Ben Altheimer is eighty-four today.
Philanthropist and, in his own words, “plain American citizen,” Mr. Altheimer, whose suggestion of a national observance of Flag Day caused President Wilson to issue the first proclamation of this holiday in 1917, has turned down invitations to commemorate his birthday. He is to spend the day in his usual way, reading, and walking, if the weather permits, and talking with friends at the Harmony Club on East Sixtieth street, where he has been a member for many years.
Born in Germany March 6, 1850, Mr. Altheimer came to the United States and made his home in St. Louis. There he entered banking, and in a comparatively short time became a leader in that field. He came to New York sixteen years ago and engaged in philanthropy and social work. He was vice-president of Temple Emanu-El, president of Temple Beth-El, and treasurer of the National Jewish Hospital at Denver. In 1927 he received the Cross of Honor from the United States Flag Association in recognition of his work in connection with Flag Day.
Interviewed at his home, 28 East Sixty-third street, yesterday, Mr. Altheimer said that he is “twenty-eight years old,” and referred to himself as a “very young man, a soldier of the Sefer Hatorah, with rather an optimistic view of life.”
He told a Jewish Daily Bulletin representative how he thought of establishing the military formation, “retreat,” as a “national observance.” Thus originated his idea of having President Wilson order a Flag Day national holiday.
Mr. Altheimer spoke of charity as “one of the important things of every man’s life,” and repeated an adage of his own saying, “He who gives quickly, gives twice.”
In an article which he wrote in 1918, he called attention to the fact that anti-Semitism is a “German made product,” and today he repeats that the “Jew will come into his own, regardless of how he is mistreated.”
So long as there is a Jew, there will be intolerance, he said. “But we shall have our day.”