Hungarians in the USA, Hungarian Freemasons in New York in the 20th century

Hungarian Freemasons in New York in the 20th century

In the 20th century, several Hungarian Masonic lodges operated abroad. Experts give two main reasons for this. One is that Freemasonry was banned in Hungary three times in the space of a hundred years. The other reason, which some experts believe is also related to the previous one, is that many Hungarian Freemasons were forced to leave Hungary.
The research report is based on the documents in the Livingstone Library in New York. Two lodges were founded in New York. One was EHLERS Lodge No. 953, founded in 1918; the other was Louis Kossuth Lodge No. 1117, founded in 1934.

Hungarians in the USA  

In the 20th century, we know of several Hungarian Masonic lodges that operated abroad. Experts give two main reasons for this. One is that Freemasonry was banned in Hungary three times in the space of a hundred years. The other reason, which some experts believe is related to the previous one, is that many Hungarian Freemasons were forced to leave Hungary.

The forced exodus from Hungary began in the 19th century. The first significant emigration began after the defeat of the 1848-49 revolution and the War of Hungarian Independence. It was then that one of the most famous Hungarians, Lajos Kossuth, fled abroad. He and several others were ordained as Freemasons in the United States and others in other European countries.

“Staggered out”

Attila József, the famous Hungarian poet, wrote this stern indictment in May 1937: “One and a half million of our people have staggered out to America.” The “staggering” has not stopped since then. Those fleeing from the Horthy regime, (Miklós Horthy was Governor of Hungary) then later the Second World War, then the Rákosi regime (Mátyás Rákosi was the leader of the Communist Party of Hungary), then called dissidents, and later the events of 1956, became the “defectors”. Staggering was not only a feature of the twentieth century, but in the twenty-first century, roughly the last 15 years, it has reached a similar scale as at the time of the Attila József quote.

One of the assumptions is that at the beginning of the century the reasons for deliberately leaving the country were probably mainly economic, while in the middle of the century, the main reason was religious and then political persecution. 

Many of those who left the country were intellectuals, doctors, lawyers, and members of the intellectual elite, but also the so-called “commoners”, industrialists, and merchants were forced to leave.

It is not an assumption, but a known fact that the persecution of the First and Second World Wars led to the departure of many Jews – not only religious Jews but also those who considered themselves of Jewish origin – and many Hungarians known for their left-wing views. A large percentage of these emigrants chose the United States.

We have good reason to believe that many of those who left the country were Freemasons, or, like Lajos Kossuth, (Lajos Kossuth was a Hungarian politician of Hungary during the revolution of 1848–1849.) became Freemasons abroad in the hope of financial, but even more so moral, support.

It was only a step from there that these Freemasons demanded the company of their former and now new compatriots, and so Hungarian Masonic lodges were formed abroad.

It is true that these lodges – like the one in New York – did not operate in Hungarian. Still, among their officers, we find many Freemasons of Hungarian origin (with Hungarian names), who actively supported the Freemasons of the mother country.

The arrival of Hungarians in the New World

From historical documents, it is known that the first recognized Hungarian to arrive in America was Stephen Parmenius (c.1555-1583) in 1583.

One of the most interesting individuals in the descriptions seems to be Colonel Michael de Kováts (1724-1779), who is known to have been a member of the Pulaski Legion. He is considered one of the founders of the American cavalry. Historians speculate that Hungarian settlers may have arrived in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. As immigrants, they settled in Boston, New York, Philadelphia, Charleston, and New Orleans.

Historical records also indicate that more Hungarians came to America in the 1830s and 1840s. These included Sándor Bölöni-Farkas (1795-1842) and Ágoston Haraszthy (1812-1869). Both wrote about their experiences. They published their writings under the titles “Utazás Észak-Amerikába”, and “Utazás Északamerikában” (“Travels to North America” and “Travels in North America”). 

The first major Hungarian immigrant group was the so-called “forty-niners”. They were refugees after the defeat of the Hungarian Revolution and War of Independence in 1848. Many of them joined the Union Army during the Civil War.

At the turn of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, a large Hungarian group arrived. An article (1) on the subject reads: “The next wave was the turn-of-the-century “Great Economic Immigration” that landed about 1.7 million Hungarian citizens, among them 650,000-700,000 real Hungarians (Magyars), on American shores. These immigrants came almost solely for economic reasons, and they represented the lowest and poorest segment of the population.”

After the First World War, the number of Hungarians settling in America declined significantly. The reason for this was the tightening of American immigration laws.
Under the tightened immigration laws, in the 1930s, about 3,000 mainly intellectuals, fleeing the spread of Nazism, arrived in the USA. 

Subsequently, after the Second World War, Hungarians who had emigrated for political reasons were allowed to immigrate to the US. At that time, the US immigration law for so-called displaced persons was in force. This allowed 17,000 Hungarians to arrive. This was followed by the “fifty-six” group of roughly 38,000.

