Home at Last
Mendes returned to Baltimore in 1835 to find a city that had changed dramatically in the six years he was gone. Just as he had embraced the adventurous life while traveling, he now immersed himself in a wide array of civic and philanthropic endeavors.
Following in the footsteps of his brother, Jacob, who had served in the City Council, Mendes launched his public service career as an aid to Maryland’s governor, Thomas Veazey. In recognition of his service in the Battle of Baltimore, Governor Veazey presented Mendes with the ceremonial title “Colonel” which he used proudly for the rest of his life.
Proclamation appointing Mendes Cohen as aide de camp to Governor Thomas Veazey, April 6, 1836, courtesy of the Maryland Historical Society.
Mendes was elected to the Maryland House of Delegates where he served a single term in 1847-48. Despite his short legislative career, Mendes voted on many significant bills including arguments over the war with Mexico, the resolution of a dispute with Pennsylvania over the return of fugitive slaves and prison sentences for debtors which Mendes felt should be lenient.
Journal of Proceedings during Mendes’ service in the Maryland legislature, 1847, courtesy of New York Public Library.
In addition to his public service activities, Mendes also became a trustee of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad. Other members of the Cohen family were prominent civic leaders. Jacob Cohen was one of the founders of Baltimore’s public school system and served as secretary and treasurer of the Board of Public School Commissioners for nine years.
Between 1850 and 1860, 22,500 miles of railroad line were built increasing the total mileage from 7,500 in 1850 to 30,000 in 1860. Mendes served during an exciting period of growth for the industry.
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According to the obituary that appeared following his death in 1879, Mendes “found the title of colonel a serviceable passport...and always wore on that account the uniform of his rank on all court or state functions.” (Baltimore Sun, May 8, 1879)
Epaulettes and Military Chapeau (c. 1834 or later). Mendes Cohen probably donned these high-style epaulettes for the coronation of Queen Victoria. Collection of the Maryland Historical Society, Gift of Mrs. Arnold B. Johnson, Mrs. D. Grigsby Long, Mrs. Harriet Cohen Coale.