Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Fronting the Frontiersman

One of the iconic figures of the American frontier was Daniel Boone, a frontiersman often pictured with a racoon-skin hat. A fact many do not know about Daniel Boone is that some of his great exploits were financed by Isaiah Isaacs and Jacob I. Cohen of Richmond, Virginia.

A native of Germany, Isaiah Isaacs (1747-1806) arrived in Richmond in 1769. He felt himself deeply connected to his new country and joined the militia to fight for independence. Jacob I. Cohen (1744-1823) arrived in America from Bavaria in 1773. He too joined the colonial militia to fight the British.

In 1781, the two became business partners, beginning with a tavern (purportedly Richmond’s first) called "The Bird in the Hand."  Together they became merchants. It is interesting to note that their mercantile partnership was known as “the Jew’s Store.” They also entered the world of  real-estate. In fact, Daniel Boone’s commission from Isaacs and Cohen was to survey their land in Kentucky (then a county of Virginia).

Like many well-to-do Virginians of the time, Isaacs and Cohen were both slave-owners, but neither was completely comfortable with the situation and both freed their slaves in their wills.

Both Isaacs and Cohen were highly involved in the Jewish community. They were founders of Richmond’s first synagogue Beth Shalome. Isaacs donated the land for the first Jewish cemetery. In addition to his activities in Richmond, Cohen was active in Philadelphia’s Mikveh Israel Congregation as he spent a great deal of time there and eventually settled in Philadelphia in 1807. Both Isaacs and Cohen were also politically active. Both were elected to the city’s Common Hall, similar to city council, and served on the Grand Jury.

Today’s Treat is dedicated to the Anniversary of Virginia’s entrance into the union of the United States.

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