Herbert Henry Lehman (March 28, 1878 – December 5, 1963) was an American financier and Democratic politician who served as the 45th governor of New York from 1933 to 1942 and represented New York in the United States Senate from 1949 until 1957.

Herbert Lehman
Lehman in 1949
United States Senator
from New York
In office
November 9, 1949 – January 3, 1957
Preceded byJohn Foster Dulles
Succeeded byJacob K. Javits
1st Director General of the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration
In office
January 1, 1943 – March 31, 1946
Preceded byPosition established
Succeeded byFiorello H. LaGuardia
45th Governor of New York
In office
January 1, 1933 – December 3, 1942
LieutenantM. William Bray
Charles Poletti
Preceded byFranklin D. Roosevelt
Succeeded byCharles Poletti
Lieutenant Governor of New York
In office
January 1, 1929 – December 31, 1932
GovernorFranklin D. Roosevelt
Preceded byEdwin Corning
Succeeded byM. William Bray
Personal details
Herbert Henry Lehman

(1878-03-28)March 28, 1878
New York City, U.S.
DiedDecember 5, 1963(1963-12-05) (aged 85)
New York City, U.S.
Resting placeKensico Cemetery
Political partyDemocratic
SpouseEdith Altschul
RelativesMayer Lehman (father)
See Lehman family
EducationWilliams College (BA)
Military service
AllegianceUnited States
Branch/serviceUnited States Army
Years of service1917–1919
UnitUnited States Army Ordnance Corps
Battles/warsWorld War I
AwardsArmy Distinguished Service Medal

Early life and career


He was born to a Reform Jewish family in Manhattan, New York City, the son of Babetta (née Newgass) and German-born immigrant Mayer Lehman, one of the three brothers who co-founded Lehman Brothers financial services firm. His brother was New York Court of Appeals judge Irving Lehman. Herbert's father arrived from Rimpar, Germany, in 1848, settling in Montgomery, Alabama, where he engaged in the slave-era cotton business. As cotton was the most important crop of the Southern United States and global demand led to profitable business, the Lehman brothers became cotton factors, accepting cotton bales from customers as payment for their merchandise.[1] Cotton trading eventually became the main thrust of their business. In 1867, Mayer and Emanuel moved the company's headquarters to New York City, and helped found the New York Cotton Exchange.

He attended The Sachs School, founded by Julius Sachs. In 1895, he graduated from Sachs Collegiate Institute in New York City, and in 1899, he graduated with a B.A. from Williams College.[2] After college, Lehman worked in textile manufacturing, eventually becoming vice-president and treasurer of the J. Spencer Turner Company in Brooklyn. In 1908, he became a partner in the investment banking firm Lehman Brothers of New York City with his brother Arthur and cousin Philip.[2] By 1928, when he entered public service, he had withdrawn entirely from business.[citation needed]

Military career


At the start of World War I, Lehman applied to attend a Citizens' Military Training Camp at Plattsburgh Barracks, New York.[3] While his April 1917 application was pending, Lehman volunteered his services to the United States Navy as an expert on textiles the navy would need to acquire for uniforms and other wartime clothing and equipment.[3] During this service, he worked closely with Franklin D. Roosevelt, then serving as Assistant Secretary of the Navy, which Roosevelt mentioned during campaign appearances when Roosevelt and Lehman were the Democratic nominees for governor and lieutenant governor in 1928.[2]

In September 1917, Lehman was commissioned as a captain in the United States Army's Ordnance Corps.[3] He was assigned as chief of the Ordnance Department's Equipment Section on the staff of the United States Department of War, and he was promoted to major in January 1918.[3] Lehman subsequently served as chief of War Department's Methods Section, then chief of its Purchase Branch, and he was promoted to lieutenant colonel in October 1918.[3]

After the end of the war in November 1918, Lehman took part in the army's demobilization as a member of the Board of Contract Adjustment, assistant director of the office of Purchase, Storage and Traffic, member of the War Department Claims Board, and chairman of the Board of Sales and Contract Termination.[3] He was promoted to colonel in April 1919, and was discharged in June 1919.[3] In July 1919, he was awarded the Army Distinguished Service Medal.[3]

The President of the United States of America, authorized by Act of Congress, July 9, 1918, takes pleasure in presenting the Army Distinguished Service Medal to Colonel (General Staff) Herbert H. Lehman, United States Army, for exceptionally meritorious and distinguished services to the Government of the United States, in a duty of great responsibility during World War I. While with the Purchase, Storage, and Traffic Division of the General Staff as Chief of the Purchase Branch, member of the Board of Contract Adjustment, Chairman of the Advisory Board on Sales and Contract Termination, Member of the War Department Claims Board, and Assistant Director of Purchase, Storage, and Traffic, General Staff, Colonel Lehman's large business experience, breadth of vision, and sound judgment have been of inestimable value in formulating and in supervising the execution of the methods and policies followed in the cancellation of war contracts and obligations and in the settlement and adjustment of terminated obligations.
War Department, General Orders No. 103 (July 10, 1919)[3]

Early political career

Flyer of the American Labor Party supporting Lehman and Roosevelt's campaigns in 1936

Lehman became active in politics in 1920 and managed Governor Alfred E. Smith's successful reelection campaign in 1926. He became chairman of the finance committee of the Democratic Party in 1928.[4] He was elected lieutenant governor of New York in 1928 and 1930 and resigned from Lehman Brothers upon taking office.

