries remained, were buried according to Catholic rites. The statue of St. Anthony was donated to the Catholic parish by the family. Beyond this, we have no knowledge of their role in the life of the Catholic parish.
Thus, the Harácsek family played an important role in the life of Baia Mare/Nagybánya before the First World War. However, there is very little information about their postwar fates, especially their long-term trajectories. The wholesaler Harácsek Vilmos és utódai (Vilmos Harácsek and Descendants) remained operational according to Pál Krizsán’s database, published in 1933. The directory ranks the family’s wholesale trade company first among the traders of the city. Two male members of the third generation of the above family history still held their positions in their respective institutions. According to a 1930 census of the citizens of Baia Mare, they both lived at Piața Unirii, no. 18 (the old main square), and were both registered as merchants. Vilmos was 50 at the time, a widower, and had a 22-year-old son, József, who lived at the same address; Károly was 45 years old and unmarried. In 1926–27 József, the son of Vilmos, attended a one-year course at the Budapest Academy of Commerce. It seems that the Harácseks could preserve their importance in the city’s economic life; however, they apparently lost their political role in the interwar period.
In my view, using a prosopographic approach, and one based on parallel family histories, could say the most about how the transitory period after the First World War affected the society of Baia Mare/Nagybánya. Most recently, Robert C. Tőkőly compiled the list of mayors of Baia Mare/Nagybánya. In his studies, he also presents the biographies and family backgrounds of various personalities holding leading positions in the city, but it would also be worthwhile to direct attention to the career paths of the other members of these families, as well as the connections between the different families.
Serviciul Județean Maramureș al Arhivelor Naționale, Fond 1. Primăria orașului Baia Mare/ nr. inv. 283. Registre
- Nagybánya város polgárainak lajstroma 1782-es esztendőtől.
- Registru cuprinzând membrii oraşului Baia Mare şi colonii din 1930.
Felsőbányai Hírlap, Nagybánya, Nagybánya és Vidéke, Szatmár és Vidéke
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Tőkőly, Robert C.: Primarii orașului Baia Mare în perioada 1919-1950. Cronologie și câteva date personale. Revista Arhivei Maramureșene. Anul VII. Nr. 7/2014.