Hungarian Emigration to USA

The impact on American society of the roughly 60,000 Hungarians who arrived between 1930 and 1957 was much greater than that of the earlier arrivals, although their numbers were smaller.

Among the Hungarian immigrants to the US, the most respected were the so-called “Kossuth immigrants“. It was because of their origins and education that the Hungarians were known as the “nation of nobles”.

This picture then changed after the turn of the century, as economic immigrants were mostly poor and poorly educated.

This has improved somewhat, thanks to people of Hungarian descent who have made significant contributions to the development of American society. Anecdotally, it is said that at meetings of the United States Atomic Energy Commission, when not everyone was present, Hungarian was the language spoken.

In a study “Illustrious Immigrants (1968)”, L. Fermi described as “the mystery of Hungarian talent” the fact that many Hungarians have achieved results that have had a significant impact on American society.

Just as an example, besides the world of physics and the atom, let us take the well-known fact that the present-day film industry, Hollywood, was founded by Hungarians. The best-known was Adolf Zukor. Few people know that one of the founders was William Fox, born in Tolcsva, Hungary, as Vilmos Friedman. 

The most famous Hungarian director, Mihály Kertész, came to Hollywood in 1927. Many of his works – notably Yankee Duddle (1942) and Casablanca (1942) – are among the most legendary in cinema.

In addition, there are so many unforgettable Hungarian experiences in the world of art that it could be the subject of a separate study. I would mention here only the three best-known artists: Henry Houdini, Gábor Zsazsa, and Tony Curtis. Henry Houdini has made a name for himself not only in the world of entertainment art but also as a Freemason.


Hungarian lodges in New York

It is likely that, based on the facts described above, the Hungarians who came to America also influenced Freemasonry. At the beginning of the twentieth century, Masons living in New York and claiming Hungarian ancestry expressed the need to establish Hungarian lodge(s). This led to the formation of two lodges in New York.

One was EHLERS Lodge No. 953, founded in 1918, and the other was Louis Kossuth Lodge No. 1117, founded in 1934.

These two lodges were brought to my attention by László Vári, a Hungarian researcher on Freemasonry. Although I had heard of these two lodges before, I did not know much about them. So, I went to the Chancellor Robert Livingstone Masonic Library and Museum in New York, where they have an extraordinary number of documents from the past of the two lodges in New York State and thus of these two lodges. (2)

Livingstone Library

Livingstone Library

László Vári, my research partner, wrote in an article that during his research he had found out about several Hungarian lodges, but in the museum, I found documents about only two of them. The others turned out not to be recognized as regular Masonic lodges.

Among the approximately 3000 pages of documents found in the Masonic Library, there are many interesting facts about the life of the Hungarian people in America, especially the Freemasons. For example, I found invitations to various works, social events, minutes, drawings, texts of lectures, and speeches. 

In the case of Ehlers Lodge, this document package is approximately 2200 pages. For Kossuth Lodge, I found only 130 pages of documents, but we can add to this the documents of the attached (joint, merged) lodges.

I have found additional documents, but they were created after the merger with other lodges, so they are evidence of the merged lodges and do not show evidence of the Hungarian Lodges. Therefore, I have not included all the documents in the Livingstone library, as for a general research presentation, I have only considered the most important ones. 

I would like to take this opportunity to thank Chancellor Robert R Livingston Masonic Library for allowing me to research the history of the two lodges.

Ehlers Lodge No. 953


The lodge was founded on 8 May 1918. It operated independently until 1975.

My research colleague, László Vári described the lodge in one of his studies (3):

“Ehlers Lodge was founded by Hungarian Freemasons who fled to America before and during World War I. Although they worked in English, we can still consider them a Hungarian lodge, since they maintained very close relations with the old country and helped Hungarian Freemasonry financially and with their contacts both after the bans (1920 and 1950) and during the brief revival (1945-1950).

The iconic figures of the lodge were Morris Cukor, Arthur H. Keil and Joseph Rosenberg. 

The latter two visited their homeland in 1948 and reported back that the reconstituted Symbolic Grand Lodge of Hungary had received a grant of about $10,000 to renovate the Grand Lodge House and to help widows and Masons in need. The lodge supported the needy in Hungary as a result of both post-war fundraisers, and provided scholarships, jobs, education, etc. for refugees from the 1956 revolution in America. The lodge lost more and more of its Hungarian character due to the lack of replacement of Hungarian members.”

Elsewhere in the mentioned publication, the lodge was described as:

“The founders, including Abraham Levy of Mount Neboh Lodge 257, Stephen Veolin and Morris Cukor of Dirigo Lodge 430, Dr. Frank Horn of La Sincerite Lodge 373, applied to then Grand Master Thomas Penney for permission to operate the lodge.

The provisional operating license was granted on 4 January 1917 and the permanent one on 18 January 1917. Although Abraham Levy had previously wanted to be appointed as the new Chief Master, he refused for personal reasons, and Stephen Veolin was appointed as the first Master.”

