Cohen, William Wolfe

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COHEN, WILLIAM WOLFE (1874–1940), U.S. stockbroker, congressman. Cohen was born in New York City in 1874. His father, like his mother a German Jew, was a prosperous shoe manufacturer. Following a public school education, William entered his father's business; on his 21st birthday, his father made him a partner. In 1903, a year after his marriage, William left his father's shoe manufacturing concern and went into business for himself, forming the stock brokerage firm of William W. Cohen & Co., in which he was active for the rest of his life. Cohen prospered as a stockbroker, even purchasing a seat on the New York Stock Exchange. Greatly respected by his fellow brokers, Cohen became a director of the New York Cotton Exchange and the Chicago Board of Trade and a member of the Commodity and New York Curb exchanges. Always interested in diversification, Cohen eventually bought up a copper-mining company in the American west. In the early 1920s, he decided to sell his seat on the New York Stock Exchange, netting a nearly $100,000 profit. By age 50, he was set for life.

Always active in Democratic political circles, Cohen served as chairman of the Tammany Hall Finance Committee for more than a decade. In 1926, he ran for the 17th Congressional District seat being vacated by Congressman Ogden L. Mills. Cohen served a single term (1927–29), subsequently declining to run for reelection and returning to New York.

Aside from his many business ventures, Cohen was a lifelong supporter of the New York City Fire Department, who honored him by making him an honorary deputy fire chief. Active in Jewish communal organizations, Cohen served as president of the Jewish Council of Greater New York and the New York branch of the American Jewish Congress. He was also a member of the Reform Temple Emanuel and president of the American Committee for the Settlement of Jews in Birobidzhan, a remote Soviet region near Siberia.


K.F. Stone The Congressional Minyan: The Jews of Capitol Hill (2000), 65.

[Kurt Stone (2nd ed.)]