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Leopold, Nathan F. (1904-1971), and Richard A. Loeb (1905-1936)  
 
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Leopold and Loeb gained notoriety when they were arrested for the murder of a fourteen-year-old boy, Bobby Franks, in May 1924. Their trial, in which they were represented by the eminent defense attorney Clarence Darrow, became a media sensation, and was for a long time known as the "trial of the [twentieth] century."

That the two young men were exceptionally bright students at the University of Chicago, and the scions of wealthy families, only added to the interest in their case. The children of privilege, the boys grew up surrounded by all the advantages that money could afford, thus puncturing the presumption that poverty was the handmaiden of crime.

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Although they claimed to have been motivated primarily by a desire to commit a "perfect crime" and thereby exemplify the exemption of "Nietzschean supermen" from the moral code that governs ordinary men and women, the two also became known as "thrill killers." Their motivation to kidnap and kill young Bobby Franks was widely believed to be at least in part rooted in their sexuality, or more particularly, their homosexuality.

Leopold and Loeb's crime and trial, which featured a stirring plea by Darrow to spare the young murderers' lives, have continued to attract attention and to influence popular culture. Numerous books, films, plays, and even a musical have been inspired by their story, though only recently have the sexual aspects of their relationship been presented explicitly and accurately and without the kind of hysterical that marred early accounts.

Richard Loeb

Richard Albert Loeb was born on June 11, 1905, the third of four sons of Albert Loeb, a lawyer who became the Vice President of Sears and Roebuck, and his wife Anna. The Loebs lived in a mansion in Kenwood, then a predominantly Jewish neighborhood of Chicago. They also owned a country estate in Charlevoix, Michigan.

Richard attended the Laboratory School and, later, University High School, both affiliated with the University of Chicago. A precocious student, tutored by a governess who was a strict disciplinarian, he graduated from University High at the age of 14, and was admitted to the University of Chicago the same year.

Loeb's experience as an undergraduate at the University of Chicago was not a happy one. Despite his reputation for precocity, he earned only mediocre grades. With most of his classmates several years older, he also made few friends despite his natural gregariousness.

At the end of his sophomore year, Loeb transferred to the University of Michigan, where his academic record was also less than distinguished. He spent most of his time playing cards and reading crime novels, and also drinking heavily and carousing with his fraternity brothers. Nevertheless, he managed to earn a B.A. in 1923, becoming the youngest graduate in the history of the University of Michigan.

In 1924, Loeb was back in Chicago, taking graduate courses in history at the University of Chicago.

Nathan Leopold

Nathan Freudenthal Leopold, Jr. was born on November 19, 1904. His father, a millionaire box manufacturer, and his mother Florence were notably protective and indulgent parents.

Nathan was a sickly but precocious child who was nicknamed "Babe." He began speaking at the age of four months. Early recognized for his unusual academic prowess and genius-level IQ, he excelled in his studies.

Although he lived less than two blocks away from Loeb in the Kenwood neighborhood, Leopold attended different elementary and prep schools, but, like Loeb, he also received private tutoring. He graduated from Chicago's Harvard Preparatory School at the age of 15, and then matriculated at the University of Chicago.

Whereas Loeb was handsome, athletic, and socially assured, Leopold was undersized, nerdy, and socially inept. With somewhat bulging eyes and a sallow complexion, he considered himself unattractive and sexually inadequate.

Perhaps to compensate for these feelings of inferiority, Leopold thrust himself into his studies, easily mastering several languages, classical literature, botany, and ornithology. By the age of 18, he was a nationally recognized authority on birds, having published two papers in the country's leading ornithological journal on Kirtland's warbler, an endangered songbird. As a teenager, he also became obsessed with the philosophy of Friedrich Nietzsche, especially the concept of the superman.

In May 1924, Leopold had recently graduated from the University of Chicago and elected to Phi Beta Kappa; he was planning a family trip to Europe before entering Harvard Law School in the fall.

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Police photographs of Nathan Leopold (top) and Richard Loeb.
  
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