“The following were elected to the offices of the lodge: Senior Warden, Dr. Frank Horn; Junior Warden, Morris Cukor; Treasurer, Albert B. Bing; Secretary, Irving Billig; Chaplain, Louis Brown; Senior Dean, Géza Black; Junior Dean, Dr. Roth; Masters of Ceremonies, Hetle and Brown, Tyler, Baer.

The Lodge was consecrated on May 25, 1918, by Deputy Grand Master Robert H. Robinson, with many of the officers of the Grand Lodge in attendance, and the Lodge was officially licensed to operate.”

Looking through the official records of the lodge’s 58-year history, I found several interesting documents. Most of them were invitations to some event, but I also found, among other things, a description of the history of the lodge.

The description was published in 1986 and was presented as a lecture on 23 May 1986 at an Ehlers Lodge workshop. The history of the lodge was written by Dr. L. Lester Beacher.  (4) 

From this I would quote information on the founding of the Lodge: “Ehlers Lodge was the brainchild of American citizens, Masons born in Hungary & Austria, now residing in New York City and raised to the Master Mason degree in Hungarian Lodges. These brothers decided to share their masonic fraternalism. Thus, they formed a lodge in New York City to become brothers of the same lodge. This was in 1917. Ehlers Lodge No. 953 F. & A.M. was chartered by the Grand Lodge of the State of New York in 1918. 

The names of a few shall be perpetuated as the Founders:  R: . W : . Stephen S. Veolin, Wk. FrankI. Horn, M.D., Rk.W :. Morris Cukor B r o. Irving Oillig, W :. George Black, W :. Leopold Molnar, W :. Dr. Fritz Neuman, R : . W:. Dr. Albert Wynn, W:, Frank Vamos, W:. Sidney J . R. Steiner, W:. Frederick Breitenfeld, W :. Alex Lefko”

Dr. L. Lester Beacher wrote this about the formation of the lodge and the naming: After several get-togethers, they proposed the name of Louis Kossuth Lodge, after the Hungarian patriot. But the United States was at war against the European Central powers, of which Hungary was a part. Because of this the application for Charter or Dispensation was postponed till a better name would be selected. The name of Louis Kossuth Lodge was rejected by the Grand Lodge of the State of New York.

M:.W :. Edward A. M. Ehlers
M:.W :. Edward A. M. Ehlers

“Around this period the M:.W :. Edward A. M. Ehlers, Past Grand Secretary of the Grand Lodge passed away. Bro. Ehlers served as Grand Secretary for over 35 years and for his efficiency and diligence, he was elevated to the rank of honorary Past Grand Master with the title of “Most Worshipful “.

Bro. Veolin, Bro. Horn and others thought it appropriate to memorialize the popular and beloved Past Grand Secretary Ehlers, by naming our Lodge after him. This was most welcome by the Grand Lodge committee on charters. Thus, Ehlers Lodge No 953 was born to carry on masonic tradition of Hungarian Masons and honoring the name o f M :.W :. Edward A. M. Ehlers.”

The “Lester Beacher” document mentioned above contains, among other things, a list of the lodge’s Masters. Over the 58 years, there were a number of Masters with Hungarian names and therefore of Hungarian origin.


Masters of Ehlers Lodge
Masters of Ehlers Lodge

The spirit of Ehlers Lodge

From the documents of Ehlers Lodge found in the Livingstone Library archives, which I have examined, I have been able to get an idea of the ethos of the lodge. To characterize this, I would like to quote from the master’s message in the invitation to the January 20, 1942, session.

Ehlers Lodge Invitation 01201942

In the invitation to the meeting, the Master wrote, among other things:

“Masonry has played a great part in bringing about the realization of the promotion of Brotherhood of Man. It is a great thing for the ‘world when everywhere the spirit of strife and division is rampant that men learn brotherhood. by practicing it towards fellow Masons, because he who begins by practicing it toward fellow Masons will soon practice it everywhere.

Brotherhood is the only practicable means of healing the hurts of mankind. Every individual

who learns in his lodge the lessons of brotherhood and who goes through life everywhere practicing that lesson is helping toward the real order of things wherein will dwell peace for all men.”

The Master gave the motto for the work as “Work should be considered the healthiest play one can find.”

It is also important to note that the wives of the lodge members were treated with respect. To prove this, here is a sentence from a party invitation (1975): “LADIES’ NIGHT – October 16th, Armistice Ehlers will have the pleasure of the company of our ladies, at which’ time we will provide them with food and entertainment.”

Among the documents I examined in the Ehlers Lodge, I found the original texts of several lectures. These lectures also authentically reflect the spirit of the lodge. 

Among the lectures found in the archives, I would like to highlight one from 1951. The lecture was given by Rabbi J.H. Gelberman.

