"A portrait is a picture in which there is just a tiny little something not quite right about the mouth." -- John Singer Sargent

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Mendes Cohen

 This painting of Mendes Cohen (1796-1879) by an unknown artist hangs in the Maryland Historical Society Museum in Baltimore, Maryland.
 "From Defender to Orientalist Mendes Cohen (1796-1879)

"Born in Richmond, Virginia, Mendes Cohen and his family moved to Baltimore in 1803 and quickly established themselves as one of the city's wealthiest Jewish families. At eighteen, Cohen joined the Twenty-seventh Regiment, hoping that he would be sent to defend Washington during the War of 1812. Disappointed, he left the regiment, returned to Baltimore and found the excitement he craved when he was in Fort McHenry during the 1814 bombardment. After the war, Cohen served as Adjutant General of Maryland, representing the State at Queen Victoria's coronation. An adventurer at heart, Cohen became the first American to tour the Nile Valley, collecting antiquities along the way. Cohen, a founding member of the Maryland Historical Society, died a bachelor in 1879." -- Maryland Historical Society
Scott Shields gives this discussion of Mendes Cohen.

"Mendes I.Cohen – Defender of Fort McHenry

On May 7, 1879 Mendes I. Cohen, one of the Old Defenders of Baltimore in 1814 died at the age of 83 years in Baltimore. He was the younger of two other brothers, Jacob I. and Philip Cohen all of whom served in the War of 1812 in the defense of Baltimore. He served as a private in Captain Joseph H. Nicholson’s U.S. Volunteer artillery company, the Baltimore Fencibles. He was one of the original stockholders in the Holiday Street Theatre where soon after the bombardment of Fort McHenry, “The Star-Spangled Banner” was first sung in public.

One of his, if not most important contributions to the State of Maryland was to have the 1825 Jew Bill approved and passed by the Maryland Legislature to allow Jews to hold public office as well as in the Maryland Militia where he was elected captain of the Maron Rifles, a city volunteer company. He served as vice-president of the Hebrew Benevolent Association and director of the Hebrew Orphan Asylum and the Firemen’s Insurance Company.

In later years he visited Europe on three occasions visit the sites of the Middle East. In September 1873 at the age of seventy-nine made his last visit to Fort McHenry being one of the last surviving members of the Baltimore Fencibles and defenders of Fort McHenry.

Source: “The Late Mendes I. Cohen,” The Sun, May 8, 1878."

  The Maryland State Archives have this biography of Mendes I. Cohen:
"Mendes I. Cohen was born in Richmond, Virginia on May 26, 1796 to Israel I. and Judith Solomon Cohen.  In addition to Mendes, the Cohen family included sons Jacob, Joshua, Solomon, Philip, Benjamin, Joshua I., Edward, David and daughter, Maria.  After Israel's death in 1803, Judith Cohen moved the family to Baltimore.  Mendes I. Cohen worked with his brothers at Cohen's Lottery and Exchange and later at Jacob I. Cohen, Jr. and Brothers Banking House.  He left Baltimore in 1829 to travel abroad.  Between 1829 and 1835, he visited England, Russia, Turkey, Palestine, and Egypt, in addition to the majority of countries in Central and Western Europe. He became the first American to tour  the Nile Valley.  Upon his return to the states, Cohen served as a Delegate in the Maryland General Assembly in 1847, was a delegate to the State Peace Convention during the Civil War, and acted as Vice President of the Baltimore Committee of the Alliance Israelite Universelle.  Mendes I. Cohen remained a bachelor throughout his life, and died on  May 7, 1879 without heirs."-- Maryland State Archives

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