Monday, January 4, 2016

Lettering: Louis Madarasz, Master Penman

January 31, 1859 or 1860, San Antonio, Texas – December 23. 1910, San Francisco, California

1870 United States Federal Census
Name: Louis Madarasz
Age in 1870: 11
Birth Year: abt 1859
Birthplace: Texas
Home in 1870: San Antonio

Household Members: 
Name / Age
Helen Madarasz, 32
Ladistaus Madarasz, 15
Louis Madarasz, 11
Henry Brown, 36

Rochester, New York, City Directory, 1876

Name: Louis Madarasz
Occupation: Penman

Rochester, New York, City Directory, 1878

Name: Louis Madarasz
Occupation: Penman

Rochester, New York, City Directory, 1879
Name: Louis Madarasz
Removed to Manchester, N. H.

Jersey City, New Jersey, City Directory, 1881
Name: Louis Madarasz
Street address: 60 Sussex
Occupation: Card Writer

New York, New York, City Directory, 1888

Name: Louis Madarasz
Street address: 152 E 60th
Residence Place: New York, New York

New York, New York, Marriage Index
Name: Lajos Madarasz
Marriage Date: 26 Mar 1889
Marriage Place: Manhattan, New York

Spouse: Clara Kalish

New York, New York, City Directory, 1891

Name: Louis Madarasz
Street address: 152 E 60th
Residence Place: New York, New York, USA

Occupation: Clerk

1900 United States Federal Census
Name: Louis Madarasz
Age: 40
Birth Date: January 1860
Birthplace: Texas
Home in 1900: Manhattan, New York, New York
Address: 1281 Third Avenue
Father's Birthplace: Hungary
Mother's Birthplace: Hungary
Occupation: Teacher
Household Members:
Name / Age
Louis Madarasz, 40
Clara Madarasz, 31

Hamburg Passenger List
Name: Louis Madarasz
Departure: November 10, 1906
Steam Ship: Patricia
Departure: Hamburg
Arrival Ports: Cuxhaven; Boulogne-sur-Mer; Plymouth; New York

New York Passenger List
Name: Louis Madarasz
Arrival: November 24, 1906
Port: New York, New York

Business Journal 
June 1910
Page 41: Free engrossing script by L Madarasz, Napa, Calif.

Business Journal 
September 1910
Page 12: A message to ambitious writers by L. Madarasz. (below)
Page 15: Department of Ornamental Writing
Page 20: The Swan on Still St. Mary’s Lake

The Blue Book
Containing Photographs and Sketches of a Few Commercial Teachers

L. E. Stacy
Mr. Louis Madarasz was born in San Antonio, Texas, January 31, 1860. He is of Hungarian stock, his father and mother having come from Hungary, 1849. He attended the Christian Brothers’ School and the public schools of San Antonio, and in 1877, went to the Rochester, N. Y., Business University, where he remained for fourteen months. He then wrote cards at the Arcade in Rochester until 1879, when he went to Manchester, N. H., to work for G. A. Gaskell. The next year he removed with Mr. Gaskell to Jersey City. In 1882, he spent nine months with the Sterling, Illinois, Business College. He then returned and worked for Gaskell six months, and secured an appointment with the Eastman College, at Poughkeepsie. While at Poughkeepsie, he was appointed Deputy United States Marshall for one of the districts in Texas. After four months’ service, he resigned and returned to New York. For two years, 1884 and 1885, he was on the stage with Richard Foote. He played the Duke of Buckingham and Duke of Richmond in Richard III. From 1890 to 1892, he was penman in the Cedar Rapids, Iowa, Business College. In 1893, he purchased a half interest in the Lincoln, Nebraska, Business College, selling his interest in 1894 and going to the Little Rock, Arkansas, Business College. He remained until the school burned down a year later. He then returned to New York, and was with the Heffley School for three years, and with the Eagan Schools about three years. At the present writing, Mr. Madarasz is with the Goldfield News, Goldfield, Nevada.

1910 United States Federal Census
Name: Louis Madarasz
Age in 1910: 49
Birth Year: abt 1861
Birthplace: Texas
Home in 1910: Knoxville, Knox, Tennessee
Address: 1512 Yale Avenue
Street: Yale Ave

Father's Birthplace: Hungary
Occupation: Penman
Household Members: 
Name / Age
Lois Madarasz, 49
Clara Madarasz, 40
Ela Montgomery, 20

California Death Index
Name: Louis Madarasy
Birth Year: abt 1860
Death Date: 23 Dec 1910
Death Place: San Francisco, California

The Madarasz Book
Zaner & Bloser Company, 1911
L. Madarasz
Louis Madarasz was born in San Antonio, Texas, January 20, 1859, on the outskirts of the city, where, in the freedom of outdoor life, he developed a fine physique and a strong constitution. He rode horseback, hunted, fished, swam in the river and led a life that develops elasticity as well as strength of muscle. Whether this early training had any influence in the freedom and grace of his pen manipulations in after years can only be conjectured, but the fact remains, nevertheless, that Madarasz possessed the chief requisites for attaining unparalleled skill in penmanship—fine strong nerves, a delicate touch, and a peerless conception of form.


