Miami Pioneer Merchant Arrives in 1896

Cohen Family in 1919

Figure 1: Cohen Family in 1919

On February 6, 1896, Isidor Cohen arrives in Miami, three months ahead of the arrival of the first train. Although the Sewell brothers held a different belief, Cohen was considered the first merchant to open a store just prior to the incorporation of the City of Miami. He opened a clothing establishment on the south side of the Miami River.

It wouldn’t take long for Cohen to realize that all of the activity was on the north side of the river, and he promptly closed his south side store and reopened it on the north side near the corner of 12th Street and Avenue D (later called Flagler Street and Miami Avenue).

Cohen was very civic minded and involved in a lot of early Miami organizations. From 1902 to 1906 he was president of the Miami Merchant’s Association. He served as treasurer and trustee of the Miami Board of Trade in 1906-07. He was also president of the Dade County Fair Association in 1908.

Cohen rounded out his resume through his involvement in many other organizations in early Miami. He was also considered Miami’s first permanent Jewish settler.

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  • Book: “Historical Sketches and Sidelights of Miami, Florida” by Isidor Cohen.
  • Book: “Jews of Greater Miami” by Marcia Jo Zerivitz, Jewish Museum of Florida.
  • Book: “L’Chaim! The History of the Jewish Community of Greater Miami” by Seth Bramson.
  • Book: “Burdines: Sunshine Fashions and the Florida Store” by Seth Bramson.


  • Cover: Portrait of Isidor Cohen. Courtesy of Florida Memory.
  • Figure 1: Cohen family in 1919. Courtesy of Florida Memory.