Biographical / Historical
Leon Robbin was born on October 11, 1901 in Washington D.C to Herman Solomon Robbin (Lithuanian, 1875-1959) and Sehene (Jenny) Robbin (nee Rubin) (Russian, 1876-1923). He attended Washington D.C. Public Schools for his early education, and graduated in two years from the D.C. Business High School. Beginning in 1917, Robbin attended Carnegie Institute of Technology in Pittsburgh, PA, but due to a severe case of the flu he caught at the beginning of his first semester, he dropped out for the remainder of the academic year. In 1918, he enrolled in Georgetown University’s evening Law School, while selling Dalton Adding Machines and teaching business law at D.C. Business High School during the day. Robbin graduated from Georgetown University law school in 1922, and in October of 1922, was admitted to the Bar of the District of Columbia, and then began working for noted Washington lawyer Wade E. Ellis, former Attorney General of the State of Ohio. Around the same time, Robbin’s cousin, inventor and electrochemist Samuel Rubin, hired him as his personal patent attorney and sales agent as a part-time position. In 1930, Robin was hired by the manufacturing company P. R. Mallory Company in New York, also a part-time position. In 1933, Robbin joined the company full-time as an assistant secretary of the company, and formed their patent law department.. Robbin was responsible for brokering the 1943 deal between P. R. Mallory Co. and the Army Signal Corps that resulted in the wartime production of Ruben’s mercury batteries for use in World War Two walkie talkies and other portable electronics. Robin also led Mallory’s postwar commercialization efforts as vice-president of the Battery Division. Though Mallory had never made batteries prior to the war, Robbin’s close relationship with his cousin Ruben facilitated the company's continuing innovation and transformation into Duracell Inc., today’s market leader for long-life sealed alkaline batteries. He was later promoted to vice president for the legal and patents division. And then Vice President of Engineering and Research, and was elected to company’s Board of Directors. He incorporated and led its overseas subsidiaries. Robbin retired to Florida in the 1970s after a 47-year career with P.R. Mallory and Co.
Robbin was married to Mae Large Robbin (1911-2003) and they had five daughters: Jane Carol Robbin (1935-1941), Grace Robbin Drehmel (1939-2015), Susan Robbin Chace, Barbara L. Robbin, and Gwendolyn Robbin Paine. His marriage to Mae Robbin ended in divorce. Between 1975-1976, Robbin remarried Olga Key Robbin of Key Biscayne, FL. On May 22, 2003, Leon Robbin died at home in Key Biscayne, FL of congestive heart failure at the age of 101.
At the beginning of Robbin’s career as a patent attorney, presumably in the 1920-30 period, a client paid him with a manuscript after Robbin refused remuneration. 'It was a Franz Schubert manuscript dated 1825, signed by the composer. After that, there was no stopping me.'" This autographed manuscript was an unpublished work by Schubert entitled "Un Zwei Deutsche für Klavier." Thus began his foray into collecting musical manuscripts. Robbin said “I began collecting manuscripts not only because of my interest in the great composers, but also because it gives me a wonderful feeling to have in front of me the very piece of paper that one of these immortal geniuses wrote on.”
The Leon Robbin Collection of Music Manuscripts and Letters of Composers contains over 300 manuscripts and letters. In 1997, Robbin established a $1 million endowment for the further acquisition of musical manuscripts for Georgetown Library.