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Ödön Széchényi (1839 - 1922)

Ödön (Edmond) Széchényi, younger son of István Széchényi and Countess Crescentia von Seilern-Aspang, was born in Bratislava in 1839 and died in Constantinople in 1922.

Ödön was notable for a variety of unusual activities during his life: in 1862 he rowed along the Danube from Passau to Pest, in the company of only his dog. He established the fire brigade in Hungary, and together with composer Ferenc Erkel founded a chess club in 1864 in Pest. In 1867 Ödön travelled exclusively by waterways from Pest to the Exposition Universelle in Paris in his Danube steamship Hableány (‘The Mermaid’), which he had specially designed for the purpose. This journey attracted a great deal of interest, and indeed Hableány went on to win the gold medal at the exhibition in Paris. In 1874 he moved to Constantinople with the aim of setting up a fire brigade at the court of Sultan Abdul Aziz, an aim which he achieved with alacrity. This fire brigade, organised along strict military lines, was subject to the ministry of war, with Count Széchényi Pascha at the head of the battalion. In 1896–97, Ödön Széchényi was closely linked to Theodor Hirzl, who was hoping for the support of the Sublime Porte to found a Zionist state. Hirzl asked Ödön to arrange a meeting for him with the Sultan, which ultimately did not come to fruition.

There are a number of piano works and one song known to have been composed by Ödön Széchényi. The works for fire brigade orchestra have been lost.

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