Rare Book & Manuscript Library

Edith Altschul Lehman papers, 1856-1976, bulk 1963-1976

Summary Information


This collection documents the life of Edith Altschul Lehman, a philanthropist who supported many social projects in New York City. Edith Lehman was the wife of New York Governor and Senator Herbert H. Lehman.

At a Glance

Call No.: MS#0762
Bib ID 4078517 View CLIO record
Creator(s) Lehman, Edith A. (Edith Altschul)
Title Edith Altschul Lehman papers, 1856-1976, bulk 1963-1976
Physical Description 17 linear feet (32 document boxes; 1 record carton; 2 file card boxes; 4 oversize boxes; Mapcase 15K4)
Language(s) English .

This collection is located off-site. You will need to request this material at least three business days in advance to use the collection in the Rare Book and Manuscript Library reading room.

This collection has no restrictions.



This collection has been arranged into four series.


Scope and Content

This collection documents the life of Edith Altschul Lehman, a philanthropist and the wife of New York Governor and Senator Herbert H. Lehman. It supplements files on Edith Lehman which had been integrated into the Herbert H. Lehman Papers (MS#0763). The majority of materials relate to Edith Lehman's philanthropic activities, such as the construction of the Lehman Children's Zoo, contributions to the Henry Street Settlement, and her involvement in numerous organizations including the Play Schools Association, the American Jewish Committee, and the Federation of Jewish Philanthropies. Other material concerns her marriage to Herbert Lehman and her family life. The collection is comprised of correspondence, diaries, notebooks, speeches, photographs, audiotapes, and memorabilia.

  • Series I: Subject Files, 1942-1976

    The majority of the subject files document Edith Lehman's social and philanthropic activities. Files relating to the Play Schools Association reflect her role as president and chairman and include correspondence, reports, memos, and conference materials. Sponsorship files contain brief notes recording her responses to event invitations and to the many requests for her sponsorship or endorsement of particular groups. Other files focus on particular projects, organizations, and individuals and contain correspondence and memos. Files are arranged alphabetically.

  • Series II: Condolences, 1976

    This small series holds obituaries, funeral service information, and letters of condolence sent to Edith Lehman's children and family after her death in March 1976.

  • Series III: Memorabilia, 1856-1976

    This series holds a variety of notebooks, awards, artifacts, and other objects representing many aspects of Edith Lehman's life. It includes elaborately bound scrapbooks and other gifts from her uncle, Richard Altschul, which he made each year for his niece's birthday. Consisting of family traditions and injokes, they were known as "The Richy Classics." The series also houses family documents, the diaries, and several photo albums documenting wedding anniversaries and trips. Other albums cover events such as the dedication of Herbert Lehman College and the construction of Pete's House; most of these were given to the Lehman's as commemorative gifts. The series contains a watercolor painting of the Lehman Children's Zoo and two original sketches of the zoo's animal sculptures, designed by artist Aymar Embury. Also included are social books, Christmas gift lists, diplomas and membership certificates, and awards, medals, pins, statues, and other items given to Edith in recognition of her philanthropic activities.

  • Series IV: 2016 Addition: Martha Pearle Lindsay Papers, 1936-1947

    A gift from Ann Lucas, the neice of Martha Pearle Lindsay, the personal secretary to Edith Lehman while Herbert H. Lehman was the governor.

Using the Collection

Rare Book and Manuscript Library

Restrictions on Access

This collection is located off-site. You will need to request this material at least three business days in advance to use the collection in the Rare Book and Manuscript Library reading room.

This collection has no restrictions.

Terms Governing Use and Reproduction

Single photocopies may be made for research purposes. The RBML maintains ownership of the physical material only. Copyright remains with the creator and his/her heirs. The responsibility to secure copyright permission rests with the patron.

Preferred Citation

Identification of specific item; Date (if known); Edith Altschul Lehman papers; Box and Folder; Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Columbia University Library.

Related Archival Materials

Edith Lehman materials from 1910 to 1962 are integrated into the Herbert H. Lehman Papers, Columbia University, New York, N.Y.

Frank Altschul papers, Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Columbia University.

Ownership and Custodial History

Bequest of Edith Altschul Lehman, 1977.

About the Finding Aid / Processing Information

Columbia University Libraries, Rare Book and Manuscript Library

Processing Information

Correspondence, diaries, notebooks, speeches, photographs, tape recordings, memorabilia Surveyed Julie Miller 05/--/87.

