Robert Cook, president of the well-known B. E. Jones Company, of Brockton, Mass., has devoted himself during his entire life to a study of the dry goods business, beginning as a boy in his native Scotland, and never deviating from his chosen work until now, in the prime of life, he stands, through his own industry, integrity and ability, as president of a concern of vast proportions. Mr. Cook was born Oct. 14, 1857, in East Lothian, Scotland, son of Alexander and Jane (Hunter) Cook, and great-grandson of William Cook, who was born in England and removed to Scotland, there passing the remainder of his life. He was a farmer, as was also Mr. Cook’s father.
Mr. Cook received a good education, last attending the Dollar Academy, after which he acted as pupil teacher in the British public schools. When fourteen years of age he left home to learn the dry goods business, at which he served an apprenticeship of four years with Thomas Menzies & Co., of King street, Stirling, Scotland, during that time familiarizing himself with the various departments of the business, including dressmaking and the cashier’s work. He remained one year longer, as clerk, and then entered the employ of James Spence & Co., dry goods merchants, at Dundee, for whom he clerked some four years. He was next engaged as buyer of shawls, furs, lace curtains, etc., for Frazier Sons & Co., who were located on Buchanan street, Glasgow, and while thus employed received a flattering offer from Shepard, Norwell & Co., of Boston, Mass., to take charge of their silk and velvet department. It was an advantageous proposition, for he received trailing expenses, as well as salary, and he took the position, continuing with that firm for three years. In 1884 he resigned this position to take charge of the retail dry goods store of Bradford E. Jones, in Brockton, Mass., with which he has ever since been connected. In 1888 he became Mr. Jones’s partner, the firm name becoming B. E. Jones & Co., and from that time to the present the remarkable growth and progress of the concern have been due largely to his ability and foresight. In 1901 the business was incorporated under the laws of Massachusetts as the B. E. Jones Company with a capital stock of $80,000. The officers are: Robert Cook, president; Bradford E. Jones, treasurer; and the latter’s son, Stephen Rosseter Jones, of Boston, secretary. This store, known as the “Sunlight Store,” has a floor space of 20,000 square feet, and gives employment to 125 salespeople. A complete line of dry goods, notions, etc., is carried, making it one of the largest and most up-to-date department stores in southeastern Massachusetts, such as would be expected of a modern, enterprising and progressive company of adequate capital and business ability, doing business in a trade center of over 100,000 people. It was the first in the city to become a “union store.” The phenomenal growth of the trade has been brought about by methods which have gained the approval of patrons and contemporary merchants alike, by intelligent application of business laws and by the most untiring attention to details, however unimportant they might seem in themselves. Mr. Cook’s comprehensive knowledge of the trade, gained in years of varied experience, has stood him in good stead and has proved the worth of the thoroughness which many young men of the present day undervalue.
In 1881 Mr. Cook married Lizzie Rapp, daughter of William Rapp, of Brockton. She died in June, 1891, leaving three children, namely:
- William Rapp Cook
- Lillian Winnif Rapp Cook
- Lizzie Rapp Cook
On March 23, 1893, Mr. Cook married (second) Helene Constance Krauze, who was born in England, and by this union there are four children
- Robert Alexander Cook
- Marguerite Cook
- Horatio Cook
- Adelaide Beatrica Cook
Mr. Cook has always taken an active interest in religious matters. While in Dundee, Scotland, he acted as assistant superintendent of Free St. Paul’s Sunday school and was musical director of the Young Men’s Christian Association in that city. While in Glasgow he was superintendent of Free St. Peter’s Sunday school. While in Stirling, Dundee and Glasgow he was also active in the Foundry Boys Society, work from which sprang the Boys’ Brigade movement, being associated in this work with the well known Prof. Henry Drummond, the originator of this work. After coming to Brockton Mr. Cook served six years as superintendent of the Sunday school of the First Congregational Church, and also served some time as treasurer of the parish. At one time he was a member of the First Presbyterian Church, of Brockton, of which he was elder. Here, as in his native land, he has taken an effective part in the work of the Young Men’s Christian Association, of which he was president for some time. Fraternally he is a member of Paul Revere Lodge, A. F. & A. M.; Satucket Chapter, R. A. M.; Brockton Council, R. & S. M.; Bay State Commandery, K. T., of Brockton; and Aleppo Temple, A. A. O. N. M. S., of Boston. He is also a member of the New England Dry Goods Association, of Boston, of which he has served as trustee; and of the Merchants Association, of Brockton. In politics he is a Republican, and is interested in public affairs to the extent of being a progressive, public-spirited citizen, but he has never had any ambition to fill public office.