Benjamin I. Cohen

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Born into a prominent Baltimore Jewish family, Benjamin I. Cohen was the first of Israel and Cecilia Eliza Levy Cohen’s seven children, including Georgie, Joshua, Eleanor Septima, and Anna Maria. In 1808 his great-grandmother, the recently widowed Judith Solomon Cohen, had moved to the city from Richmond, Virginia, with her six children, among them Benjamin’s grandfather, after whom he was named. Many in the Cohen family perused careers and found great success in finance; the elder Benjamin, for instance, founded the Baltimore Stock Exchange in 1837 with his brother David.

Israel Cohen, father of the younger Benjamin, likewise went into finance, helming a very successful brokerage firm. Israel was a founder of the second Baltimore Stock Exchange and served as director of the Pittsburgh & Connellsville Railroad, and was a founder of both the Maryland Academy of Art and the Academy of Music of Baltimore City, serving as secretary and treasurer of the latter.

It is not at all surprising, then, to learn that after a career in law, Benjamin the younger would also eventually become a banker. His life, however, took him far from Baltimore, to Portland Oregon, where in 1881 he married Ella Harper. In 1887, he helped found the Portland Trust Company, serving first as the bank’s secretary and subsequently as president.

Pictured here at a year-or-so-old, Benjamin is wearing a dress—a not uncommon traditional practice for young boys, who, it was said, were the preferred target of the evil eye.


Benjamin I. Cohen

c. 1853