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A Commissioner of Customs "Faithful to Francis" [The Hon. Edward Cohen M.L.A.] from the series "Masks and Faces"
, 1874

by Tom Durkin and The Weekly Times (publisher)

lithograph (sheet: 33.6 cm x 20.8 cm)

Edward Aaron Cohen (1822–1877), merchant, politician and community leader, came to Australia with his mother and nine siblings in 1833, his father, Henry, having been transported to New South Wales that year. After receiving a conditional pardon, Henry Cohen opened a grocer’s store in Sydney, H Cohen & Son, which Edward later managed. Moving to Victoria, Edward worked in auctioneering for some years before establishing his own importing business in 1864. He also branched into finance and landowning, becoming a director of the Colonial Bank of Australasia and other companies. Meanwhile, he had become active in municipal and state politics, serving as Mayor of Melbourne in 1862–63 and being elected to the Legislative Assembly in 1861 as the member for East Melbourne. Cohen was also a leading member of Melbourne’s Jewish community, campaigning for equal citizenship rights and raising funds to assist impoverished Jewish people. In March 1870, the Melbourne Hebrew Congregation (of which he had been president) presented him with a testimonial ‘in recognition of the valuable services rendered by him to the Jewish community.’ The treasurer of the Royal Melbourne Hospital for more than 20 years and a prominent advocate for the establishment of a public education system, Cohen’s death at age 54 was much lamented, a ‘vast assemblage’ turning out for his funeral in March 1877.

Collection: National Portrait Gallery, Canberra
Purchased 2016
Accession number: 2016.9