Getting to Know Mendes

Posted on August 21st, 2014 by

MC_Exhibit Assets_v2

Exhibit Opens September 14th!

Mendes I. Cohen was born in Richmond VA in 1796, the son of a German Jewish father and an English Jewish mother.  His family moved to Baltimore in 1807 and lived until 1879.  He was a witness to many events in history both at home and abroad and a participant in a surprising number of transformational moments.  Here are a dozen highlights:

 

1. Mendes is one of six Jewish defenders of Ft. McHenry during the Battle of Baltimore.  When one bomb falls into the powder magazine rather than “bursting in air”, Mendes and two other artillerymen are sent in to rescue the ammunition.  (To Mendes’ great fortune, the bomb was a dud)

 

2. The Cohen family starts out in the lottery business.  Mendes and his brother are sent to Norfolk to sell DC lottery tickets (federal lottery tickets).  Virginia authorities arrest the Cohens for selling tickets without the authority of the state of Virginia.  The case of Cohens v. Virginia goes to the Supreme Court where Chief Justice Marshall technically rules against the Cohens, but establishes the principle that the Court has standing in resolving differences between state and federal authority.

 

3. The Cohen family is very active in the campaign for “The Maryland Jew Bill”.  Finally passed in 1826, the bill allows people to serve on juries, serve in the militia and serve in public office without taking an oath to the New Testament.  Mendes will later provide assistance to English Jews fighting for the same liberties in the 1830s.

 

4. Thanks to the success of his family’s banking enterprise, Mendes Cohen is able to “retire” at 33 and start an extensive tour of Europe and the Middle East.  His first stop is England where he combines business with pleasure, dining with Nathan Rothschild and striking up a friendship.

 

5. Mendes arrives at the barricades in Paris just two weeks after the Student Revolt (think “Les Miserables”) and reports some disappointment in having just missed the action.

 

6. When in Rome, Mendes is invited to the installation of the new pope (Pope Gregory XVI).  He writes a letter dedicated to the thorny question of whether a Jewish American democrat should kiss the feet of the pope.

 

7.  Mendes decides to take up Egyptology.  He sails down the Nile in a boat with an American flag of his own design, acquiring rare antiquities.  The artifacts he collects are later purchased by Johns Hopkins University and are today the core of their archeology collection.

 

8. Mendes heads for Palestine, becoming the first American to ever acquire a firman (permit) from the Ottoman sultan to visit the Holy Land.  Mendes spends his time trying to trace places mentioned in biblical passages.

 

9. After returning to the US, Mendes becomes a special assistant to Governor Veazey.  He is asked to serve as Maryland’s representative at the coronation of Queen Victoria in 1837.

 

10. Mendes becomes one of the early directors of the B&O Railroad and Baltimore’s first Jewish charity, the Hebrew Benevolent Society.  The Cohen brothers are very involved in the development of Baltimore’s first and only Sephardic synagogue in the 1850s.

 

11. Mendes is elected to the State House of Delegates in 1846.  He votes for leniency in the sentencing of debtors.  But as a loyal Democrat he also votes to condemn Pennsylvania for helping Maryland’s slaves escape to freedom.

 

12. Mendes spent his final years near his home in the Mount Vernon neighborhood of Baltimore (Mendes lived with his mother and then his brothers for his entire life).  He spent his last years in the 1870s recounting tales of his youth to passersby, intensely proud of his adventures.

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Farewell to the Pickle!

Posted on August 20th, 2014 by

Pickle_logo4

 

 

There once was a pickle I knowed,

Through which electricity flowed.

Though the smell was horrendous,

The applause was tremendous,

‘Cause that little pickle’s tuches glowed!

 

 

The Pickle’s stay was short but sweet. Our exhibition team has worked quickly to take down the exhibit.

The Pickle’s stay was short but sweet. Our exhibition team has worked quickly to take down the exhibit.

An interesting but probably little known fact about The Electrified Pickle is that the #1 Favorite Item in the exhibit amongst schoolage children who visited was not the nightmare-inducing permanent wave machine, but the humble ice tongs! #ThanksFrozen.

(If I had a quarter for every time a child started singing or humming “Let It Go” while in the exhibit, I’d have a dollar or two.)

(If I had a quarter for every time a child started singing or humming “Let It Go” while in the exhibit, I’d have a dollar or two.)

abby krolikA poetic blog post by Visitor Services Coordinator Abby Krolik. To read more posts from Abby click HERE.