This is what Rabbi Gelberman wrote:

“I am a Rabbi. I am also a Mason. I have often been asked whether there is any conflict between the two. This question troubled me when I contemplated joining my many friends in their masonic work. As a Rabbi, I had a definite concept of my way of life, based upon the teachings of the prophets as embodied in the Holy Bible.

To modern man in the interpretation of these prophetic statements lay the foundation for a good and moral life. They relate to every, day life in the family, in business; in politics, in- the community and in the nation. The Constitution and the Bill of Rights of the United States are based on these principles. All of these lead to one conclusion; that one cannot claim belief in God without believing in Man and without fighting for the preservation of man’s self respect and personal dignity.

Both religion and masonry in their mission and ideals work for the betterment of man and for a better way of life.”

The openness of Ehlers Lodge was typified by the publication in 1935 of the annual report of Ehlers Lodge, which included a message from L. Angelsus, the outgoing Master. This publication can also be found in the archives of the library. In this publication, the complete list of the lodge at that time was published, together with the addresses of the lodge members.

Ehlers Lodge

The annual report stated that the lodge had been in debt in the previous year but had managed to settle this and become debt-free. The outgoing Master speaking about the ethos of the lodge, pointed out that “I have also learned that it is extremely important that proper means be provided for making a meeting versatile and have therefore tried to arrange for various interesting speakers and social nights which created a closer bond not only among the brethren bfit also their families and their friends.”

Documents in the library’s archives also show that the work in the lodges was not entirely untroubled in the 20th century. 

Nowadays, in the second decade of the twenty-first century, one often hears that the rituals performed in lodges are not sufficiently known, even by the masters. 

To prove that this is not a modern problem, I would like to recall a message from a Master of Ehlers Lodge, in which he wrote that he had reason to believe that there were many Masons, – even among the officers, – who would have difficulty in working in another lodge. The reason for this situation, according to the Master, is the lack of attention paid by lodge officers to the education of new brethren and the lack of training of officers.

Royal Arts Committee

Elemer Sas
Elemer Sas

To characterize the spirit of the Ehlers Lodge, I would like to recall the thoughts of Elemér Sas, the Master of the Lodge, where he spoke about the establishment of the “Royal Arts Committee”. 

Elemér Sas wrote “In my initial message on January 11th, 1951, I announced the establishment of “The Committee on Royal Art”. I explained that it as an organization “charged with the task of propagating a love for Masonic Wisdom; that crystallization of our arts, our sciences, our philosophies, and our form of ethics – those pinnacles of human achievement that the Craft has Earnestly sought over the centuries”.
Elemér Sas and Dr. Nándor Fodor suggested that at each meeting a short lecture on a topic related to Freemasonry should be read.

They also suggested “to have these articles assembled into a small booklet at the end of the year for distribution not only to our own membership, but to those other brothers who are interested in this higher phase of Masonic Activity.

All the brothers were invited to submit such articles to the Royal Art Committee. The sole condition being that the article be original in nature.”


The relationship between the Ehlers Lodge and Hungary

The New York Lodge took an active part in the events in Hungary. A study on the history of the lodge had this to say about it. (R:.W:. Dr. L. Lester Beacher wrote (5):

“Following the devastations of the First War, the major Ehlers Lodge project was its “Milk Relief ” drive to help underprivileged Hungarians who were deprived of milk supply. Milk became a rarity, a luxury. 

It was through the efforts of Ehlers Lodge that milk became available to the poor in Hungary who could not pay the “exorbitant” “underground” price for it. It became also available to others for whom the high price became milk a luxury, even though a necessity. This was for Hungary.”

Beacher, speaking about the history of the lodge, also recalled that after World War II, many Jews sought refuge in the United States from Hungary.

In recounting the history of the lodge, Beacher also reported that W. Arthur H. Keil, the lodge’s Past Master, took it upon himself to find a way to rescue them. 

At first, he tried to carry on alone with the sympathy of the new Grand Lodge of Symbolic Masons of Hungary. 

Arthur H. Keil said in a speech, (titled THE HIGHLIGHTS OF THE HISTORY OF EHLERS LODGE NO.953 F & A.M. – at the 1000th communication of the Lodge on October 21;1971.)
“In 1917, during World War I, loyal Americans of Hungarian extraction were looked upon as enemy aliens. To counteract the falsity of many cruel charges, suspicions and even assumption Hungarian masons in good standing in the Fraternity organized the “Hungarica” a masonic club. In order to enlarge their membership, they changed the name to “Danubia”, thus enabling them to reach natives of the countries bordering the River Danube.

The name did not seem appropriate for that particular time and was rejected. To memorialize an outstanding Freemason, Honorary Past Grand Master, Grand Secretary of New York, and a Lincoln hero, Grand Master Thomas Penney granted dispensation on November 8, 1917, with the name of Edward M.L. Ehlers Lodge.