Madarasz was an American by accident of birth. On both sides of the house his family were Hungarians, and had it not been for the strenuous exertions of Louis Kossuth, the Revolutionary patriot, America would never have known him. The hungarian Revolution of 1848, while short of duration, produced far-reaching results. One of these being the banishment of Kossuth, the leader of the Revolution, and many of his followers, among whom were the paternal and maternal grandfathers of Madarasz. His paternal grandfather, Ladislaus Madarasz, was Minister of War under Kossuth. He came to this country in 1848, and spent the remainder of his life here, passing away in 1907 at the age of 98 years. His maternal grandfather, Ladislaus Ujhazi, was Governor of Kamoron and the Count of Saros. Hence both sides of the family belonged to the nobility. Madarasz’s father, William, was born in Hungary in 1836. His title was the Baron of Udz. His mother was Ilona Ujhazi. She was one of a family of three daughters and nine sons. Her father lived in San Antonio, Texas. One of the conditions of her father's banishment from his native land was that none of his children should return during his life time. Feeling the unjustness of this condition, and desiring very much that his children might return, he took his own life. The family all returned with the exception of Madarasz’s mother.

Three children were born to William Madarasz and Ilona Ujhazi, father and mother of Madarasz. The eldest son, William, was engaged in the banking business in Central America; he died in 1904. The second son, Bela, died in infancy. Louis was the youngest.

Madarasz’s father died in 1873, while on a visit to Hungary. His mother died in 1898 in San Antonio.

The friendship of Kossuth for the grandparents of Madarasz was very strong. His grandfather on his mother’s side received many favors at the hands of leading citizens. Two presidents of the United States, Zachary Taylor and Millard Fillmore, entertained them as the nation’s guests. An active correspondence was maintained with such men as John Brown, the celebrated abolishonist. Wm. H. Seward, Secretary of State; Hamilton Fish, Governor of New York; Richard Cobden, the great economist, and many others.

One of the most pleasant events in the later years of Madarasz’s life occurred in 1907 [Hamburg and New York passenger lists recorded his travel to Europe in 1906.] when he paid a visit to the home of his ancestors in Hungary, and visited he estates that had been held by the family for more than eleven hundred years.

From these brief details of his illustrious ancestry, one can readily discern the source of Madarasz’s patriotism. Love of home and country was an instinct with him, and America never had a truer or more loyal citizen.

Early Education

His early education was received at his birthplace in St. Mary’s College. After his school days he worked for a time in a real estate office, and when fifteen or sixteen years old a copy of Gaskell’s Compendium of Penmanship fell into his hands. This was sufficient to awaken within him an enthusiasm on the subject which lasted through his life. Nothing previous to this had crossed his path to incite a desire to become an expert in penmanship. He worked hard and persistently, and soon discovered that he possessed the elements for reaching a high grade of skill. This little compendium of writing, with its bold, dashy, attractive copy slips tied up with a pink ribbon in a beautifully-engraved envelope, no doubt, caused the turning point in his life, for he soon after bade adieu to Texas, leaving on the first train that went out from San Antonio, and after a roundabout journey, reached Rochester, N. Y., where he enrolled as a pupil in the Rochester Business University and settled down to a course of business training. While pursuing his studies at this school he did not relax in his enthusiasm for his favorite hobby—penmanship. He continued to practice and practice until his skill wielding the pen became something marvelous, and soon he was being heard as “the wonder boy penman” (still in his teens). After spending some months at the Rochester Business University, he attended school for a short time in Brockport. Being able to write his attractive style with wonderful grace and rapidity, young Madarasz began to investigate as to how he could turn his skill into dollars. Written cards at that time were a novelty. To write a name on a dozen cards in as many different ways was something that made people look and wonder, and nothing was more unique than the “Madarasz Style” on a card. When he located in the Arcade at Rochester, and the throngs of people gazed with admiration at this youth, writing names in various combinations of capitals and with a rapidity that was amazing, he found it a profitable occupation. Then it was he began to exercise his ingenuity in advertising his penmanship. He got out odd and attractive circulars which were circulated freely and sent by mail to everybody whom he thought might be interested. in his favorite art. Black cards and white ink were to nearly everybody a great novelty, and when the skillful hand of Madarasz with its wonderful dexterity and freedom penned a name on a black card in white ink, sparkling with beautiful shades, delicate and graceful hair lines, it was certainly making penmanship an exceedingly attractive feature. These, and other novelties in pen work, the boy penman advertised in his peculiar way, soon began to bring him in considerable money by mail. His mail orders increased with more advertising, and he was soon known to the fraternity throughout the country as a young wizard with the pen.