Governor of New York


He then served four terms as Governor of New York, elected in 1932 to replace Franklin D. Roosevelt (who had been running for president), and re-elected in 1934, 1936 and 1938 (when he was elected to New York's first four-year gubernatorial term). Unlike Smith, Lehman was a supporter of Roosevelt's New Deal and implemented a similar program in New York. Elements of this program included an unemployment insurance system, an improved workmen's compensation plan, minimum wage standards for women and children,[2] and a "Little Wagner Act" to cover workers engaged in intrastate commerce. Under the original Wagner Act, workers engaged in intrastate commerce were not allowed to unionize.[5] In 1934, Lehman refused to grant clemency to Anna Antonio, an Italian immigrant who was accused of hiring hitmen to kill her husband, who she claimed was abusive.

In October 1941, Lillian Hellman and Ernest Hemingway co-hosted a dinner to raise money for anti-Nazi activists imprisoned in France. New York Governor Herbert Lehman agreed to participate, but withdrew because some of the sponsoring organizations, he wrote, "have long been connected with Communist activities." Hellman replied: "I do not and I did not ask the politics of any members of the committee and there is nobody who can with honesty vouch for anybody but themselves." She assured him the funds raised would be used as promised and later provided him with a detailed accounting. The next month she wrote him: "I am sure it will make you sad and ashamed as it did me to know that, of the seven resignations out of 147 sponsors, five were Jews. Of all the peoples in the world, I think, we should be the last to hold back help, on any grounds, from those who fought for us."

On December 3, 1942, he resigned the governorship less than a month before the end of his term, to accept an appointment as director of the Office of Foreign Relief and Rehabilitation Operations for the U.S. Department of State. He served as director-general of the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration from 1943 to 1946.[4]

United States Senator


Lehman was the Democratic nominee for U.S. Senator from New York in 1946 and also ran on the Liberal and American Labor tickets but was defeated by the Republican candidate, Irving Ives. In 1949, he ran again, this time in a special election to serve the remainder of Robert F. Wagner's term. Lehman defeated John Foster Dulles, who had been appointed to temporarily fill the vacancy after Wagner's resignation, and he took his seat on January 3, 1950.[6]

On October 17, 1950, New York State Supreme Court Judge Ferdinand Pecora and Senator Lehman (D-NY) gave radio addresses on behalf of the CIO-PAC during prime (10:30-11:15 P.M.).[7]

In the campaign, he ran on the Democratic and Liberal tickets, with the American Labor Party urging their members not to vote for any candidate. In 1950, Lehman was re-elected to a full term, running on Democratic and Liberal lines and opposed by the American Labor Party.[4]

Lehman was one of two U.S. senators who were opposed to nominating Mississippi Senator James O. Eastland to be chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee. (The other was Wayne Morse of Oregon.) He was also an early and vocal opponent of Senator Joseph McCarthy (R-Wis.). Lehman was one of the most liberal senators and was therefore not considered part of the Senate's "club" of insiders. He retired from the Senate after his full term and was not a candidate for renomination in 1956.[8]

Retirement and death


After his retirement from the Senate, Lehman remained politically active, working with Eleanor Roosevelt and Thomas K. Finletter in the late 1950s and early 1960s to support the reform Democratic movement in Manhattan that eventually defeated longtime Tammany Hall boss Carmine DeSapio.[9] He also helped to found the Lehman Children's Zoo (now the Tisch Zoo) in Central Park.[10]

Lehman was the first, and until the 2007 inauguration of Eliot Spitzer, the only Jewish governor of New York.[11] During much of his Senate career, he was the only Jewish Senator as well. Unlike most of his Jewish constituents, who had immigrated to the US from eastern Europe, Lehman's family was from Germany.

The gravesite of Herbert H. Lehman

Lehman spent much of the last two years of his life at his New York City home in increasingly poor health. He died of heart failure on December 5, 1963, at the age of 85. Lehman is interred at Kensico Cemetery in Valhalla, New York.

Personal life


On April 28, 1910, Lehman married Edith Louise Altschul (sister of banker Frank Altschul). The couple had three children: Hilda (1921), Peter (1917), and John. Hilda, Peter and John served in the United States military during World War II; Peter was killed while on active duty.[2] According to a group history published April 6, 1944, the governor's son was to be awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross. The medal was set to be awarded to Peter on his father's 70th birthday.[12] Peter married and had two daughters: Penny Lehman (1940) and Wendy Lehman (1942).[13] His daughter Hilda married thrice. In 1940, Hilda married WPA actor Boris De Vadetzky, of French Russian descent;[14] they later divorced.[15] In 1945, she married U.S. Army Major Eugene L. Paul;[16] they later divorced.[15] She married a third time which also ended in divorce.[15] She had three children: Deborah Wise (1947), Peter Wise (1949) and Stephanie Wise (1951).