Also, during World War II, our late President Roosevelt, permitted 1000 refugees to be brought to this country but to be returned to Europe immediately upon the cessation of the war. These refugees were of seventeen nationalities and seven religious denominations placed in a camp at Oswego, New York. They were provided with all necessities but no freedom to even visit the town itself. 

The lodge felt that they were guests in our country and ought to be treated accordingly. 

A Committee created by our lodge began a national campaign for the liberalization of the rigid restrictions within the Camp, and eventually for the total freedom of these people. We conferred with Statesmen, Senators, Government Agencies, hundreds of influential men in public life. 

Amongst the first contributors for the cause were Mrs. Roosevelt, Governor Dewey, Governor Lehman and many other notable citizens. In due time President Truman by Presidential Directive permitted some responsible Jewish agencies to escort the refugees to Canada and have them re-enter the United States as immigrants.

Hardly did we finish the Oswego project when we received a letter from Budapest informing us of the resurrection of Freemasonry. The lodge immediately formed a Committee for The Rehabilitation of Freemasonry in Hungary. 

To this day the Hungarian Grand Lodge, although underground, has its committee to carry out just distribution of gifts we continue to send to our aged brethren and widows, especially with the financial and moral assistance of the Northern and Southern Supreme Councils of the Scottish Rite.

Few of you know that in addition to our Masonic endeavors, the “Hungarian Relief Inc.” the official Relief Agency sponsored by our government at the end of World War II, also had its roots in Ehlers Lodge.”

The members of the lodge later also took their ties to Hungary seriously. This is evidenced by the fact that on 5 November 1959, the lodge hosted Andor Gerő, who was the Secretary General of the Symbolic Grand Lodge of Hungary at the time.

Ehlers Lodge

Kelet KeletAndor Gerő, who has been made an honorary member of the Ehlers Lodge, gave a lecture to the members of the Lodge. The document also reveals that Arthur H. Keil, Master of Ehlers Lodge, and Sydney J. R. Steiner, Secretary of Ehlers Lodge, and Joseph S. Rosenberg and Alex Lichtschein, members of Ehlers Lodge, were made honorary members of the Symbolic Grand Lodge of Hungary.

The connection of the Ehlers Lodge with Hungary is well illustrated by the news item published in KELET (it was a Hungarian Masonic newspaper. The newspaper aimed to introduce Freemasonry.) in 1948 about the honorary membership of the Ehlers Lodge by some of the leaders of the Hungarian Symbolic Grand Lodge.

Arthur H. Keil’s article on the Ehlers Lodge was also published in KELET.


Gero AndorAlthough not an integral part of the history of Ehlers Lodge, it is worth mentioning in this context that the Livingstone Library archives contain a publication that was published in Toronto in 1962.  A small booklet published by the UNITAS Hungarian Masonic Circle, the “Directory of Hungarian-speaking Freemasons living abroad.”  The publication was compiled by Andor Gerő, Secretary General of the Symbolic Grand Lodge of Hungary.

Gero AndorIn the foreword to the publication, Andor Gerő, among others, wrote:

“When I left Hungary in 1959, I set myself the goal of seeking out the Hungarian-speaking Masonic brethren in the West, and of trying to revive the spirit that had made the Symbolic Grand Lodge of Hungary and the Hungarian Freemasonry respected throughout the world.
Soon after my founding, the Hungarian Unitas Circle was formed in Toronto, soon followed by the Montreal Unitas Circle.
The light has come on the Kossuth Lodge, operating under the auspices of the Argentine Grand Lodge, was kindled.
I contacted the Ehlers Lodge in New York, the Resurrectio in Sao Paulo, the Martinovics in Paris, the Humanitas Lodge in Sydney and many brothers who work in foreign language lodges…”

This publication has become an important document not only for Hungarian Freemasons working in the United States, but also in other parts of the world. It characterizes the relationship between Freemasonry abroad and Freemasonry in Hungary.


Significant members of the Ehlers Lodge

The historical background of Ehlers Lodge would not be complete without remembering two iconic members of the lodge.

Morris Cukor

Morris Cukor
Morris Cukor

The lawyer from Napkor (around Nyíregyháza, Hungary), who lived in America, is considered one of the most important figures in Hungarian-American relations. Morris Cukor was a relative of George Cukor, the famous Hollywood producer.  

Morris Cukor was one of the founders of the Ehlers Lodge. Between 1890 and 1950, he was a prominent figure at almost every major Hungarian American gathering.  

After the Second World War, when the Symbolic Grand Lodge was re-established in Hungary, he was elected Grand Representative of the Symbolic Grand Lodge of Hungary to the Grand Lodge of the State of New York.  

It should also be added that he was the first such representative, and unfortunately, with the end of the Nazi era and the end of Masonic activities in Hungary, Morris Cukor was the last such Grand Representative.