Papers processed Haruna Otsuka Carolyn Smith 2009.

Finding aid written Carolyn Smith September 2009.

Revision Description

2010-04-20 File created.

2019-05-20 EAD was imported spring 2019 as part of the ArchivesSpace Phase II migration.

Subject Headings

The subject headings listed below are found in this collection. Links below allow searches at Columbia University through the Archival Collections Portal and through CLIO, the catalog for Columbia University Libraries, as well as ArchiveGRID, a catalog that allows users to search the holdings of multiple research libraries and archives.

All links open new windows.


Heading "CUL Archives:"
"CUL Collections:"
"Nat'l / Int'l Archives:"
Diaries Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Photographic prints Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID


Heading "CUL Archives:"
"CUL Collections:"
"Nat'l / Int'l Archives:"
American Jewish Committee Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Central Park (New York, N.Y.) Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Central Park Children's Zoo (New York, N.Y.) Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Children's zoos -- New York (State) -- New York Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Federation of Jewish Philanthropies of New York Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Governors' spouses -- New York (State) Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Henry Street Settlement (New York, N.Y.) Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Herbert H. Lehman Collections (Columbia University) Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Humanitarianism Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Jews -- Charities Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Jews -- New York (State) -- New York -- Societies, etc Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Lehman, Herbert H (Herbert Henry), 1878-1963 Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
New York (State) -- Politics and government -- 1951- Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Play Schools Association Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Social settlements -- New York (State) -- New York Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Women -- Diaries Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Women philanthropists Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Zoos -- New York (State) -- New York Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID

History / Biographical Note

Biographical sketch

Edith Louise Altschul was born in San Francisco on August 8, 1889 to Charles and Camilla Altschul. Charles, a successful banker with Lazard Freres, moved the family to New York City in 1901. Edith attended Dr. Sach's Girls School and Miss Jacoby's School (now the Calhoun School) and took a nursing course after graduation. She met Herbert H. Lehman, a partner in the Lehman Brothers investment firm, at a picnic. They were married on April 28, 1910 and would have three children, Peter, John, and Hilda.

Edith considered her marriage her career and the most important aspect of her life, but she was also deeply involved in social welfare and philanthropy. She organized a social service committee to care for the family needs of hospitalized patients. This endeavor led to the creation of Mount Sinai Hospital's first professional social service department, and she remained closely associated with the hospital for many years thereafter.

Lehman was also involved with the Henry Street Settlement, which provided health care and other assistance to new immigrants and the poor living in the Lower East Side of New York City. In 1948 the Lehman's built Pete's House, a youth center at Henry Street Settlement dedicated to the memory of their son Peter, who was killed in World War II. Peter had volunteered as a youth leader at the Settlement.

In 1917, Edith Lehman became a charter member of the Play Schools Association, which promoted play as vital to the mental and physical health of children. The organization partnered with schools, hospitals, and other institutions to provide opportunities for creative play. Lehman would work with the organization for over fifty years, serving as president and as Chairman of the Board from 1966 until her death in 1976.

Edith Lehman was also involved in the Jewish communities of New York and a member of the American Jewish Committee and the Federation of Jewish Philanthropies, among other organizations. She was a supporter of Israel, and first visited the country in 1949 with her husband. The Edith Lehman High School in Dimona, Israel, was dedicated to her.

In 1961, the Lehman's built the Lehman Children's Zoo (now the Tisch Zoo) in New York City's Central Park in honor of their 50th wedding anniversary. Although the zoo was renovated in 1997, the bronze Lehman Gates still stand at the entrance.

After her husband's death in 1963, Edith Lehman established several major endowments and institutions in his honor, including contributions to Mount Sinai Hospital Medical School and the establishment of the Lehman Professorship in Pediatrics at that institution; the Lehman Educational Fund, which offers scholarships for African American college students; and the Lehman School of Ethics at the Jewish Theological Seminary. She also supported Williams College, Herbert Lehman's alma mater, and financed and endowed the Lehman Suite at Columbia University's School of International and Political Affairs.

In recognition for her dedication to social causes, Edith Lehman was awarded honorary doctor of humane letters degrees from Williams College and Mount Sinai School of Medicine, as well as a doctor of laws from Columbia University.

Edith Altschul Lehman died on March 8, 1976, in New York City.