See also



  1. ^ "History - Who We Are - Lehman Brothers". July 4, 2008. Archived from the original on July 4, 2008.
  2. ^ a b c d e "Life and Legacy of Herbert H. Lehman". Lehman Suite.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i Williams College (1926). Williams College in the World War. New York, NY: Schilling Press. p. 185 – via Google Books.
  4. ^ a b c d The Eleanor Roosevelt Papers. "Eleanor Roosevelt National Historic Site: Herbert Lehman (1928–1956)". Teaching Eleanor Roosevelt. Archived from the original on June 22, 2007. Retrieved September 9, 2019.
  5. ^ Ingalls, Robert P. Herbert H Lehman and New York's Little New Deal (1975) New York University Press, pgs 136-137
  6. ^ Congress History, 81st U.S. Congress Archived August 7, 2009, at the Wayback Machine
  7. ^ "CIO Political Action Committee 1950-10-17 [sound recording]". Library of Congress. October 17, 1950. Retrieved May 20, 2020.
  8. ^ "Lehman, Herbert Henry, (1878–1963)". Biographical Directory of the United States Congress. Retrieved November 9, 2005.
  9. ^ Kandell, Jonathan (July 28, 2004). "Carmine De Sapio, Political Kingmaker and Last Tammany Hall Boss, Dies at 95". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved October 18, 2019.
  10. ^ "History of Central Park Zoos : NYC Parks". www.nycgovparks.org. Retrieved October 18, 2019.
  11. ^ Moss, Mitchell (February 4, 1994). "The Vanishing Jew". Forward. Archived from the original on February 18, 2006. Retrieved November 7, 2005.
  12. ^ HQ 4th Fighter Group, AAD STA F-356, AF Historical Archives
  13. ^ Columbia University Digital Archive: "1st Lieutenant Peter Gerald Lehman" February 15, 1953
  14. ^ "Lehman Son-in-law Former WPA actor; Boris de Vadetzky" Also Was a Research Worker Here". The New York Times. January 4, 1941.
  15. ^ a b c "Mrs. Hilda Wise, Daughter of Governor Lehman, Dies". The New York Times. May 6, 1974. Her three marriages ended in divorce. Surviving besides her mother are two daughters Mrs. Deborah Sheridan and Stephanie Wise; a son, Peter L. Wise, and a brother, John R, Lehman.
  16. ^ "Mrs. Hilda Lehman Married to Major". The Berkshire Eagle. May 6, 1974.
  17. ^ Woolley, John T; Gerhard Peters. "Remarks With Under Secretary of State George W. Ball at the Presentation of the Medal of Freedom Awards, December 6, 1963". The American Presidency Project. University of California, Santa Barbara. Retrieved February 9, 2011.
  18. ^ Office of Media Relations & Publications of Lehman College (September 26, 2005). "Remembering the Legacy of Herbert H. Lehman". Lehman E-News. Archived from the original on August 31, 2006. Retrieved November 5, 2005.
  19. ^ Gerber, David Paul and Wayne Whitehorne (December 2004). "Staten Island Ferry". Station Reporter. Archived from the original on February 10, 2006. Retrieved November 7, 2005.
  20. ^ "Jewish-American Hall of Fame -- Virtual Tour".
  21. ^ Swartz, Anna (February 3, 2017). "Your US passport has a hidden — and powerful — message about immigrants". Mic. Retrieved February 28, 2020. because there are several versions of U.S. passports currently in use by the public, your passport might or might not contain the Lehman quote. The quote came from testimony Lehman gave before a House subcommittee in 1947 — and it was first added to U.S. passports as part of a redesign for passports issued after 2004, a State Department official told Mic in an email.

Further reading

  • Nevins, Allan. Herbert H. Lehman and his era (1963) Scholarly biography. online
  • Tananbaum, Duane. Herbert H. Lehman: A Political Biography, (2016) SUNY Press, Scholarly biography.
  • Tananbaum, Duane. Herbert H. Lehman: A Jewish Patron Saint, The American Jewish Archives Journal LXXI : 1 (2019): 18–44.
  • Ingalls, Robert P. Herbert H. Lehman and New York's Little New Deal, (1975) New York University Press, Scholarly history/evaluation of Lehman's governorship from 1933 to 1942.
Political offices
Preceded by Lieutenant Governor of New York
Succeeded by
Preceded by Governor of New York
Succeeded by
Party political offices
Preceded by Democratic nominee for Governor of New York
1932, 1934, 1936, 1938
Succeeded by
Preceded by Democratic nominee for U.S. Senator from New York
(Class 1)

Succeeded by
New political party Liberal nominee for U.S. Senator from New York
(Class 1)

Succeeded by
Preceded by Democratic nominee for U.S. Senator from New York
(Class 3)

1949, 1950
Succeeded by
Non-profit organization positions
New office Director General of the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration
Succeeded by
U.S. Senate
Preceded by U.S. Senator (Class 3) from New York
Served alongside: Irving Ives
Succeeded by