Arthur H. Keil (Keil Artúr) 

Arthur KeilAurthur Keil
Arthur H. Keil

A study on Freemasonry has this to say about him (6)

Arthur H. Keil” was born in 1904 in Toporcz in an Israelite family, as it is shown in the rolls of the Evangelical College in Eperjes. In 1927 he worked as a haberdasher, according to the jubilee publication of the People’s Bank in Pabianice. There he had a trading company and a women’s clothing factory. He died in May 1981 at the age of seventy-seven. He became a Mason in the USA (1936) and held a number of important positions during his career.
(Master of Ehlers Lodge, New-York; Master-elect of the Royal Arch; Member of the New-York Consistory of the Scottish Rite; Member of the American Lodge of Research; Grand Steward; Member of: Allied Masonic Degrees; Grand College of Rites; SRCF; Knight Masons; Philalethes Society.)

He was immensely instrumental in organizing support for the Hungarian Grand Lodge in America.

In 1952, he organized the ceremony commemorating the 100th anniversary of Kossuth’s admission to Freemasonry in New York.

To support the refugees of ’56, he established the Masonic Relief Committee for Hungary.”

ARMISTICE-EHLERS LODGE, 953. – Joshua Lodge 929

There is a document in the Livingstone Library in New York that states that Ehlers Lodge merged with Armistice Lodge No. 1008 in 1975 to form Armistice Ehlers Lodge No. 963, but from then on it can no longer be considered a Hungarian Lodge. At this point, only a few Freemasons of Hungarian origin can be found among the leading officers.

At the time of the merger, in 1975, Armistice Lodge had a membership of just over 200, Ehlers Lodge 160. According to that document, the membership of Armistice Lodge consisted mainly of New York residents, while Ehlers had a substantial membership of Hungarian descent.

According to one document, the lodge met on the first and third Thursday of each month in the 12th-floor Chapter Room of the Masonic Hall in New York City.

Chapter Room
Chapter Room – contemporary photo
Hungarian Freemasons in New York in the 20th century
Photography nowadays

Unfortunately, this combined lodge was not long-lived. In 1983, Armistice Ehlers Lodge applied to merge with Robert Fulton-Paul Revere Lodge, as many of the brethren of the lodge had left for the perpetual East and very few new initiations had taken place. This took place in 1984.

The four united lodges chose the name “Joshua Lodge #929”. Then in 1986 Pilgrim Lodge was merged and continued to operate as a combination of Joshua Lodge, Ehlers, Armistice, Robert Fulton, Paul Revere, and Pilgrim Lodges. 

According to Beacher’s study referred to above, Ehlers Lodge will continue to live on not only in the memory of Freemasons as part of a cause started by Ehlers Lodge and adopted and carried on by Joshua Lodge. 

The main charitable function of Ehlers Lodge was the establishment of an “Educational Assistance Fund” for the financial assistance of needy students. 

Although Ehlers Lodge ceased to function as a separate lodge, it was a well-functioning New York lodge for 58 years, according to Livingston Library records.


Kossuth Lodge No. 1117

While the documents in the Livingstone Library give a virtually accurate picture of Ehlers Lodge, the same cannot be said of Kossuth Lodge. There are two reasons for this. 

Firstly, the Kossuth Lodge operated independently for a much shorter period, from 1934 to 1968. 

Secondly, only a part of the Kossuth Lodge documents have been presented. These are mainly invitations to lodge workshops. While the documents in the library tell the story of Ehlers Lodge, many details of the history of Kossuth Lodge remain obscure.

History of the lodge very briefly

Documents show that the date of the formation of Louis Kossuth Lodge No. 1117 is unclear. Some documents state that the lodge was chartered in New York City on October 7, 1932. 

The bylaws of the lodge were adopted on 18 May 1934. It was merged into Arcana Lodge No. 246 on 18 October 1968. As a result, it ceased to be an independent lodge and was joined by three other lodges between 1993 and 1999. Kossuth Lodge was part of this merger. These lodges continued to function as Arcana Lodge No. 246 from 4 November 1999.


Foundation of the lodge

The unclear situation is characterized by the fact that the date of formation is October 7, 1932, according to the invitation noted by Master Stephen G. Veolin, but other documents in the Livingstone Library archives indicate that the Kossuth Lodge is still recorded as being formed on May 18, 1934. An invitation inviting the members of the lodge to celebrate the second anniversary of its formation on 15 May 1936 is a reference to this.

However, another invitation and the program for the anniversary meeting show that the lodge celebrated its 25th anniversary on 27 April 1957.

Kossuth Lodge

The situation is further complicated by a newspaper article published in January 1933. According to the article, the lodge was recognized on 7 November 1932. The officers of the lodge were Stephen G. Veolin, Master; Béla Hajos Heksh, Géza Gelencsér, Rudolf Horvath J., Joseph Birnbaum, Géza Gelencsér Jr. Thomas Wass, Jr. Benjamin D. Gold, H. P. Ades, and Samuel Freiser.