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JMM Insights August 2014: Packing Up Our Pickles

Posted on August 15th, 2014 by

This summer’s unique visitor experience, The Electrified Pickle, has now come to a close. This week’s newsletter looks back at the highlights of this five week experience.
The Electrified Pickle was a community tech fair, designed to appeal to budding scientists, DIY-ers and anyone curious to learn about how things work.  It combined artifacts, experiments, hands-on activities (including a community mosaic) and several outstanding speakers.

The exhibit included items rarely seen from the JMM’s rich collection were selected and brought upstairs and placed in the Feldman Gallery.  These examples of technology from the past such as old sewing machines, kitchen implements, and typewriters, were once vital to Jewish trades and home life. With the help from our partner, The National Electronics Museum in Linthicum, MD, the gallery was transformed into a participatory lab-style environment where visitors could discover the mystery behind scientific principles such as magnetism, electricity, solar power, and other fun and engaging interactive activities.  These items were displayed in a way that our visitors could make comparisons with newer technologies and gain insight into the process involved in scientific innovation.  In addition, our visitors watched a short film, Gefilte Fish, and found humor in watching three generations of women talk about their expertise in making gefilte fish!

In addition to the exhibit, we developed weekly programs to help build upon some of the ideas seen within the exhibit. For five Sundays we invited community members to come to the Museum and share their expertise and passion in specific areas of technology such as engineering, crafts, robotics, electronics, and science with our visitors.  Here is a quick wrap-up of the five weeks.

Our Kick-off Sunday, July 13th was Power This!   Our visitors were greeted to the JMM by the smell of pickle brine and vinegar- and they got to see first-hand how pickles serve as conductors and can actually be electrified.  Other experiments that took place throughout the day were testing the properties of conductive and insulating play-doh and watching LED lights illuminate while making pencil dimmer switches.    We ended the afternoon with an electrifying science performance by Extreme Jean-as she demonstrated the properties of dry ice through a variety of experiments.

July 20th- Print This! informed our visitors about the history of printing.  Many thanks to Direct Dimensions, Inc.  and Maryland Rubber Stamp Company who helped us with their expertise in stamp/block printing to 3D scanning and imaging.  Who knew that our Hebrew block letters stamps that were used to make Yiddish posters in the early 20th century could be scanned by a 3D scanner and printed out as 3D images and made into modern stamps?  One of the highlights of the day was watching our younger visitors using a “heavy hand” trying to press the keys on an old portable typewriter! We would also like to thank Baltimore Jewish Times, a media sponsor and a special thank you to JT editor-in-chief Josh Runyan who came to the Museum for an “Ask the Editor” session.

July 27th Fly This! –examined the properties of wind and the history of flight.  Matt Barinholtz and FutureMakers came to the JMM and helped our visitors understand the properties of wind and resistance.   Our visitors practiced their “folding skills” making different shapes and kinds of paper airplanes.  We welcomed Paul Glenshaw, who spoke to our audience about Al Welsh, an early Jewish pioneer of flight who worked closely with the Wright Brothers, but sadly died in a flying accident in College Park, MD.

August 3rd – Imagine This!  Robots descended on the JMM!  Our visitors had a blast interacting with robots of all shapes and sizes.  We would like to extend our thanks Fred and Robyn Needel for all of their help and vision in bringing high school robot teams to the JMM for the event.  Special thanks to Automation Intelligence Inc, for sending their AWESOME robot to the JMM.  Our visitors witnessed first-hand how this sophisticated robot played JENGA, filled crates and was able to move objects around on command via technology.  Also a big thank you to Neville Jacobs for bringing his team of robots. Jennifer George gave a dynamic presentation about The Art of Rube Goldberg, and spoke with affection about her famous grandfather.

Our last Sunday, August 10th, we presented   Code This!  Our thanks go to the National Cryptology Museum and Bar Coding, Inc. who helped our visitors understand the science behind coding and decoding.  Dr. David Hatch gave a wonderful lecture about the Enigma Machine and the early Jewish code breakers during WWI. Finally, we need to thank Mosaic Makers for their expertise in creating two panels for a beautiful mosaic that depicts a market scene back in the day when Lombard Street was a thriving, bustling center for market and commerce.

From all accounts, we heard from our visitors that the Electrified Pickle was fun, interactive and engaging.  We had regular visitors who came to all five weeks of programming. We hosted some local summer camp groups, and all of the campers loved learning about science and technology.  Our older audiences enjoyed going down “memory lane” and seeing some of the technology of their youth and marvel at just how far we have come…..

If you still haven’t seen the exhibit, not to worry, you have one final chance this Sunday, August 17th as the exhibit will be open regular museum hours.

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