Wass de Czege, Samu (Sámuel)

Born: 1814-01-14 Hungary

Died: 1879-03-20 Hungary

Samu (Sámuel) Wass de Czege was a Hungarian politician, diplomat, revolutionary, ethnographer, geographer, and travel writer. Born in Kolozsvár, Wass spent a portion of his early years with his grandfather in Császári. He studied law and arts for eight years at the Royal Lyceum in Kolozsvár, where he excelled in both academics and athletics, becoming an accomplished swimmer, fencer, and marksman. In 1832, Wass toured the lower Danube River and Italy before returning home to become an apprentice-at-law. In 1834, he married Rozália Eperjessy of Gyulafehérvár, with whom he would have four children. In 1839, he became a judge on the county court of Doboka County, and in 1841, he became chief justice, holding that position until 1848. In the aftermath of the Hungarian Revolution and the establishment of a Hungarian government, Doboka County residents selected Wass to represent them in the Diet of Hungary. He remained in the Diet until February 1849, when Louis (Lajos) Kossuth appointed Wass as a special agent to convince European governments to recognize Hungarian independence and assist Hungary in its war of independence against Austria. His mission took him to Bucharest, Constantinople, Paris, Brussels, and London, and in July 1849, he sailed to the United States. Landing in New York City, Wass learned that a combined Austro-Russian force had crushed the Hungarian Revolution, sending Kossuth and others into exile. Unable to return home, he spent time helping Hungarian refugees arriving in New York City, and in 1850, he moved to California to prospect for gold. In 1852, Wass and other Hungarian emigres established the Eureka Gold and Silver Refining Company of San Francisco, which minted gold dollars for the U.S. government. Allowed to return to Hungary in 1858, Wass served in the upper house of the Diet. A master of several languages with a keen interest in science, Wass used his travels and geographical knowledge to contribute to scientific journals and books, and he recounted memories of his travels in a memoir. Wass also became known as an ethnographer, describing his observations of Haiti, the Antilles, and other locales. In 1861, the Hungarian Academy of Sciences acknowledged his contributions to science by making him a corresponding member. In addition to his political and scientific activities, Wass established a mortgage bank, a shipyard, and a navigation company.

András W. Kovács, The History of the Wass de Czege Family, Translated by Ágnes Baricz (Hamburg, DE: Edmund Siemers-Stiftung, 2005), 163-68.