I think we can accept as conclusive the document that Kossuth Lodge published about itself in 1955. “Instituted 7 October 1932. Constituted 18 May 1934.” 


The “Dispensation” found in the library testifies that the date of foundation can be accepted as 14 May 1934.  

In the introduction of the program booklet for the 25th Anniversary of the Kossuth Lodge, Master Zoltán J. Grósz wrote:

“The life of a Masonic Lodge may be compared to the life of a human being. The first twenty-five years are the most important; after that, a Lodge matures. Louis Kossuth Lodge, therefore, reaches its majority this year.”

Master Zoltán J. Grósz compared the Kossuth Lodge with other 100-year-old and older lodges, expressing his appreciation that despite its age, the Kossuth Lodge has already earned merit, “great respect, recognition”. According to Grósz, Kossuth Lodge produced great Freemasons whose faces would not be forgotten. Who, in Grósz’s words, “take a man in hand and makes him a better.”

As the Master, he stated the purpose of the lodge as: Here at Louis Kossuth, we always endeavor to make a good Mason an even better one. This is and will continue to be the real aim of Louis Kossuth Lodge.” 


The beginnings of the Kossuth Lodge were recalled by Tamás Wass Jr. on the occasion of the 25th Anniversary. He commemorated the founding of the Kossuth Lodge and its former leaders Stephen G. Veolin, Dr. Hajós Heksh Béla, Dr. Gelencser Géza, Tamás Wass Jr., Benj. D. Gold, Irving R. Roth, Jos Birnbaum, and Dr. Rudolph J. Howath.

Tamás Wass Jr. said: “We chose the name Louis Kossuth as he symbolized the very principles of Free Masonry. “The Fatherhood of God and the Brotherhood of Man.” 

Tamás Wass Jr. wrote in his memoirs that the Kossuth Lodge had already been operating with a license, but on May 18, 1934, Jacob C. Klinck, Deputy Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of the State of New York, presented the Kossuth Lodge with the charter, which classified the Lodge as a regular Masonic Lodge.

The first officers of the Kossuth Lodge were:

  • R…W… Bro. Stephen G. Violin, Master
  • Bela Hajos Heksh, Senior Warden
  • Geza Gelencser, Junior Warden
  • Thomas Wass, Jr., Senior Deacon
  • Benjamin D. Gold, Junior Deacon
  • Jules Roth, Senior Master of Ceremony
  • Nicholas Eros, Junior Master of Ceremony
  • Josysh Birnbaum, Treasurer
  • Rudolph Howath, Secretary
  • John G. Codik, Steward
  • Theodore Reichman, Steward
  • Louis A. Tabasco, Marshal
  • Samuel Freiser, Tyler


Cooperation between Lodges and Hungary

While in the case of the Ehlers Lodge there were several links with Hungary, unfortunately I could not find any reference to the Kossuth Lodge’s links with Hungary in the documents.

However, I have found documentation that Ehlers and Kossuth Lodge members not only knew each other, but also worked together.

An invitation from 1948 proves this.


Among the documents in the Livingstone Library’s archives is an invitation to a joint session, signed by Otto Mohr, Kossuth Lodge and Nándor Fodor, Master of Ehlers Lodge.

On February 19, 1948, the two lodges held a joint open work on the occasion of the centenary of the 1948 Revolution and War of Independence and the 96th Masonic birthday of Lajos Kossuth, where two lectures were given.

One, “Kossuth as a Patriot”, was given by Morris Cukor, former Master of Ehlers Lodge, and the other “Kossuth as a mason” by Dr. Béla Hajós Heksh Heksh, a member of Kossuth Lodge, a representative of the Grand Lodge of New York, and former Senior Warden of the Grand Lodge. 

Mihály Székely, singer of the Metropolitan Opera in New York, who was a member of the Eötvös Lodge in Budapest, performed at the event.


The publicity

The members of Kossuth Lodge respected Lajos Kossuth not only among themselves – within the walls of Freemasonry – but also in public. This is evidenced by a report in the New York Times of 10 April 1950.


Life after mergers – the dissolution

I found a reference to Kossuth Lodge in the document on the 125th anniversary of Arcana Lodge. It stated that Arcana Lodge was called to approve the merger agreement between Arcana Lodge No. 246 and Louis Kossuth Lodge No. 117. 

The memorial stated that an “appropriate program marked this great event. It ended with the brethren of the newly consolidated Lodge intermingled with clasped hands and joined together in song.”

In addition to the above citation, other documents of the Arcana Lodge mentioned the Kossuth Lodge in the 100th Anniversary invitation. Quote: “Arcana Lodge 946 includes Louis Kossuth Lodge #1117 (merged 10/18/68) and Elbe Garfield Goelet Lodge #889 (merged 11/4/99)”

Examining the documents, the Kossuth Lodge was mentioned in a few invitations, but even there, the obituaries were mainly about the members of the Kossuth Lodge. Not even in the documents of the Elbe and Goelet Lodges. In the documents of the latter two lodges there was not a single reference to the Kossuth Lodge.

