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“Although Isaac Cohen was not among the earliest Jewish arrivals in Southern California, the interesting political positions he held in two of the Southland’s cities and the United States Treasury Department post he held for a time merit historical attention.”
Isaac Cohen was born in 1848 in Strassburg, Prussia, only a few miles from the Polish border.
Isaac Cohen arrived in Los Angeles in 1868.
He became a citizen of the United States on July 20, 1871 at the District Court in Los Angeles.
The 1870 Census recorded Cohen the operator of a dry goods store in Los Angeles.’
In 1870, the German speaking citizens of Los Angeles met to organize a turn verein, “an organization to provide calisthenic exercises and recreation for those who may desire it.”
Isaac Cohen was elected Secretary.
Cohen’s leadership qualities were clearly indicated in his election as President of the Los Angeles Turn Verein in the summer of 1874 and his re-election as President a year later.
In 1873, Cohen affiliated with the Angelita Lodge No. 195 of the Independent Order of Odd Fellows.
In 1876 Isaac Cohen purchased the Heimann & George general merchandise store in the flourishing city of Anaheim.
He, and his two younger brothers, moved to this Southern part of Los Angeles County.
In the Anaheim press in the spring of 1878, Isaac Cohen advertised that his store, “Keeps constantly on hand the largest, best, and cheapest stock of dry goods, fancy goods, gents’ and boys’ clothing, shoes and boots, hats, trunks and valises. Also, groceries, provisions, crockery and hardware. Give me a trial.”
Less then two months after purchasing the store in Anaheim, Isaac Cohen’s appointment as a member of the Commissary Committee for the Centennial Celebration in Los Angeles County was announced. The notice indicated that Isaac Cohen was a businessman of Anaheim, and that he was actively involved in the planning for the July 4, 1876, observance of the hundredth anniversary of the United States.
The Anaheim business directory of 1878 listed, “Isaac Cohen — Dry Goods & Groceries.”
In 1878, Isaac Cohen was chosen Chairman of the Anaheim community meeting held to nominate candidates for the various offices to be filled at the municipal election.
Cohen was soon elected a member of the City Council of Anaheim.
While in Anaheim, Isaac Cohen was active not only in municipal political life but also in county and state politics.
At the Democratic County Convention of Los Angeles held in 1880, he was elected a delegate to the State Democratic Convention in Sacramento.
In 1885, Isaac Cohen sold his Anaheim store and became active as a “gauger” for the U. S. Treasury Department – an officer who inspected and rated products liable for excise duty, such as wine and brandy.
He resigned this position in 1890.
In later years Isaac Cohen operated a store in the new community of Redondo Beach, and served as Mayor for 10 years.
He then retired to Los Angeles.
Isaac Cohen married Emma Stencel, daughter of Susetta Stencel, in 1886.
Three children were born of this union: Gertrude, Herbert, and George W.,
Isaac Cohen died in 1930.
Funeral services were conducted by Rabbi Edgar F. Magnin
More information can be found in the following issue of Western States Jewish History:
- Isaac Cohen: Southern California Merchant, Local Politico, Federal Official, 1848-1930, by Norton B. Stern, Vol 44, No.3/4
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