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)