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Kahn, Otto Hermann

KAHN, OTTO HERMANN (1867–1934), U.S. banker, arts patron, and philanthropist. Kahn, who was born in Mannheim, Germany, was the son of Bernhard Kahn, a banker and arts patron. Otto Kahn began his banking career at a small bank in Karlsruhe. After service with a German elite cavalry regiment, he joined the Deutsche Bank. From 1888 to 1893 he worked at the bank's London branch, and became its assistant manager. In 1893 Kahn accepted a position with the New York banking house of *Speyer & Co. Three years later he married Addie, the daughter of Abraham Wolff, a partner in *Kuhn, Loeb & Co., and joined that firm in 1897. His financial aptitude attracted the attention of the world's financial leaders, and at the age of 30 he was considered a leading banking authority. Kahn opposed inflationary policies and excessive government intervention in economic affairs. During World War I, he advocated the establishment of a war finance board to cope with the complex situation. After the war, he opposed both the Versailles Peace Treaty and the League of Nations, and urged the cancellation of all foreign war debts provided that European governments curb their militaristic tendencies and limit armaments production. Kahn endowed and subsidized art schools, orchestras, universities, museums, galleries, opera projects, and theatrical productions, including *Habimah, Yiddish productions, and Max *Reinhardt's United States tour in 1928, and contributed prizes for black artists in New York. From 1903 to 1917 he served as chairman of the board of the Metropolitan Opera and from 1917 to 1931 was its president. He was instrumental in bringing Toscanini to New York. In recognition of his many public services, he was decorated by several foreign governments. His Jewish interest concentrated on the Federation of Jewish Philanthropies of New York of which he was a founder. Kahn's works include Right Above Race (1918); Our Economic and Other Problems (1920); and Of Many Things (1926).


J. Matz, Many Lives of Otto Kahn (1963).