Yet More Responses From The Mendes Question Box!

Posted on January 7th, 2015 by

The fantastic and thoughtful questions about Mendes and his life continue to pour in through our little question box at the end of the exhibit. Some of the questions have even stumped our Mendes experts!

Without further ado, I present our best answers to your burning questions about the Amazing Mendes Cohen…

 

1)  To how many places in total did he travel?

This is a very tricky question to answer! First of all, if we are talking about countries, a world map from the 1830s looks very different from a world map today. Second, we don’t have all of his travel journals, so we can’t know for sure exactly how many cities he visited. Going by modern day national borders, and looking just at the travel journal we do have, Mendes visited 10 countries, but this is not a complete count.

maps_countries_world

World Map

2) What did he die of?

We don’t know exactly what Mendes died of, but he lived a long life and was suffering from blindness towards the end of his life.

Entrance to the Cohen Family Plot at Baltimore  Hebrew Congregation Cemetery, 2100 Belair Road.

Entrance to the Cohen Family Plot at Baltimore Hebrew Congregation Cemetery, 2100 Belair Road.

3)  What drove Mendes to do all the things he did?

From what we can tell, Mendes was driven by a sense of adventure and a desire to experience new things.  He was also driven by his deep belief in American democratic principles and seeing how his beliefs contrasted with the ways that people lived in other parts of the world.

Panel 44.Raise Flag on Nile

Sailing Down the Nile

4)  Where was Mendes Cohen’s bar mitzvah held?

Great question! Mendes turned 13 shortly after moving to Baltimore. There were no formal synagogues in Baltimore at this time, so he most likely would have celebrated the occasion at his home.

drake bar mitzvah

Even celebrities have Bar Mitzvah parties!

5)            One of the travel documents on display is written in Russian, but the map doesn’t show him going to Russia. Where did he go that he needed a Russian travel document?

We have travel permits and customs documents that would put Mendes in Russian cities such as Odessa and St. Petersburg during the summer of 1833. However, we do not have all of his travel journals, so we don’t have much detail about his journeys in that region. Our map is based upon the travel journal that we do have, which is why Russia is not included.

European Russia 1833: Stieler, via.

European Russia 1833: Stieler, via.

6)  Are the current movie-making Cohen’s related?

Perhaps you mean the Coen brothers? Apparently there are about 100,000 people currently living in the United States with the last name “Cohen,” so I doubt that Mendes is related. We are also pretty certain (though not 100% certain) that there are no living descendants of his family tree.

coen_brothers

The Coen Brothers

 

What questions were still burning in your mind when you got to the end of the maze?

Let us know!

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More from the Mendes Cohen Question Box…

Posted on December 24th, 2014 by

We’ve collected the questions our visitors have submitted to the question box at the end of The A-Mazing Mendes Cohen exhibit. We hope these answers satisfy your curiosity!

 

1. Even though he did not marry, did Mendes Cohen have an active social life?

Mendes certainly attended many social events both at home in Baltimore and during his travels abroad. We don’t have any evidence that Mendes “dated” anyone beyond a single reference to going out with a young woman he met in Europe whom he mentioned in a letter home.

Panel 22.Being Mendes

2. What was his middle name?

His middle initial I is for Israel which was his father’s name. His other brothers had the same middle name.

signature

3. Why did he go to all these places?

Mendes traveled to some places for business (including London and France where he conducted business with the Rothschilds), other places to meet family (Bristol, England), but for the most part, he visited places because of an interest in what was happening (e.g. the student revolts in Paris) or a sense of adventure (Egypt). His visit to Palestine was motivated by a fascination with exploring places that he had learned about through his studies of the Bible.

Panel 13.Travel

 

4. Did he have kids?

He did not have any children.

Family Tree

5. What languages did Mendes speak besides English and Hebrew?

We know from references in his letters that Mendes had some command of French and German and possibly Italian, but we don’t know how fluent he was in any of them. We are also unsure of how Mendes communicated when he traveled through the Ottoman Empire. Did he use a translator exclusively? Did he pick up some Turkish or Arabic?

 

6. How many people survived in the shipwreck?

Everyone survived the shipwreck that he mentions in his letter to his mother.

Panel 42.Shipwrecked

What questions were still burning in your mind when you got to the end of the maze?

Let us know!

 

 

Posted in jewish museum of maryland




Enquiring Minds Want to Know…

Posted on October 30th, 2014 by

We’ve collected the questions our visitors have submitted to the question box at the end of The A-Mazing Mendes Cohen exhibit. We hope these answers satisfy your curiosity!

1) Mendes’ father was born in Germany, yet his family founded a Sephardic congregation in Baltimore. Was Mendes’ mother Sephardic? Is that the explanation, or is there another reason?

This is a question that stumped the exhibit team for quite a bit of time. We had always been under the assumption that both of Mendes’ parents were Ashkenazi. However, when it was brought to our attention that his mother was from Bristol, England, we conducted some research and learned that there was a substantial Sephardi community there. While we aren’t 100% sure, it is likely that his mother was Sephardi which would have provided motivation for the family’s involvement in the congregation.

 

2) What was his Hebrew name?

The seal of Mendes Cohen, 1980.3.1

The seal of Mendes Cohen, 1980.3.1

We learned that Mendes’ Hebrew name was Menachem bar Asher Avraham ha Cohain by translating the Hebrew inscription on his seal.

 

3) Did Mendes Cohen know Uriah P. Levy?

Not as far as we know. But you can learn more about this Civil War figure by checking out his wikipedia page!

Uriah Phillips Levy

Uriah Phillips Levy

 

4) Did he like Europe or Asia better?

You can take a hands-on approach to mapping Mendes' journeys in the exhibit!

You can take a hands-on approach to mapping Mendes’ journeys in the exhibit!

I’m not sure he ever answers this directly, but Mendes definitely took pride in the fact that he was one of the few American tourists to travel in parts of Asia (as opposed to Europe which was a more common tourist destination) and relished the adventures that he had in Egypt and Palestine.

 

5) Why does Mendes wear a turban in his portrait?

The original painting, located at the Maryland Historical Society.

The original painting, located at the Maryland Historical Society.

One of the most exciting things about this portrait is that the JMM actually owns the jacket he is wearing, and it is displayed in the exhibit in the section that explores his journeys to Egypt and Palestine. We believe that Mendes most likely purchased the jacket while traveling in Turkey. It is certainly not something that someone would wear every day but instead would have been worn for special ceremonial purposes. Turbans, such as the one Mendes is also wearing in the portrait, were customarily worn by men in the Middle East. We can learn a lot by a portrait sitter by the clothing that he or she chooses to wear. By wearing the jacket and turban in this portrait, Mendes wants to be seen as an adventurer and a world traveler.

 

 What questions were still burning in your mind when you got to the end of the maze?

Let us know!

 

Posted in jewish museum of maryland




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