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COHEN, ROBERT I. (1856–1934). Robert I. Cohen, merchant, was born in 1856 and reared in London, England. At age thirteen he left school and began working in his father's art and antique shop. Three years later, in 1872, he left London and immigrated to the United States through Boston. He joined a mercantile firm there and traveled throughout the United States and Canada for several mercantile firms over the next five years. In 1877 he arrived in Galveston, where he worked for merchants Levy and Weiss for four years before starting his own business. In his first business Cohen formed a partnership, Cohen and Schram. A year later the firm became Levy and Cohen, and subsequently Cohen and Michael. In 1889 Cohen founded Robert I. Cohen, a men's clothing store. He became the first Galveston merchant to branch into new techniques of selling, including advertising and window displays. He organized Galveston's first retail merchants' organization and added new merchandise in his own store, which eventually became a leading department store. In 1917 he purchased with his son, George S., the Foley Brothers Dry Goods store of Houston, which became one of the largest department stores in the South and Southwest, with branches in several major Texas cities. In 1919 Cohen became secretary and treasurer of the Houston Mill and Elevator Company; he eventually became president. He was treasurer of the Hebrew Benevolent Society and of the United Charities of Galveston. He was president of Congregation B'nai Israel for thirty years. Cohen married Agnes Lord in 1882; they had three children. He died on October 15, 1934, and was buried in the Hebrew Benevolent Association Cemetery.


Galveston Daily News, April 26, 1932, October 16, 1934.

Natalie Ornish

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Natalie Ornish, "COHEN, ROBERT I.," Handbook of Texas Online (, accessed December 01, 2015. Uploaded on June 12, 2010. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.