AMBASSADOR JOHN L. LOEB JR., a scion of two Wall Street dynasties—Loeb, Rhoades and Lehman Brothers (part of the lost world of “Our Crowd”)—shares his remarkable family history and personal life story as a financier, ambassador, art collector, and philanthropist.
About John L. Loeb, Jr’s
Reflections, Memories, and Confessions
By his own admission, John L. Loeb Jr. was “born with two silver spoons in my mouth.” Descended from the founders of two major Wall Street firms—Lehman Brothers and Loeb, Rhoades—this former US Ambassador to Denmark weaves his fascinating, sometimes poignant personal story with an insider’s perspective on diplomacy, the environment, and the social life of New York’s elite from the nineteenth century to the present.
Loeb is one of the last of New York’s “Our Crowd,” the city’s nineteenth- and twentieth-century Jewish establishment. In 1844, Loeb’s maternal great-grandfather Mayer Lehman founded Lehman Brothers; his maternal uncles included New York Governor Herbert Lehman and Irving Lehman, Chief Justice of the New York Court of Appeals. On his paternal side, grandfather Carl M. Loeb and father John L. Loeb Sr. founded the famed financial firm Loeb, Rhoades. And his brother Arthur founded New York City’s beloved Madison Avenue Bookshop. Loeb’s confessions are an open and moving account of the blessings and burdens of growing up in his family’s circle of expectations and competitions.
These very pressures have made Loeb’s life one more of obligation than leisure. As a boy at an elite private school, he faced persistent anti-Semitism, an experience that shaped his social and philanthropic commitments through his life. Although not religiously observant, Loeb embraces his Jewish identity and has used his wealth and knowledge of history and politics to promote religious freedom for members of all religions at home and abroad. Taking inspiration from George Washington’s immortal “Letter to the Hebrew Congregation in Newport, Rhode Island” of 1790, in which the nations’s first president promised that the government of the United States would give “to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance,” he built the Loeb Visitors Center at the Touro Synagogue National Historic Site in Newport and funded the Loeb Institute for Religious Freedom at The George Washington University.
Loeb’s life of public service includes a stint in the US Air Force, chairmanship of the New York State Council on the Environment under then-governor Nelson Rockefeller, and US Ambassador to Denmark. Appointed to that post by President Ronald Reagan in 1981, Loeb began building what is today the largest privately held collection of Danish fine art outside of Danish museums. When he completed his tour, Queen Margarethe of Denmark presented him with the Grand Cross of the Order of Dannebrog, her nation’s highest civilian honor.
Loeb’s leadership of the Winston Churchill Foundation of the United States has greatly advanced the careers of hundreds of young American scientists-including future Nobel laureates-through their study at Churchill College at Cambridge University, England. In 1993, Queen Elizabeth of England appointed Loeb a Commander of the British Empire.
Combining his business acumen with a commitment to steward the land, Loeb still maintains Riverbend Vineyards in California’s Sonoma County, which produces grapes far the highly-esteemed Sonoma-Loeb wines.
This highly personal and revealing memoir is, above all, a testament to his passionate commitment to his wife, family, and philanthropic commitments. Still going strong at eighty-seven years old, John Loeb is far from having written the final chapter of his life.