Jane Engelhard

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Jane Engelhard
Born Marie Antoinette Jeanne Reiss
(1917-08-12)August 12, 1917
Qingdao, China
Died February 29, 2004(2004-02-29) (aged 86)
Nantucket, Massachusetts, U.S.
Nationality American
Occupation Philanthropist
Fritz Mannheimer
(m. 1939; d. 1939)

Charles W. Engelhard Jr.
(m. 1947; d. 1971)
Children Annette de la Renta (<abbr=born>b. 1939)

Jane Engelhard (August 12, 1917 – February 29, 2004), born Marie Antoinette Jeanne Reiss,[1] 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. She was named to the International Best Dressed List Hall of Fame in 1972.[2]

Family and early life[edit]

Born in Qingdao, China, she was a daughter of Hugo Reiss (1879–?), a prominent Shanghai-based, German-born Jewish businessman who was an executive at his family's British fabric-and-small-arms wholesale firm, G. Reiss & Co. Ltd. and served as Brazil's consul in Shanghai.[3][4] Her mother, Ignatia Mary Valerie Murphy (1891/93-1965), was an Irish Roman Catholic native of San Francisco, California.[5][6]

She had two sisters by her parents' marriage: Barry Jeanette Reiss-Brian (1914–1970), and Huguette Madeleine Reiss-Brian (1916–1994, married Major Rupert Charles Frederick Gerard, then Lawrence Hoguet; mother of 5th Baron Gerard of Bryn).

Her mother later married French citizen Guy Louis Albert Brian (1891–) and had two daughters: Marie-Brigitte Brian (b. 1928, Countess Bernard de La Rochefoucauld)[7] and Patricia "Bébé" Brian (b. 1930, Madame Jacques Bemberg). Her maiden surname has been variously been published as Reis, Reiss, Pinto Reis, Pinto-Reis Brian and Reiss-Brian.

All five daughters were raised as Catholics, with the three Reiss girls spending their infancy and early childhood in Shanghai, China. After Mary Reiss divorced Hugo Reiss and married 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 Phương.[8]

First marriage[edit]

On 1 June 1939, in Vaucresson, France, she married Fritz Mannheimer (1890–1939), a German Jewish banker and art collector. The director of Mendelssohn & Co. in Amsterdam, a branch of a Berlin bank on Jagerstrasse 51, known for floating multimillion-dollar loans to various European governments, including that of Germany and Russia, 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) (b. 1939), who was born after Mannheimer's death.[9]

Second marriage[edit]

Jane Mannheimer moved first to London, then to Buenos Aires, 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.[10] She also was a member of Sillman & Associates, through which she was a minor investor in Broadway revues including New Shoes and Gentlemen Be Seated.

On 18 August 1947, in New York City, New York,[11] Mannheimer married Charles W. Engelhard Jr. (1917–1971), vice-president of Baker & Co. Inc. and heir to Engelhard Industries, a New Jersey-based minerals conglomerate.[12] 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 five daughters:

Charles Engelhard also adopted his wife's daughter from her first marriage.


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.[13] She was also a member of the Library of Congress Trust Fund Board and a recipient of the Legion d'honneur.


Engelhard died of pneumonia on February 29, 2004, at her home in Nantucket, Massachusetts.[8]


  1. ^ "Ex-Shanghai Girl Helps Straighten Bank Affairs", The China Monthly Review, 1939
  2. ^ Vanity Fair Archived 2008-02-29 at the Wayback Machine.
  3. ^ Reiss later opened his own successor firm, Hugo Reiss & Co., based in Shanghai, where he was founder and managing director and which was a contractor to the Chinese government. He was also secretary of the Senawang Rubber Estates Co., Ltd. and a vice-president of Anderson, Meyer & Co. (which helped established General Electric in China. He also was on the board of directors of The China Press, an American newspaper in China, and the Shanghai Tannery Co.
  4. ^ 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 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.
  5. ^ Gross, Michael Rogues' Gallery: The Secret Story of the Lust, Lies, Greed, and Betrayals That Made the Metropolitan Museum of Art p. 379
  6. ^ 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.
  7. ^ Michael Gross, Rogues' Gallery: The Secret Story of the Lust, Lies, Greed, and Betrayals (Random House, 2010), page 284
  8. ^ a b Martin, Douglas (March 3, 2004). "Jane Engelhard, 86, Fixture In Society and Philanthropy". The New York Times. Retrieved October 20, 2014.
  9. ^ 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.
  10. ^ "Heads New Division", The New York Times, 21 April 1947
  11. ^ Princeton Alumni Weekly, 26 September 1947, page 28
  12. ^ 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.
  13. ^ 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.
  • Brief biography of Mannheimer