Although the skilled hand of this Knight of the Quill was bringing him in easy dollars at this time in Rochester with good prospects of an increase, his thirst for other scenes would not allow him to remain even where prosperity was smiling upon him. He accordingly left what would have seemed to many of his age a lucrative business, wandered through the State of New York until finally the author of the little compendium that had started him out in the world, G. A. Gaskell, induced him to come to his headquarters at Manchester, N. H. Gaskell’s genius in advertising appealed to young Madarasz, and the result was he next found himself at work for the very man whose publications had launched him on his penmanship career. The autograph of Madarasz had been printed in nearly every leading magazine in the country just to show young people what Gaskell’s Compendium had done for a boy in Texas.

Here in Manchester, Madarasz absorbed from Gaskell many ideas about advertising, and he lent himself more in particular to devising schemes for calling public attention to his work. His new methods of advertising brought him hundreds of orders by mail for his skillful penwork, and so rapid and expert he was in handling them that he was again reaping a good harvest. He continued with Gaskell after the latter moved to Jersey City, N. J., where Madarasz kept up his card work which he proceeded to advertise in a somewhat larger scale.

After staying in Jersey City a year or two, the strenuous spirit of young Madarasz asserted itself and he migrated to Sterling, Ill., where he accepted a situation as a special teacher of writing in Aument’s Business College, remaining about a year. The quiet town of Sterling could not hold him long. The din and glare of a large city had more attraction for him, and in another year he was back again to Jersey City, but before many months had passed he was heard from in Poughkeepsie, N. Y., where he was engaged by the Eastman Business College. The manager there saw a good drawing card in elegantly-written letters by Madarasz which that institution sent out to attract students. No doubt these letters so artistically penned in the “Madarasz style” drew many a student to that famous institution of business education. After about a year at the Eastman school, Madarasz boarded a train and made quite an extensive tour through the southwest, visiting his native place in Texas, and finally drifting back again to New York City, where his skillful pen kept him busy until he was seized with a desire for stage life

This versatile young man had always found a charm in the footlights. He was an enthusiastic theatre goer, and rarely missed seeing any prominent star in the profession. He was well posted in theatrical doings, and an excellent judge of acting. He studied for awhile under the instruction of a New York actor with the intention of abandoning the work in which he had been so successful. He directed his attention to the dramas of Shakespeare, and appeared in public in one of them. He did not continue this long, however, and once more began sending better penwork than ever to all parts of the country.

On March 26, 1889, Madarasz was married to Miss Clara Kalish, a New York Society girl, with whom he had been acquainted for some years. In spite of the delight he took in travel, he was very domestic in his tastes, and his home life was one of the most beautiful features of this many-sided man. Like so many famous men, he left no children to continue his name.

Some years later Madarasz went to Cedar Rapids, Ia., and engaged with the Cedar Rapids Business College as a special writing teacher. Here he remained two or three years, and then purchased an interest in the Lincoln, Neb., Business College. Subsequently selling his interest in this school, he lived for a short time at Little Rock, Ark., where he lost all his material belongings in the school which burned, finally returning to New York City.

Liberal and Many-Sided

An adequate account of the career of this genius cannot all be told in a brief sketch. He was a man of the world and saw much of it. Many in the same line of work have lived their entire days in the same place with hardly a look beyond their narrow horizon, perhaps accumulating a few more dollars, but missing that which broadens one who learns what the world is by actual contact with it.

Madarasz was a broad-minded and a well-informed man, who by reading and traveling had gathered a liberal fund of information. He was peculiar in his tastes and habits, loyal to the few friends he cultivated, and in the opinion of those who knew him best, free from petty jealousy and malice. Although he sounded his trumpet loud in advertising, he was modest personally, and no one was more ready to acknowledge merit and give credit to others where it was due.

Possessed of a fine physique and a naturally strong constitution, Madarasz would have been singled out for a long-lived person, but a severe illness of pneumonia broke down his robust health while he was in Nevada a few years before his death. Diabetes followed and during the last two or three years of his life he was in delicate health. But in spite of all his illness, his wonderfully steady nerve and delicate touch never left him, and to his very last days the hand that had done such skillful work was as firm as ever.

He passed away quietly on December 23, 1910, having on the day he was stricken written a Christinas greeting in that beautiful clean-cut style of penmanship which has been copied by so many thousand aspirants during the past thirty years. At his request his body was cremated. His ashes rest in the beautiful Columbarium at Fresh Pond, Ixmg Island. His epitaph reads:

“In memory of a brave and gentle man whose love of Truth and Justice made him an Inspiration to all who knew him. He put his house in order; his work was done.” —W. E. Dennis.

The Iowa Journal of History and Politics
The State Historical Society of Iowa, 1913
Page 495–496: ...Vilmos, the son by his first wife, married Count Ujhazy’s daughter Ilona, and later removed to Texas. Two sons of this marriage (grandsons of both Madarasz and Ujhazy) grew to manhood. One of them, Lajos (Louis) Madarasz, who died in San Francisco, Calfornia, in December, 1910, had a national reputation as a skillful penman.

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(Next post on Monday: William H. Cook)


  1. It was very kind of you to collect these information from my admired and beloved ancestor! I would love to know more about his experiences in Hungary. I wonder if he has written more about it in detail.