Flat Mendes?!?

Posted on June 12th, 2014 by

It’s true! Inspired by everyone’s favorite Flat Stanley, we’re introducing our very own FLAT MENDES.

Now you can take The A-Mazing Mendes Cohen wherever you go – Mendes was an inveterate traveler, visiting locations all over the world. We want to see where YOU take him! So download and print your own Flat Mendes – or stop by the Museum and pick one up.


It’s Flat Mendes & he’s ready for adventure!

The next step? Photos! Take pictures of your Flat Mendes in various locations – home, school, at the park, on vacation, wherever you think he’d like to visit. Then share those photos with us.


There are a few ways to share: 

1. Post your photo to Facebook and then tag Mendes Cohen (did you know Mendes has his very own facebook page?)

2. Tweet your photo and tag @MendesCohen or #amazingmendes

3. Email us a copy with the subject line “Flat Mendes”


Flat Mendes was designed by extremely talented, former JMM intern, Lisa Perrin (you can check out more of her work at her website, http://madebyperrin.com/).

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Artifact Conservation: Preserving Unique Treasures

Posted on June 11th, 2014 by

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More than a dozen real artifacts will be included in The A-Mazing Mendes Cohen exhibit, ranging from small wax seals to the lap desk used by Mendes Cohen in his travels.  Many are in great condition but a few need special care before display – and we need your help!

There are two very special items in our collection that need to be conserved. Please consider making a donation online (make sure to note Mendes Conservation in the notes field!) or by downloading this form and sending it back to the Museum. You can also call Sue Foard at 410-732-6400 x220 to make a gift over the phone!


Mendes’ Zouave-style jacket, circa 1830

Mendes’ Zouave-style jacket, circa 1830

We suspect that this vibrant red wool jacket may be the very one pictured in the portrait of Mendes with turban above.  The jacket, which has retained much of its vivid color, requires special fabric conservation to deal with small tears and insect damage from its nearly 175 year history.



Hand-made Flag by Mendes Cohen, circa 1830

Mendes Cohen placed this woolen and cotton flag with paper appliqués on the boat he took down the Nile during his journey to Egypt.  Earlier attempts at mending the flag need to be undone to allow contemporary conservation methods including the hand stitching of individual threads.

Please help us save these treasures! Our goal is $5,000 to conserve both of these unique and exciting artifacts. Gifts of $500 and above will be recognized not only in our annual report but in the exhibit next to the artifact of your choice – so if you choose to donate online, be sure to put “Mendes Jacket” or “Mendes Flag” in the notes field!

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Did the Jewish Defenders of Fort McHenry Eat Kosher?

Posted on April 24th, 2014 by

Among the defenders at Fort McHenry during the Battle of Baltimore in 1814 were several Jewish militiamen, including members of Baltimore’s elite Jewish families, the Cohens and Ettings. The Cohens arrived in Baltimore in 1807 when Judith Cohen, a widow with seven children, moved the family from Richmond in search of better economic opportunities. Three of her sons – Jacob, Philip, and Mendes – joined a volunteer company charged with the defense of Baltimore, Nicholson’s Artillery Fencibles, under the command of Capt. Joseph Nicholson, Chief Judge of Baltimore County.

Many years afterwards, Mendes Cohen shared his recollections of his participation in the Battle of Baltimore with his nephew, Benjamin. He vividly recalled such details as the fact that he overslept on the morning of the British attack on Fort McHenry and awoke to find that his brother, Philip, had left without him. Mendes hurried to join him at his post. As he raced through the streets of Baltimore, he caught a view from Federal Hill of the British fleet just off of North Point entering Baltimore’s harbor.

Painting, “Bombardment of Fort McHenry” by Peter Rindlisbacher, Courtesy of the artist.

Painting, “Bombardment of Fort McHenry” by Peter Rindlisbacher, Courtesy of the artist.

One story that has often been retold is that the Jewish defenders at Fort McHenry “ate kosher.” This most likely stems from Benjamin Cohen’s written account of his conversation with his uncle where Mendes recalled that as a volunteer militia company, each member of Nicolson’s Fencibles was responsible for providing his own rations. Mendes recounted how “every morning at about six o’clock a small covered cart left the northwest corner of Howard and Market Streets for the Fort, with food sent by their families for the members of the company.”  The Cohen brothers received a large stone jug filled with coffee that was kept warm through “a cover of carpet…that always arrived good and hot.”  Adding further fuel to this story is the fact that another Jewish defender at Fort McHenry, Samuel Etting, was the son of Solomon Etting, a trained kosher butcher. To date, however, our extensive research into the Cohen Family has not been able to substantiate the fact that kosher rations were actually part of the food delivery.

Members of the JMM staff are hard at work on The A-mazing Mendes Cohen, an exhibition exploring the extraordinary life of Mendes Cohen and his family that is scheduled to open September 2014.

Opening in September 2014!

Opening in September 2014!

As with all our exhibits, the development process necessitates a tremendous amount of research. We are fortunate to have access to the treasure trove of primary sources pertaining to the Cohen family, thanks to our partnership with the Maryland Historical Society which houses dozens of relevant archival records including the letters that Mendes sent home while traveling throughout Europe and the Middle East

Letter, 1829, courtesy of Maryland Historical Society.

Letter, 1829, courtesy of Maryland Historical Society.

Despite our extensive research, however, we still have several unanswered questions about the Cohens. We are continuing our efforts to delve into the family’s history in an attempt to answer some of these questions. Stay tuned to see what we find!

deborahA blog post by Assistant Director Deborah Cardin. To read more posts by Deborah, click hereTo read more posts about Mendes Cohen, click here.

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