Roosevelt, Mikszáth and St. Peter’s Umbrella

This is a wonderful and true story.  Some of you might have heard it.

After serving for eight years as US President Theodore Roosevelt opted not to run for a third term in 1908.  Two years later, he decided to take a trip to Europe and in April 1910 he visited Hungary.

President Roosevelt on horseback

Roosevelt was especially interested in horse breeding and agriculture. During his stay in Vienna, Austria he visited a Hungarian hussar regiment stationed there.  From Vienna he travelled to Pozsony (today Bratislava) where the imposing Hungarian statesman, Count Albert Apponyi received him.  After he travelled to Budapest where he was greeted by Mayor István Bárczy and a huge crowd in spite a rain and a late arrival.

Count Apponyi (tall with beard) receives President Roosevelt

Roosevelt toured the city and admired the buildings.  He told journalists that he was “a true admirer of the Hungarian nation.”  At the Royal Palace he was the guest of Archduke Joseph.  He also paid a visit to Ferenc Kossuth, leader of the Kossuth Party.  Newspapers noted that Roosevelt enjoyed the tour of the Agricultural Museum and visited the City Park (today Városliget) where he paid respect to Washington’s statue which had just been unveiled four years earlier.  He laid a wreath on it.

Hotel Hungaria

The US President occupied the luxurious presidential suite at the majestic Hotel Hungary located at the banks of the river Danube.  Arriving back to the hotel after his busy day, he asked his entourage – Where is Mikszáth?   I’d like to meet him.

Kálmán Mikszáth was a Hungarian writer whose folksy novels were (and are) popular.  One of his novels, St. Peter’s Umbrella had been translated to English and became popular in the US.  Roosevelt’s wife read it and she loved it so much that she recommended it to the President who also read it and now wanted to meet the writer.

Kálmán Mikszáth

They met at the hotel.  Mikszáth came with his son, Kálmán Jr. who spoke English and acted as the translator of the encounter.

A sad note to this story is that a month later Mikszáth died prematurely at the age of 63.   St. Peter’s Umbrella is still a popular novel and several film versions were made in Hungary.  The 1958 version of the film is accessible on YouTube by clicking here.

György Lázár

2 Comments

  1. not Népliget, Városliget, I guess

  2. Avatar György Lázár says:

    Alex, You are correct, it is City Park = Városliget. text is corrected. Thanks

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