Cohen Collection, 1773-1945, MS 251

Cohen Collection, 1773-1945
Maryland Historical Society
MS 251

also see Cohen Civil War Scrapbooks MS 251.1-251.4  


Cohen Collection, 1773-1945
Maryland Historical Society

Contact Information:
Manuscripts Department
Maryland Historical Society Library
201 West Monument Street
Baltimore MD 21201-4674
Fax: 410.385.2105
[email protected]


Descriptive Summary

Cohen Collection, 1773-1945

MS 251

Maryland Historical Society

Baltimore MD 21201-4674 


Biographical Sketch 

The Cohen family has long been prominent in the business and artistic affairs of the City of Baltimore. Originally descended from Meyer Cohen (b. 1700?) who lived in Oberdorf, Gernamy, the first Cohen to arrive in the U.S. was Jacob I. Cohen (1744 1823) He emigrated from his native land in 1773 and for a short time lived in Lancaster Pennsylvania. From that city he moved to Charleston, South Carolina. Prior to the end of the Revolution Cohen moved to Richmond, Virginia where he became associated in business with Israel Isaacs. In Richmond Cohen became prominent in civic as well as in financial affairs serving as a grandjuryman, as a Trustee of the Masonic Hall and as a member of the City Council. Jacob I. lived in Philadelphia from 1806 to the time of his death.

Jacob's brother, Israel I. Cohen (1751-1803) was also a public spirited citizen of Richmond, Virginia serving as a juryman, a volunteer constable, a subscriber for shares in the Academy of Arts and Sciences of the United States of America established in Richmond in 1786. He was also a Trustee of the Franklin Street Cemetery. He died in 1803 and was buried in Richmond.

In 1808 Judith Solomon Cohen, Israel I. Cohen's widow, moved to Baltimore with seven children: Jacob I., Jr., Philip I., Maria I., Mendes I., Benjamin I., David I., and Joshua I. The [UNK] relationship with Baltimore began with Judith Cohen's move. Biographical sketches of Cohen family members important to the Cohen collections are to follow.


JACOB I. COHEN (1789-1869)

After their arrival in Baltimore, Jacob I. Cohen, Jr. and his brothers engaged in business. Their widely known banking business was conducted under the name of Jacob I. Cohen, Jr. and Brothers. Cohen was also actively interested in the Philadelphia, Wilmington and Baltimore Railroad Company in its early days and was a Vice-President and Director of that company for many years. He was a Director of the Baltimore and OHio Railroad Company and President of the Baltimore Fire Insurance Co.

It was largely due to the energy of Jacob I. Cohen that the Maryland Legislature confirmed the constitutional amendment whereby it became possible for Jews to hold office in Maryland. From 1816 to 1826 Jacob I. Cohen, Jr. led the movement to relieve his fellow Jews of their disqualification.

Cohen was also a member of the City Council of Baltimore (1845-1851) and helped found Baltimore's public school system. For the first nine years of its existence (1830-1838) he was Secretary and Secretary-Treasurer of the Board of Public School Commissioners.


COL. MENDES I. COHEN (1796-1879)

Born in Richmond and moved to Baltimore in 1808. At the age of eighteen he served at Fort McHenry during the bombardment. After the war he entered into the banking business with his brothers, and conducted business at the New York Branch of J.I. Cohen, Jr. and Brothers. He retired from business in 1829 and made an extensive foreign tour (1829 1835) through Great Britain, Europe, Asia Minor, and the Middle East. While in Egypt, Cohen travelled up to the second cataract of the Nile and was the first American to bear the American flag up the Nile after the ratification of the Treaty with Turkey.

Mendes I. Cohen was a member of the Maryland Historical Society, Vice-President of

the Hebrew Benevolent Society, Director of the Fireman's Insurance Company, and Baltimore and Ohio Railroad Company. He was a member of the Maryland Legislature 1847-1848.


BENJAMIN I. COHEN (1797-1845)

One of the foremost bankers in Baltimore. He was a member of the banking firm of Jacob I. Cohen Jr., and Brothers, and was influential in forming the first Baltimore Stock Board in 1838.

Benjamin I. Cohen was active in creating sentiment for the passage of the Jew Bill and urged members of the House of Delegates to introduce a bill to extend to persons of the Jewish Religion, the same civil priviledges that are allowed to other religious sects.

Cohen also played a prominent role in the social life of Baltimore and was reputed to have been a violinist, a botanist, and a horticulturist.


DR. JOSHUA I. COHEN (1801-1870)

Graduated from the University of Maryland Medical School in 1823. Treasurer of the Medical and Chiurgical Faculty of Maryland from 1839-1856 and its President from 1857-1858 professor of geology and minerology at the University of Maryland, a member of the American Philosophical Society, the Maryland Historical Society and the Anacreontic Society.

He also participated like his brothers, in the work which resulted in the removal of Jewish disabilities in Maryland.


