The history of John Loeb, Jr.’s family in America begins in the late seventeenth century. The remarkable story of his ancestors provides insight into American history and American Jewish history over the generations since. John is descended from four distinguished families: Lehman, Loeb, Lewisohn and Moses.
Between 1844 and 1850, three Lehman brothers migrated from the small German town of Rimpar to Montgomery, AL. They opened a prosperous general store. John’s great grandfather, Mayer Lehman, the youngest of the brothers, became proficient at trading their merchandise for cotton. In 1858, Mayer’s older brother Emanuel opened an office in New York City to deal with the financial aspects of the business. While the Civil War severely cut into the cotton business, it revived at war’s end. Mayer moved to New York in 1876, Emanuel and he spearheaded the creation of the New York Cotton Exchange. The next generation of Lehmans transitioned the business into buying stocks and bonds, eventually acquiring the firm of Kuhn, Loeb. In 1984, American Express purchased Lehman Brothers/Kuhn, Loeb. By the time Lehman Brothers declared bankruptcy in 2008, the Lehman family no longer had any connection to the company.
Adolph Lewisohn was born in Hamburg, Germany in 1849. At age sixteen, Adolph emigrated to New York City to assist his brothers with the family’s mercantile business which he eventually headed. After meeting Thomas Edison in the 1870s, Adolph pushed the family firm to become involved with copper, a vital element in delivering electricity. In the 1880s, the brothers were among the first to invest in the copper mines of Butte, Montana. By the 1890s, Adolph stated he made all the money he wanted to make, and decided to stop working and enjoy it.
Lewisohn was an avid collector art and items of historical interest. He loved classical music particularly opera. Lewisohn had a firm belief that everyone should be able to experience fine art. He donated a significant portion of his art collection to the Brooklyn Museum of Art. In addition to supporting local institutions like the Metropolitan Opera he underwrote most of the costs of the annual Summer music concert series held at Lewisohn Stadium. He was also an active philanthropist in the Jewish community.
His daughter Adele married Arthur Lehman. Their daughter Frances married John’s father, John L. Loeb Sr.
John’s deepest roots in the American past were planted by his Moses family forebears. In 1926, Adeline Moses (John calls her his “Grandma Moses”) married German immigrant Carl M. Loeb, John’s paternal grandfather. Adeline’s great-grandfather, Isaiah Moses, came to Charleston, SC from England and married Rebecca Philips, a fifth-generation American, in 1807. Rebecca’s father Jacob, of Sephardic descent, fought in the American Revolution. That link enabled John to join the Sons of the Revolution in New York and the Sons of the American Revolution, and his daughter Alexandra to qualify for the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR). Adeline’s father, Alfred Huger Moses, founded the city of Sheffield, AL in the 1880s.
Carl Morris Loeb was born in 1875 in Frankfurt, Germany. In 1893, Loeb moved to New York City to work with his brother at the American Metal Company (AMCO), the American branch of a German Company. In 1893, he moved to St. Louis to assist at a branch office (and also met his future wife) and was promoted to branch manager despite being only 21. Loeb became president of AMCO in 1914. He greatly expanded the company and steered it through World War I, despite the confiscation of AMCO’s assets on the grounds that it was a German-controlled company. In 1929, Loeb resigned as AMCO’s president because he disagreed with AMCO’s taking on debt to fund the purchase of copper mining interests in Africa. The board purchased Loeb’s 80,000 shares for eighty-five dollars apiece, which was fortuitous for Loeb as the Wall Street Crash of 1929 followed later in the year.
Born to John L. Loeb, Sr. and Frances Lehman Loeb on May 2, 1930, John, Jr. recalls a happy childhood shared with his siblings at Ridgeleigh Estate in Purchase, NY. The Loebs lived in one of two homes on the estate. John’s Lehman grandparents, Arthur and Adele, lived in the other. He also spent idyllic times with his many cousins at the Lehman lakeside retreat at Upper Saranac Lake in the Adirondacks, across the water from his Lewisohn grandparents’ compound. John attended the Collegiate School for Boys, the Harvey School in Hawthorne, NY and the Hotchkiss School in Lakeville, CT. His experience of anti-Semitism at Hotchkiss helped form his lifelong commitment to fighting religious bigotry. In his own words, after Hotchkiss, attending college at Harvard was “heaven.”
Marriage and Family
John has been married three times. In 1960, he married Nina Sundby, with whom he had a daughter, Alexandra Loeb Driscoll (who is married to Joseph Edward Driscoll and has two children, Aidan Edward and Allegra Frances Driscoll). His second wife was Meta Martindell Harrsen, with whom he had a son, Nicholas Mears Loeb. In 2012, John married his wife, Sharon J. Handler.