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Robert I. Cohen gift store printing plate

Identifier: MS 0813
Finding aid note: Forms part of the Houston Jewish History Archive. Stored off-site at the Library Service Center. Please request this material via or call 713-348-2586.

Scope and Contents

The collection consists of one printing plate, approximately 3 inches by 12 inches, inscribed “Robert I Cohen: Everybody’s Gift Store,” depicted wreathed in holly branches, ornaments, and packaged gifts. The plate is in good condition, though worn from use, and dates from the early 1900s. Researchers interested in a tangible connection to Cohen’s early business ventures would enjoy this archival object.


  • Creation: 1900 - 1920

Conditions Governing Access

This material is open for research.

Stored off-site at the Library Service Center. Please request this material via or call 713-348-2586.

Conditions Governing Use

Robert I. Cohen gift store printing plate

Biographical / Historical

Born in 1856, Robert I. Cohen was raised in London, England. He left school at a young age to work at his father’s antique shop, immigrating to the United States in 1872 through Boston, where he joined a mercantile firm. Cohen spent the next five years travelling, eventually settling in Galveston, where he worked for four years under merchants Levy and Weiss. He left to start his own business with a succession of partners over several years. Cohen married Agnes Lord in 1882, and together they had three children.

In 1889 Cohen founded “Robert I Cohen,” a men’s clothing store, a venture that quickly proved successful as Cohen made his mark with innovations in advertising and window displays. The store evolved over several years into a leading department store as Cohen added merchandise. Subsequently, Cohen organized Galveston’s first Retail Merchants Organization, and in 1917 purchased the Foley Brothers Dry Goods store of Houston with his son—explosive growth leading the store to become one of the largest department stores in the South and Southwest.

In 1919 Cohen became secretary and treasurer of the Houston Mill and Elevator Company, of which he eventually became president. Cohen also served as treasurer of the Hebrew Benevolent Society and of the United Charities of Galveston, as well as president of Congregation B'nai Israel for thirty years. He died on October 15, 1934, and was buried in the Hebrew Benevolent Association Cemetery.


0.25 Linear Feet (1 Box)

Language of Materials



The Robert I. Cohen gift store printing plate offers a fascinating glimpse into Cohen’s creative approach to advertising in his hugely influential department store businesses. The plate, meant to draw patrons in with its festive message, is redolent of Christmas shopping at the department store in the early 1900s.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Josh Furnam purchased the materials.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Purchased by Dr. Joshua Furman, March 2019.

Guide to the Robert I. Cohen gift store printing plate, ca. early 1900s
Gabby Parker
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the Woodson Research Center, Rice University, Houston, Texas Repository

Fondren Library MS-44, Rice University
6100 Main St.
Houston Texas 77005 USA