Sunday, June 28, 2020

Big Old Houses: “The King of New York”

From New York Social Diary:
During the 1920s, humorist Rube Goldberg wrote a gag piece in the The New Yorker about a tourist who comes to New York. Everywhere he turns — from the docks to the Ritz, from Wall Street to a first night on Broadway — he keeps running into Otto Kahn.
Otto Kahn on the cover of Time, November 2, 1925.
When Kahn finally appears on stage at two in the morning playing drums at a Harlem after hours club, the visitor loses his mind and is carried off to Bellevue.

Yes, the great financier and patron of the arts, Otto Kahn (1867-1934), was the inspiration for Parker Brothers’ Mr. Monopoly. Kahn made a fortune as a partner in Kuhn Loeb, the great underwriter of American railroads, absorbed by Lehman Brothers in 1977.
Kuhn Loeb in its day was second only to the House of Morgan, but no one was second to Otto Kahn as an investment banker of skill and imagination, a bon vivant of legendary charm, and an influential patron of the arts.

Kahn gave millions to the Metropolitan Opera, despite a management loath to let him buy a box because he was Jewish. (When they finally did, he refused to use it, lending it instead to important visitors).

He cultivated, subsidized and/or enjoyed close personal relationships with Nijinski, Stanislavski, Toscanini, Caruso, Pavlova, not to mention Isadora Duncan, Max Reinhardt, Paul Robeson, Will Rogers, the Moscow Art Theatre and Charlie Chaplin, to name only a few. Wags of the period said he wouldn’t rest until he met every important person on earth.
Otto Kahn in recognizable mode, tossing greenbacks.
Kahn was the beau ideal of the cultivated, cosmopolitan New York millionaire of the 1920s – immaculately dressed, immensely rich, irresistably charming, seemingly ubiquitous and profoundly influential.

In 1933, Senator Ferdinand Pecora, lead counsel of the U.S. Senate hearings on the causes of the Great Depression, wrote of him, “No suaver, more fluent, and more diplomatic advocate could be conceived. If anyone could succeed in presenting the customs and functions of the private bankers in a favorable and prepossessing light, it was he.”
Here he is playing golf, or perhaps simply posing, possibly at a club somewhere, but more likely on the links of his private golf course at Cold Spring, Long Island.

And here is the house (above, right) that was attached to that course. It is called “Oheka,” the name being a conjunction of Otto Herbert Kahn. Perhaps Kahn himself gave it that unsophisticated name, although absent a dependable citation I tend to doubt it. (The place is called ‘Oheka Castle’ today)....