ISRAEL COHEN (1820-1875)

Son of Benjamin I. Cohen; conducted extensive stock brokerage business; founder of the Second Baltimore Stock Board. Member Mechanical Fire Co.; Ringgold Infantry;

a Director of the Pittsburg and Connellville Railway. One of the original perjectors of the Maryland Academy of Art and the Academy of Music of which he was Secretary and Treasurer.


MENDES COHEN (1831-1915)

Pioneer Civil Engineer, apprentice machinist in Baltimore Locomotive Works of Ross Winans, 1851. Appointed one of the Assistants to the Engineer of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad 1851 1855.

1868-1871 Comptroller and Assistant to the President of Lehigh Coal and navigation Company. 1872 chosen President of Pittsburg and Connellsville Railroad which subsequently consolidated with the Baltimore and Ohio railway system. 1892-1893 was President of the American Society of Civil Engineers. 1894 President Cleveland appointed him a member of the board to report upon a route for the Chesapeake and Delaware Canal. 1875 retired from active work of his profession.

Later on he devoted his time entirely to the welfare of the City of Baltimore and to studies he was interested in. Through his ability and persistence the modern system of sewerage in Baltimore was put into effect. And 1884-1904 was the Secretary and then President (1904-1915) of the Maryland Historical Society.

One of the founders of the Jewish Historical Society. Took an interest in all the art musical and intellectual pursuits of his fellow citizens. Was a member of the Municipal Art Commission of Baltimore and a Trustee of the Peabody Institute.



Daughter of Israel and Cecilia Levy Cohen. Interested in both Jewish and non-sectarian charities. Endowed scholarships in the Medical Department of the University of Maryland; was in the Jewish Theological Seminary of America. Was a member of Associated Jewish charities to which she was a liberal contributor. Was a member of

the Municipal Art Society of Baltimore, the Baltimore Museum of Art, the Maryland Historical Society, the Zionist Organization of America and the Jewish Theological Seminary of America.

SOLOMON ETTING was born in York, Pennsylvania on July 28, 1764. Nothing is known of his early life. He married Rachel, the daughter of John Simon, and moved to Lancaster, Pennsylvania where he was entered into partnership with his father-in-law under the firm name of Simon and Etting. The firm was involved in the trade of Indian goods. Rachel Simon Etting died in 1790. About this time Solomon Etting moved to Baltimore and opened a hardware business. He also married Rachel Gratz.

In 1795 Solomon Etting gave up his hardware business and became invoved in shipping, commerce, and banking. In 1796 he established the Water Company of Baltimore. He organized the Baltimore East India Company in 1807. He was a member of the Citywide Committee of Vigilance and Safety in 1814. He helped negotiate with Robert Fulton and the Navy Department for construction of the first Fulton Steam frigate. In 1831 he was a board member of the Maryland Colonization Society. He died on August 6, 1847.

THE COHEN AND ETTING FAMILY RELATIONSHIPS arise from the marriage of Kitty Etting (1799 1837), daughter of Solomon and Rachel Gratz Etting, to Benjamin I. Cohen. Also, Solomon Etting and Benjamin I. Cohen were associated with the movement to enact the Jew Bill.


Scope and Content 

The collection consists of a variety of Cohen family material relating to a number of family members. Includes correspondence of Benjamin I. Cohen, ca. 1845, Cecelia Cohen, ca. 1890, Eleanor S. Cohen ca. 1915-1945, Israel Cohen ca. 1870, Joshua I. Cohen ca. 1830-1870, and Mendes Cohen ca. 1900-1915. Contains interesting journal of trip taken by Benjamin I. Cohen from Baltimore through Western Maryland and West Virginia in 1819.

Also includes correspondence, financial reports, minutes relating to the Maryland Historical Society 1887-1914; newsclippings, 1830-1870, collected by Mendes Cohen concerning arts in Baltimore, railroads, civil engineering, Baltimore politics; 3 volumes of clippings collected by Eleanor S. Cohen incuding poems and articles of Jewish interest 1899-1925; cookbook of Eleanor S. Cohen, 1890's +; rough drafts and notes of William H. Winder s History of Maryland published in the Journal of The Times, Baltimore, Maryland 1818; notebook of James Carroll on the laws of Maryland 1798-1816.


Container List

Box 1

Eleanor S. Cohen Scrapbooks




Box 2

Mendes Cohen Scrapbook, 1885-1891




Box 3

Cookbook of A.M. Cohen




Newspaper clippings, 1830-1887




Memorandum Book of Mendes Cohen




Box 4

Assorted Papers, including pre-1810 materials and notes on Jew Bill




Newspaper clippings from the 1840s




Assorted materials, 1830-1940s




Genealogical notes




Box 5

Mendes Cohen and Marylamd Historical Society materials




Jew Bill material




1811 Deed belonging to Solomon Etting




Miscellaneous papers - envelopes, receipts, invitations




Drafts of William Winder's History of Maryland, 1818




Box 6

Drafts of Winder's Essay




James Carroll Notebook, 1798-1816




Inventory completed by Seth Rockman, October 31, 1996