Unfortunately, the documents show that the Kossuth Lodge came to a sad end. First, with mergers, it virtually ceased to be an independent lodge, and then, according to the documents, it was no longer worthy of mention.

Presumably, the Kossuth Lodges around the world are destined to disappear. The Kossuth Lodge in Argentina has suffered a similar fate. Although Kossuth Lodge 406 was recognized as a regular lodge by the Argentine Grand Lodge, and in 1985 they celebrated the twenty-fifth anniversary of their founding, in 1990, presumably due to a lack of replacements, this Kossuth Lodge also ceased to exist.

Hungarian Freemason lodges abroad

László Vári (7), in a study entitled “Hungarian Freemasons Abroad”, on the Hungarian Freemasons operating abroad, concluded that:

“It is natural that these Masons have sought to establish their own lodges. We consider Hungarian Masonic lodges abroad to be those lodges of Hungarian emigrants not operating in Hungary, but generally in the Hungarian language, regardless of the Grand Lodge under whose protection (organization) they work.”

This study compared the fate of Hungarian lodges in several countries (Switzerland, Palestine, Austria, Australia, France, Canada, Brazil and the USA).

It can be stated that most of the Hungarian lodges abroad have ceased to exist or have continued their activities in other forms. The reasons were basically operational difficulties.

One of the most important of these was the fact that the number of members who had come to Hungary in emigration and who still spoke Hungarian and had closer ties with Hungary had dwindled. As a consequence, lodges tried to continue their work in the language of the host country (e.g., in Brazil), and/or then merged with other local lodges. The history of the Ehlers and Kossuth lodges is a good example of such mergers.

And there was another important reason. It was “moving home”. A good example of this is the Martinovitch lodge in Paris, which was the longest-established lodge abroad. In principle, the lodge cannot be considered to have ceased to exist, as it is still in operation today, with the repatriation to Hungary.

In conclusion, the formation of lodges of Hungarian “origin” abroad was a natural need of the Hungarian Freemasons abroad, but the dissolution of the lodges became necessary basically because of the lack of replacement. This is illustrated by the case of the New York State Grand Lodge in the 20th century.

Whereas before, brothers of Hungarian origin, such as the well-known members of the Ehlers Lodge, were active in New York. Or famous personalities such as Henry Houdini.

Nowadays, although there may be those with Hungarian roots, there are hardly any Hungarian-speaking brethren in New York lodges.




  • Chancellor Robert Livingstone’s Masonic Library and Museum Archives (from the Lodge Historical Files, approximately 3,000 documents relating to the two lodges) – Collecting, Studying, and Preserving Masonic Heritage (
  • László Vári: Hungarian Masonic Lodges Abroad The study was published in the anthology “Freemasonry without Secrets” edited by László Márton Noran Libro Publishing House, Budapest, 2018
  • A BRIEF RESUME and HISTORY EHLERS LODGE No. 953 in the Seventh Manhattan District of Manhattan prepared by R:.W:. Dr. L. Lester Beacher 1986 
  • László Vári, Eastern Star Chapter in Hungary. Published on 
  • KELET 1948 
  • Morris Cukor – Indefatigable Hungarian American Activist  
  • Study by László Vári “Hungarian Freemasons abroad” (published in the supplement of Rubicon online plus, issue 2020/10)
  • The photo illustrations are my own and, as well as images from the Internet from the relevant source material.

References in the text:

  1. Article
  2. Chancellor Robert R Livingston Masonic Library – Collecting, Studying, and Preserving Masonic Heritage (
  3.  László Vári: “Hungarian Masonic Lodges Abroad” The study was published in the “Anthology Freemasonry without Secrets” edited by László Márton (Noran Libro Publishing House, Budapest, 2018) 
  4. A BRIEF RESUME and HISTORY EHLERS LODGE No. 953 in the Seventh Manhattan District of Manhattan prepared by R:.W:. Dr. L. Lester Beacher 1986.
  5. A BRIEF RESUME and HISTORY EHLERS LODGE No. 953 in the Seventh Manhattan District of Manhattan prepared by R:.W:. Dr. L. Lester Beacher 1986 
  6.  László Vári, “Eastern Star káptalan Magyarországon” (The Eastern Star Chapter in Hungary) (PDF) Eastern Star káptalan Magyarországon (Eastern Star Chapter in Hungary) (
  7. László Vári’s study “Hungarian Freemasons abroad” was published in the supplement of Rubicon online plus, issue 2020/10.


This Research Report was published by ResearchGate.

The author of this research report: Thomas Barat – Orator of the Abravanel No.1116 Lodge New York / The New York Local Secretary of the Quatuor Coronati Research Lodge / Past Master of the Pillars of Light Masonic Lodge Budapest 

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