Isaac Cohen: Pioneer Merchant, Politico & Federal Officer

Isaac Cohen

Values Codes  I – E – L


“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, a few miles from the Polish bor­der.


Los Angeles

Isaac Cohen WS 22/3188

Isaac Cohen, #WS 22/3188

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 as the operator of a dry goods store in Los Angeles.

In 1870, the German speaking citizens of Los Angeles met to orga­nize a turnverein, “an organization to provide calisthenic exercises and recreation for those who may desire it.”

Isaac Cohen was elected secre­tary of the organization.

Cohen’s leadership qualities were clearly indicated in his election as president of the Los Angeles Turnvereinin 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.

Cohen and his two younger broth­ers moved to this southern part of Los Angeles County.

Cohen advertised his store in the Anaheim press in the spring of 1878:

“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 than two months after purchasing the store in Anaheim, Isaac Cohen was appointed as a member of the Commissary Committee for the Centennial Celebration in Los Angeles County.

The no­tice indicated that Cohen was a businessman of Anaheim, and that he was actively involved in 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, 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, he 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 as a delegate to the State Democratic Convention in Sacramento.

In 1885, 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, Cohen operated a store in the new community of Redondo Beach, and served as its 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.


  • Norton B. Stern, “Isaac Cohen: Southern California Merchant, Local Politico, Federal Official, 1848-1930,” Western States Jewish History 44/3&4.