-In commerce and industry Budapest is by far the most important town in Hungary, and in the former, if not also in the latter, it is second to Vienna alone in the Austro-Hungarian monarchy. The principal industries are steam flour-milling, distilling, and the manufacture of machinery, railway plant, carriages, cutlery, gold and silver wares, chemicals, bricks, jute, and the usual articles produced in large towns for home consumption. The trade of Budapest is mainly in corn, flour, cattle, horses, pigs, wines, spirits, wool, wood, hides, and in the articles manufactured in the town. The efforts of the Hungarian government to establish a great home industry, and the measures taken to that effect, have benefited Budapest to a greater degree than any other Hungarian town, and the progress made is remarkable. The increase in the number of joint-stock companies, and the capital thus invested in industrial undertakings, furnish a valuable indication. In 1873 there were 28 such companies with a total capital of £2,224,900; in 1890, 75 with a capital of £9,352,000; and in 1899 no fewer than 242 with a total capital of £31,378,655. Budapest owes its great commercial importance to its situation on the Danube, on which the greater part of its trade is carried.
The introduction of steamboats on the Danube in 1830 was one of the earliest material causes of the progress of Budapest, and gave a great stimulus to its corn trade. This still continues to operate, having been promoted by the flour-milling industry, which was revolutionized by certain local inventions. Budapest is actually one of the greatest milling centres in the world, possessing a number of magnificent establishments, fitted with machinery invented and manufactured in the city. Budapest is, besides, connected with all the principal places in Austria and Hungary by a well-developed net of railways, which all radiate from here.
Few European towns grew so rapidly as Budapest generally, and Pest particularly, during the 19th century, and probably none has witnessed such a thorough transformation since 1867. In 1799 the joint population of Buda and Pest was 54,179, of which 24,306 belonged to Buda, and 29,870 belonged to Pest, being the first time that the population of Pest exceeded that of Buda. By 1840, however, Buda had added but 14,000 to its population while that of Pest had more than doubled; and of the joint population of 270,685 in 1869, fully 200,000 fell to the share of Pest. In 1880 the civil population of Budapest was 360,551, an increase since 1869 of 32%; and in 1890 it was 491,938, and increase of 36.57% in the decade. In the matter of the increase of its population alone, Budapest has only been slightly surpassed by one European town, namely, Berlin. Both capitals multiplied their population by nine in the first nine decades of the century. According to an interesting and instructive comparison of the growth of twenty-eight European cities made by Dr Joseph de Körösy, Berlin in 1890 showed an increase, as compared with the beginning of the century, of 818% and Budapest of 809%. Within the same period the increase of Paris was 343%, and of London 340%. In 1900 the civil population of Budapest was 716,476 inhabitants, showing an increase of 44.82% in the decade.
To this must be added a garrison of 15,846 men, making a total population 732,322. Of the total population, civil and military, 578,458 were Magyars, 104,520 were Germans, 25,168 were Slovaks, and the remainder was composed of Croatians, Servians, Rumanians, Russians, Greeks, Armenians, Gypsies, etc. According to religion, there were 445,023 Roman Catholics, 5806 Greek Catholics, 4422 Greek Orthodox; 67,319 were Protestants of the Helvetic, and 38,811 were Protestants of the Augsburg Confessions; 168,985 were Jews, and the remainder belonged to various other creeds. A striking feature in the progress of Budapest is the decline in the death-rate, which sank from 43.4 per thousand in 1874 to 20.6 per thousand in 1900. In addition to the increased influx of persons in the prime of life, this is due largely to the improved water-supply and better sanitary conditions generally, including increased hospital accommodation.