Leopold Mannes

Leopold Mannes (born 1899, New York, New York; died 1964, Vineyard Haven, Massachusetts) was an American musician, educator, and inventor. His parents, David Mannes, violinist and conductor, and Clara Mannes, pianist and daughter of conductor Leopold Damrosch, founded the David Mannes School of Music in 1916. In his youth, Leopold Mannes took music and piano lessons at the Mannes School and at the Institute of Musical Art (later known as The Juilliard School). He attended Riverdale School in New York City where he met Leopold Godowsky, Jr., the son of the famous concert pianist and composer. The two shared a mutual interest in photography, in addition to music, and they set up their own photographic laboratory in 1917.

Mannes attended Harvard University, studying physics and music, and graduated in 1920 with a bachelor’s degree in music. In 1922, he made his New York debut as a pianist, and in 1925, he won a Pulitzer Music Scholarship. In 1926, he received a Guggenheim fellowship to study composition in Italy. From 1927 to 1931, he taught music theory and composition at the Mannes School, while also continuing to work with Leopold Godowsky, Jr. on experiments to develop a technique for color photography.

In 1920, the two partners filed a patent for an additive color film process, but the technique was impractical. Their work, however, came to the attention of the head of research at the Eastman Kodak Company, C.E. Kenneth Mees, who convinced them in 1930 to move to the Kodak research laboratories in Rochester, New York to continue their experiments with Kodak’s staff and equipment. By 1935, Mannes and Godowsky had perfected the subtractive color system they had been working on since 1920 and the invention of Kodachrome was announced. The process was initially developed for motion picture film, but in 1936, Mannes and Godowsky applied it to still photography film as well. Kodachrome quickly became a success; within three years its sales of 16mm film eclipsed that of Kodak’s black and white stock. Kodachrome film remained in production until 2009.

In 1940, Mannes married Evelyn Sabin, a dancer who performed with Martha Graham’s dance company in the 1920s and was a student of Graham’s at the Eastman School of Music in Rochester (Mannes’ previous marriage to Edith Vernon Mann Simonds ended in divorce in 1933). After the success of Kodachrome, he returned to his music career in 1941, performing and serving as a co-director of the Mannes Music School with his parents, also teaching theory and composition as of 1946. In 1948, after the death of his mother, Leopold Mannes became president of the school, with his father David remaining part of the school as founder. In 1953, the school received a charter as a degree granting institution and its name was changed to The Mannes College of Music.

As a musician, Leopold Mannes created The Mannes Trio in 1949, later known as the Mannes-Gimpel-Silva Trio, which performed until 1955.20 He also composed original works, including his Suite for Two Pianos (1924), 3 Short Pieces for Orchestra (1926), String Quartet (1928), and incidental music for Shakespeare’s The Tempest (1930).

Leopold Mannes remained president of The Mannes College of Music until his death in 1964. He and Leopold Godowsky Jr. were inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame in 2005.


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