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Jane Engelhard

Jane Engelhard
Born 1917
Qingdao, China
Died 29, 2004
Nantucket, Massachusetts, U.S.
Nationality American
Occupation Philanthropist
Spouse(s) Fritz Mannheimer, Charles W. Engelhard, Jr.

Jane Engelhard (born Marie Annette Reiss) (1917 - February 29, 2004) was an American philanthropist, best known for her marriage to billionaire industrialist Charles W. Engelhard, Jr., as well as her donation of an elaborate 18th-century Neapolitan crêche to the White House in 1967.


Early life

Born in Qingdao, China, she was a daughter of Hugo Reiss (1879-), a German-born Jewish diplomat who served as Brazil's consul in Shanghai, China.[1] Her mother, a Roman Catholic, was Ignatia Mary Murphy (1891-), a native of San Francisco, California [2].

She had two sisters, Barry J. Reiss-Brian (died 1970, unmarried) and Huguette Reiss Gerard Hoguet (died 1994, married twice). By her mother's second marriage to Guy L. A. Brian, she had two half-sisters: Marie-Brigitte (1928-, Countess Bernard de La Rochefoucauld) and Patricia (1930-, Madame Jacques Bemberg).

All five daughters were raised as Catholics, with the three Reiss girls spending their infancy and early childhood in Shanghai, China. After Mary Reiss's marriage to Guy Brian, the family lived in Paris, and Jane graduated from the Convent des Oiseaux, a fashionable Catholic school in Neuilly, France; its alumni included the future Vietnamese empress Nam Phuong.

First marriage

On 1 June 1939, she married Fritz Mannheimer (1890–1939), a German Jewish banker and art collector. The director of Mendelssohn & Co. in Amsterdam, a branch of a fabled private bank headquartered in Berlin and known for floating multi-million-dollar loans to various European governments, including that of Germany, he died eight weeks after the wedding, reportedly of a heart attack, on 9 August 1939. The actual cause of Mannheimer's death remains as speculative as its timing was suspicious. One day after his death, the Amsterdam branch announced that it was insolvent and that it was confiscating Mannheimer's art collection, which had been financed with unlimited bank credit. Shortly thereafter, the entire firm was liquidated by the German government.

The couple had one child, Anne France Mannheimer (now known as Annette de la Renta) (1939-), who was born after Mannheimer's death.[3]

Second marriage

The founder of Engelhard Minerals and Chemicals, Charles Engelhard, was a well-connected American entrepreneur who had inherited a small metal fabricating company from his father. In the late 1940s, he had journeyed to South Africa to make his fortune. South African mines had a surplus of gold, but government regulations prohibited the exporting of gold bullion from South Africa without permits from the central bank, which were very difficult to obtain. Great Britain, which still controlled the financial affairs of South Africa, wanted to retain as much gold as possible within the sterling bloc. Engelhard found a loophole through that regulation: while it was illegal to export gold bars, it was legal to export objets d'art made of gold. Engelhard formed a company called Precious Metals Development that bought gold from the mines and cast it in the form of statues and other religious items. Engelhard exported these religious objets d'art to Hong Kong, where they were melted down and turned back into gold bullion, which could then be sold on the free market. (This ploy was later used by Ian Fleming, who was a business partner of Engelhard, in his novel Goldfinger) [4]

Jane Mannheimer moved first to London, then to New York City after her first husband's death. In 1947 she was named vice president of the merchandising division of Holbrook Microfilming Service, a company which was headed by president John J. Raskob and chairman Lt. Gen. Hugh Drum.[5] She also was a member of Sillman & Associates, through which she was a minor investor in Broadway revues such as "New Shoes" and "Gentlemen Be Seated."

In 1947, she married Charles W. Engelhard, Jr. (1917–1971), a multimillionaire minerals industrialist from New Jersey.[6] The couple lived in Far Hills, New Jersey, where they raised golden retrievers and thoroughbred race horses, including the fabled Triple Crown of Thoroughbred Racing champion, Nijinsky. They had numerous homes, including Cragwood, a 1920s neo-Georgian mansion in New Jersey, a country house in South Africa, and residences in London, Paris, Maine, Nantucket, New York City, and Quebec's Gaspé Peninsula.

The Engelhards had four daughters: Susan Engelhard, Jane Elizabeth Sophia Engelhard, Sally Alexandra Engelhard, and Charlene B. Engelhard. Charles Engelhard also adopted his wife's daughter from her first marriage.


Jane Engelhard was a patron of numerous causes and institutions, including the New Jersey Symphony. She served on the Boards the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Morgan Library for many years. She also was a member of the Fine Arts Committee of the White House, organized during the Kennedy administration; the decoration of the Small State Dining Room is among her reported contributions to the restoration of the White House. In 1977, Engelhard was the first woman appointed as a Commissioner of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.[7] She was also a member of the Library of Congress Trust Fund Board and a recipient of the Legion d'honneur.


She died on Sunday, Feb. 2,2004 in Nantucket, Massachusetts.


  1. According to a passenger manifest of the S.S. Berengaria, dated 10 October 1924, Hugo Reiss (his own spelling of his surname) declared himself to be 44 years old, born in Michelfeld, Germany, of Hebrew "Race or People," a naturalized Brazilian citizen, and a resident of Shanghai. He described himself as the Brazilian consul in Shanghai and gave his American address as c/o of his brothers, Julius H. and Ben Reiss, whose offices were at 894-900 Broadway, New York City. He also cited the address of a cousin, Sidney Reiss, Wilbraham Road, Manchester, England. See www.ellisisland.org.
  2. A portrait photograph of Mary Murphy Reiss by Arnold Genthe is in the AMICO Public Collection of the Library of Congress, dated 30 October 1919. Its identification number is LC-G432-3060.
  3. Subsequently known as Annette Engelhard, through her adoption by her mother's second husband, she is now the wife of the fashion designer Oscar de la Renta.
  4. Epstein, Edward Jay, The Diamond Invention, http://www.edwardjayepstein.com/diamond/prologue.htm
  5. "Heads New Division", The New York Times, 21 April 1947
  6. Engelhard was the son of a self-made German immigrant, Charles W. Engelhard, Sr., who came to the United States at the end of the 19th century from Hanau. His mother also was a German immigrant.
  7. She served less than a year, however, claiming that "my role as a commissioner conflicts with my family responsibilities and is far more time-consuming than I had anticipated" (The New York Times, 14 December 1977).


  • "Fritz Mannheimer, Financier, Is Dead," The New York Times, 11 August 1939, page 19.
  • "Action Follows Shortly After Mannheimer's Death–House Granted Government Loans," The New York Times, 12 August 1939, page 1.
  • "Mendelssohn Lost Heavily on Bonds; Huge Fortune of Mannheimer Is Believed to Have Been Lost in His Operations ," The New York Times, 14 August 1939, page 7.
  • "Trustees Named for Mendelssohn," The New York Times, 15 August 1939, page 32.
  • "Holland Unmoved by Bank's Crisis," The New York Times, 21 August 1939, page 23.
  • "Daladier Testifies in War Guilt Court," The New York Times, 23 September 1940, page 5.
  • "Met Painting Traced to Nazis," The New York Times, 24 November 1987, page C19.
  • "Records at the Met Disprove Charge of Acquiring 5 Paintings Improperly," The New York Times, 25 November 1987, C11.
  • "Post-War Story," Time, 21 August 1939.


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