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Cohen, Edward Aaron (1822–1877)

from Australasian Sketcher with Pen and Pencil (Melbourne)

By the death of Mr. Edward Aaron Cohen, which took place on April 13, Victoria lost an old colonist and a good citizen. Mr. Cohen was born in London in the year 1822. He emigrated with his parents to New South Wales in December, 1833, being at that time only 11 years of age. The ship which brought him to Australia was under the command of Captain Towns, who afterwards achieved so high a position as a successful colonist. At a comparatively early age Mr. Cohen was in business with his father as a wholesale grocer in Sydney. In 1842 he came to Melbourne, and joined Mr. B. Francis in the business of an auctioneer. The partnership having been successfully carried on for a number of years, both members of the firm retired from business, and in 1853 Mr. Cohen returned to New South Wales. The climate did not appear to suit the health of his family, and in a short time he was back again in Melbourne, and in business as a general merchant. He next joined Messrs. S. H. Cohen (his brother) and Alex. Fraser in the business of auctioneers, and the partnership continued up to the end of 1863, when the two Messrs. Cohen retired from the firm.

Mr. Cohen was elected a member of the City Corporation in November, 1860, and was Mayor of Melbourne for the year 1862-3. The' brilliant series of fancy dress balls which has since distinguished our civic festivities was inaugurated by him in the old Exhibition-building— a structure which has long ceased to be. He was made an alderman in 1865, and he continued a member of the Corporation with that title up to the day of his death. Not satisfied with municipal honours only, the subject of this notice in 1861 entered the Legislative Assembly. He sought the suffrages of the electors of East Melbourne, and was returned by a very large majority. With the exception of a brief interval, he sat for the same important constituency until his decease. Mr. Cohen held office, as Commissioner of Customs, in the MacPherson Ministry from September, 1869, to April, 1870. He filled the same office in the Francis Ministry from June, 1872, till the retirement of the Chief, and he retained his place in that Administration when it was reorganised by Mr. Kerferd until the fall of the Ministry in the middle of 1875. Mr. Cohen was a fluent speaker, and though he never took a commanding position in political life, he had popular manners, which made him much liked by all sections of the community. He devoted a large share of his time to charitable and other public institutions. He was treasurer of the Melbourne Hospital for over 20 years, and took a warm interest in the success of that charity. He was a director of the Colonial Bank for many years, and was chairman of the board of directors for a long time. For a number of years he was also a director of the Hobson's Bay Railway Company, and of the Australasian Insurance Company, besides holding other positions of honour; while the estimation in which he was held by the Jewish community was shown by the fact of his being their president for many consecutive years.

After a life of 52 years singularly exempt from illness, Mr. Cohen was, early in the year 1874, attacked by a renal complaint, from which he never obtained more than temporary relief. He retained his seat for East Melbourne, but the state of his health only allowed him to appear in Parliament a few times during the last session. Early in last month he made arrangements to go to England with his family, being advised that a sea voyage was his only chance, but the project had to be abandoned in consequence of a relapse. He gradually sank, and died at the date mentioned, the immediate cause of death being pyoemia, or blood poisoning.

Original publication

  • Australasian Sketcher with Pen and Pencil (Melbourne), 12 May 1877, pp 22 & 26 (view original)

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Additional Resources

Citation details

'Cohen, Edward Aaron (1822–1877)', Obituaries Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://oa.anu.edu.au/obituary/cohen-edward-aaron-3241/text24318, accessed 19 June 2018.

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