Leo Falk Wormser

Photo of a white partially-bald man wearing a light-colored suit, white patterned shirt, and a striped, geometric patterned tie, smiling at the camera.
Leo Wormser, September 1926. Private collection

Leo Falk Wormser (1884-1934) was a native of Chicago and a prominent figure in the city. After attending law school at Harvard and the University of Chicago, he became a successful lawyer and was the personal attorney of Julius Rosenwald, one of the richest men in the city’s history. In 1911, he married Helen Goldsmith of Cincinnati, and the two made their home in Chicago.

Newspaper clipping reporting on Leo Wormser and Helen Goldsmith’s marriage.
“Cincinnati Girl Weds Chicagoan,” Chicago Tribune, October 24, 1911, 12.

As a member of the city’s elite, Leo maintained a civically active, cosmopolitan lifestyle. He was a trustee of numerous educational and charitable institutions, including the Museum of Science and Industry, and a leader in the local Jewish community. He and his family attended films and theatre productions, dined at fashionable restaurants and clubs, and vacationed in Europe. His daughter, Elaine, recalled her father’s “exquisite taste,” manifest in the collection of seventeenth- and eighteenth-century European artworks that adorned their home.

Newspaper clipping noting the popularity of Leo Wormser’s preferred method for cooking German fried style potatoes at the Tavern Club.
Everett Swingle, “Club Cuisenaire Tells What His Patrons Select,” Chicago Tribune, June 5, 1931, 21.

Evidently, Leo’s taste was influential outside the home as well, inspiring a menu item at Chicago’s fashionable Tavern Club—the “Wormser potatoes.”

Sepia-toned portrait of Leo Wormser in a suit, in three-quarter profile.
Leo F. Wormser, circa 1925. Courtesy of Chicago History Museum

In 1934, Leo died unexpectedly at only 50 years old. His widow, Helen, and 22-year-old daughter, Elaine, moved out of their Drake Tower penthouse in the following months, bringing nearly everything from Elaine’s bedroom with them. After marrying and settling in Cincinnati, Elaine continued to retain the contents of her Urban-designed room. In 1973, she generously donated nearly all the remaining items to the Cincinnati Art Museum.