Taft, William H.


Former President Taft salutes the 50th anniversary of Jewish philanthropist Adolph Lewisohn’s arrival in America


Type: Letter
Description: (1857-1930) 27th President of the US 1909-13, 10th Chief Justice of the United States 1921-1930, only person to have held both offices. Taft, a Republican, wa snamed tothe Superior Court of Cincinnati 1887, appointed US Solicitor General 1890, and a US Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit judge 1891. In 1900, President McKinley appointed him Governor-General of the Philippines. In 1904, Theodore Roosevelt appointed him Secretary of War to groom Taft, his close political ally, as his successor. Taft took a prominent role, assuming at times the role of acting Secretary of State, declining repeated offers from TR to serve on the Supreme Court.

Taft won an easy victory in his 1908 presidential bid. His domestic agenda emphasized trust-busting, civil service reform, strengthening the Interstate Commerce Commission, improving postal service performance, and passage of the 16th Amendment. He sought further economic development in Latin America and Asia through “Dollar Diplomacy”, and showed decisiveness and restraint in response to revolution in Mexico. Oblivious to political ramifications of his decisions, he alienated his key constituencies, and was overwhelmingly defeated for re-election in 1912. After leaving office, Taft spent his time in academia, arbitration, and the search for world peace. He was named Kent Professor of Law and Legal History at Yale Law School from April 1, 1913. In 1921, President Harding appointed him Chief Justice of the United States, eff. July 21, serving until shortly before his 1930 death.

ALS, 3pp, 8 x 5, folded sheet of his personal New Haven, Conn. Letterhead, Pointe au Pic, Quebec, Canada, July 19 1917, to The American Hebrew, NYC, saluting renowned Jewish investment banker, copper mining magnate, and philanthropist Adolph Lewishohn on the 50th anniversary of his arrival in the United States. Taft remarks: “The great field…in which he has shown his highest civic usefulness is in meeting the responsibility he has so keenly felt by devoting his great wealth to aiding his fellow man.” He closes by remarking that Lewisohn “..has deserved well of his country. With envelope addressed in Taft’s hand.

Taft and his family begin summering in La Malbaie (Pointe au Pic, Quebec)  in 1892, and he visited every year for nearly 40 years except while president. He once remarked that “The invigorating air of Murray Bay exhilarates like champagne without the effects of the morning after.” The residents of Murray Bay were very demonstrative in their affection for Taft, referring to him as “le petit juge,” lifting their caps to him as he drove by, and performing burlesque sketches during the winter months in which he was played by the most rotund villager. They burned a candle at his death, and spat upon hearing of his betrayal by Theodore Roosevelt. Members of the Taft family are still a part of the local summer scene.

The American Hebrew was a weekly Jewish magazine published in New York City. It began publication November 21, 1879, in New York City, founded by Frederick de Sola Mendes. From the time of its founding, The American Hebrew covered many topics of intense Jewish interest internationally. It covered persecutions of Romanian Jews following the signing of the 1878 Treaty of Berlin and covered the persecution of Russian Jews following the 1881 May Laws. The paper reported on the large influx of Jewish immigrants that followed these latter events, and also covered the rise of institutions to deal with this influx, incl. the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society (HIAS) and the Hebrew Technical Institute for their modern education. In literary terms, The American Hebrew also introduced leading figures in Jewish life, incl. the poet Emma Lazarus, who was covered extensively at the time of her death in 1887; ]she later became famous for her sonnet “The New Colossus”, inscribed on the base of the Statue of Liberty in 1912.

By the 20th century, The American Hebrew had absorbed several other regional and religious Jewish periodicals. Over the years, the journal experienced a number of mergers and changes of name. The English language Jewish weekly first appeared as The American Hebrew (1879-1902). After merging with The Jewish Messenger, it next appeared as The American Hebrew & Jewish Messenger (1903-1922), as The American Hebrew & Jewish Messenger 1903-1922, reappearing as The American Hebrew (1922-1932). After merging with the New York Jewish Tribune, it appeared as American Hebrew and Jewish Tribune (1932-1935), then reappearing as The American Hebrew (1935-1956). After merging with the Brooklyn publication The Examiner, it was renamed the American Examiner (1956-1970). Following its 1970 merger with the Washington publication The Jewish Week, it was renamed The Jewish Week and the American Examiner; in 1975 renamed the Jewish Week; in 1983 it became the Washington Jewish Week, still in publication today.

Adolph Lewisohn (1849-1938) German Jewish immigrant who became a New York City investment banker, mining magnate, and philanthropist. He is the namesake of Columbia University’s Lewisohn Hall as well as the former Lewisohn Stadium at the City College of New York.

Adolph emigrated to NYC at 16 to assist brothers Julius and Leonard with the family’s mercantile business, Adolph Lewisohn & Son, named for his father. Adolph eventually became President of the business. After meeting Thomas Edison in the 1870s, Adolph pushed the firm to become involved with copper whose conductivity made it vital for a world that increasingly depended on electricity. In the 1880s, the brothers were among the first to invest in copper mines in Butte, Montana, a profitable venture, and they later established several new mining companies. The brothers became “copper kings” with one of their mines paying $35M in dividends by the 1890s.  About this time, Adolph decided to stop making money and start enjoying it. He became an avid collector of art, items of historical interest, and a deep lover of classical music; esp. opera. He collected paintings, antiquities, decorative arts, manuscripts and rare books, particularly known for his extensive collection of works by Barbizon School artists and the later Impressionists.

Lewisohn had a firm belief that everyone should be able to experience fine art and donated a significant portion of his art collection to the Brooklyn Museum of Art.  He was also a regular supporter of fine music and along with supporting local institutions like the Metropolitan Opera, he underwrote most of the costs of an annual summer music concert series held at Lewisohn Stadium, where due to his generosity, ticket prices were very inexpensive and affordable for “the every day man”. He was also an active philanthropist in the Jewish community, donating to Mount Sinai Hospital and the Orphanage of the Hebrew Sheltering Guardian Society of Pleasantville, NY, and served as President of the Hebrew Technical School for Girls. ”

Condition: Very good, light center fold

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