Babies named for Chicago’s Joseph Leiter?

Joseph Leiter, the only son of wealthy Chicago businessman Levi Z. Leiter (co-founder of what became Marshall Field’s department store), tried to corner the Chicago wheat market from 1897 to 1898.

At the start of 1898, “Leiter held the largest private ownership of wheat in the history of grain trade.” Wheat prices soared.

In April of 1898, while the price of wheat was still on the rise, one Iowa newspaper reported that babies were being named after Leiter:

So much has been written about Joseph Leiter and his wheat operations that his name has become familiar to everyone who reads the papers. Farmers talk about him at their gatherings, and think that he has done more for them than any speculator that ever lived. He made wheat sell at one dollar and over. They are naming their baby boys after him, and Mrs. Leiter frequently receives a notice that a 12-pound boy has been christened “Joseph Leiter Smith” or “Joseph Leiter Jones.”

Leiter ultimately failed. By mid-1898, his competitors had broken the corner and Leiter’s losses were well into the millions, one source estimating as high as $10,000,000.

(Also, I should note that I have yet to discover a single baby named “Joseph Leiter” born in 1898 in that neck of the woods, so who knows how many babies — if any — really got the name.)


  • “Babies Named After Leiter.” Evening Press [Keokuk, Iowa] 21 Apr. 1898: 2.
  • Crash in Leiter Deal.” Chicago Daily Tribune 14 Jun. 1898: 1.
  • “Leiter, Joseph.” The Encyclopedia Americana. 1920.

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