Cover image for Otto Kahn : art, money, & modern time
Otto Kahn : art, money, & modern time
Collins, Theresa M. (Theresa Mary), 1955-
Publication Information:
Chapel Hill : University of North Carolina Press, [2002]

Physical Description:
xii, 383 pages : illustrations ; 25 cm
General Note:
Based on the author's Ph. D. thesis, New York University, 1998.
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
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HG2463.K34 C65 2002 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

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In the early decades of the twentieth century, almost everyone in modern theater, literature, or film knew of Otto Kahn (1867-1934), and those who read the financial press or followed the news from Wall Street could scarcely have missed his name. A partner at one of America's premier private banks, he played a leading role in reorganizing the U.S. railroad system and supporting the Allied war effort in World War I. The German-Jewish Kahn was also perhaps the most influential patron of the arts the nation has ever seen: he helped finance the Metropolitan Opera, brought the Ballets Russes to America, and bankrolled such promising young talent as poet Hart Crane, the Provincetown Players, and the editors of the Little Review .

This book is the full-scale biography Kahn has long deserved. Theresa Collins chronicles Kahn's life and times and reveals his singular place at the intersection of capitalism and modernity. Drawing on research in private correspondence, congressional testimony, and other sources, she paints a fascinating portrait of the figure whose seemingly incongruous identities as benefactor and banker inspired the New York Times to dub him the "Man of Velvet and Steel."

Author Notes

Theresa M. Collins is a member of the research faculty at Rutgers University, where she teaches international history and serves as associate editor of the Thomas A. Edison Papers

Reviews 1

Choice Review

Wealth, the performing arts, and the cultural milieu of his age form the core of this biography of Otto Kahn, cosmopolitan financier and patron of the arts, who died in 1934. Artistic interest and financial position merge in this examination of class, culture, and modernism in Western society. Collins (history, Rutgers Univ.) traces Kahn's family background and his financial career in Europe and America, including his partnership in Wall Street's Kuhn, Loeb & Company. Although within the inner circle of the world's foremost international bankers, his and his firm's German-Jewish origins precluded social acceptance in an increasingly antisemitic world. The epitome of the modern millionaire, Kahn patronized art forms and artists that appealed to his modernism. Since Kahn's firm was a rival of the House of Morgan, this is a study of international high finance and banking. However, artistic patronage, most notably of the Metropolitan Opera and new theatrical efforts, specific artists, and even the emerging film industry, suggest placing this volume in the realm of culture or the performing arts. The author's examination of Kahn's struggles with his own identity and sense of place in the midst of great change, especially in Germany, further broaden the volume's disciplinary boundaries. Suitable for public and academic library collections, lower-division undergraduate through faculty. M. J. Butler emeritus, University of Massachusetts Dartmouth

Table of Contents

Acknowledgmentsp. xi
Introduction: Locating Otto Kahnp. 1
Chapter 1. Foundationsp. 25
Chapter 2. Metropolitan Scenes in the Harriman Cyclep. 55
Chapter 3. Rupture and Renewalp. 94
Chapter 4. Seniority without Authorityp. 125
Chapter 5. Protocol of Patronagep. 155
Chapter 6. Tears and Bearsp. 188
Chapter 7. The Third Actp. 222
Chapter 8. Endings on the Horizonp. 246
Chapter 9. Style and Substancep. 269
Chapter 10. Missing Otto Kahnp. 296
Notesp. 311
Bibliographyp. 343
Indexp. 367