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Herbert W. Ladd

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Herbert W. Ladd

Herbert Warren Ladd
Official portrait in the RI State House. Note the bicycle seat visible to Ladd's left.
40th Governor of Rhode Island
In office
May 28, 1889 – May 26, 1890
Lieutenant Daniel Littlefield
Preceded by Royal C. Taft
Succeeded by John W. Davis
42nd Governor of Rhode Island
In office
May 26, 1891 – May 31, 1892
Preceded by John W. Davis
Succeeded by Daniel Russell Brown
Personal details
Born (1843-10-15)October 15, 1843
New Bedford, Bristol County, Massachusetts
Died November 29, 1913(1913-11-29) (aged 70)
Resting place Swan Point Cemetery
Nationality American
Political party Republican
Spouse(s) Emma Burrows
Parents Warren Ladd and Lucy Washburn Kingman
Profession Dry goods merchant, Politician

Herbert Warren Ladd (October 15, 1843 – November 29, 1913) was the 40th and 42nd Governor of Rhode Island for two terms: 1889–90 and 1891–92.


  • Life and career 1
  • Governor 2
    • State House commission 2.1
    • Good roads 2.2
    • Other achievements 2.3
  • Post-Governorship 3
  • Death 4
  • Honors and legacy 5
  • References 6
  • External links 7

Life and career

Ladd was born in New Bedford, Bristol County, Massachusetts on October 15, 1843. He was one of five children of Warren Ladd and Lucy Washburn Kingman.[1] The elder Ladd was involved in New Bedford city politics.

Herbert started his career after high school as a dry goods merchant. During the Civil War he became a reporter for the New Bedford Mercury newspaper, covering several Massachusetts regiments. At war's end, he returned to the dry goods business, first in Boston, then in Rhode Island. His firm was called Ladd and Davis, later renamed the H.W. Ladd Company.[2]

On May 25, 1870,[3] Ladd married Emma Burrows of Providence; she died in 1889,[4] just as her husband began his term as governor.[3] They had six children.[4]

He was an active member of the Freemasons.[5]


1891 Engraving

When Ladd first ran for governor, in 1889, he was little-known in the state.[6] In a three-way race, he received fewer votes than Democrat John W. Davis (the third candidate, with the fewest votes, was from the Prohibition Party). Under the rules of the time, if no candidate received an outright majority, the result would be decided by the General Assembly.[7] The Republican-controlled Assembly chose Ladd.

In fact, Davis received more votes than Ladd three times, in 1889, 1890, and 1891, without receiving a majority in all three races.[7] The Assembly decided in favor of Ladd twice (1889 and 1891) and for Davis in 1890.[7] This situation was eventually remedied in November 1893 by the adoption of Amendment X to the Rhode Island Constitution, which allowed for a winner by plurality vote.[7]

State House commission

In Ladd's first address as Governor, he advocated for building a new State House.[4] Ladd was named chairman of the State House Commission.[1] The General Assembly announced an architectural competition for designs; however, Ladd and commission advisor Richard Morris Hunt decided they wanted Charles Follen McKim for the job, and made sure that he "won" the competition.[8] It was reported that Ladd paid a "considerable amount of money" out of his own pocket to help pay for the construction when the state was low on funds, and was never reimbursed for the monies.[6]

Good roads

Ladd, whose official State House portrait depicts him with a bicycle, was a supporter of the Good Roads Movement, a national road-building initiative led by bicyclists. In 1892, Ladd wrote an essay for a League of American Wheelmen publication Good Roads outlining his belief that expanding and paving streets was as important to Rhode Island as having good railroads.[9]

Other achievements

  • In fall of 1889, Ladd invited business leaders to Providence to discuss the location of the upcoming World's Fair.[3]
  • Ladd authorized new uniforms for the Rhode Island state militia.[3]


After serving two nonconsecutive terms, Ladd never ran again for public office.[6] He involved himself with several organizations. He founded and served as president for three years of the Commercial Club.[6] He was also president of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children.[6] He was a member of the YMCA, the Rhode Island Choral Association, the Board of Trade, the Providence Press Club, and the Hope Club.[6]

In 1889, at the 121st Commencement of Brown University, Ladd announced that he would donate an astronomical observatory to the school.[6] The expected cost was $25,000, but the building reportedly cost over $40,000.[6] The Ladd Observatory, completed in 1891, is named in his honor.[10][6]


Herbert W Ladd Grave in Swan Point Cemetery, Providence.

Ladd died of a cerebral hemorrhage on November 30, 1913 at Butler Hospital after a long illness.[4][6] He was interred at Swan Point Cemetery, Providence, Rhode Island.[11]

Honors and legacy

The Ladd Laboratory, an agricultural research facility established at the University of Rhode Island in 1891, was named for Governor Ladd.[12]

Ladd received an honorary Master of Arts Degree from Brown University in 1892.[6][4]

The Ladd School in Exeter, Rhode Island, which for many years met the needs of the developmentally disabled, was named after him.


  1. ^ a b The New England Historical and Genealogical Register, 1896 (reprinted 1998 ed.). Heritage Books. 1896. p. 98. Retrieved 21 May 2015. 
  2. ^ "Rhode Island Governor Herbert Warren Ladd". National Governors Association. National Governors Association. Retrieved 24 January 2015. 
  3. ^ a b c d e Bayles, Richard Mather (1891). History of Providence County, Rhode Island. Providence, Rhode Island: W. W. Preston. pp. 728–731. 
  4. ^ a b c d e "Death Notices: Herbert W. Ladd". Brown Alumni Monthly 14 (6): 165. January 1914. Retrieved 21 May 2015. 
  5. ^
  6. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l "Herbert W. Ladd, Ex-Governor, Dead". Providence, Rhode Island: The Providence Sunday Journal. 30 November 1913. p. 1. 
  7. ^ a b c d Conley, Patrick T. (2011). The Rhode Island State Constitution. USA: Oxford University Press. p. 154. Retrieved 22 May 2015. 
  8. ^ Windham, Ryder (2006). You Know You're in Rhode Island When... Globe Pequot. p. 84. Retrieved 21 May 2015. 
  9. ^ Ladd, Herbert (July 1892). "A Typical Case". Good Roads: An illustrated monthly magazine devoted to the improvement of public roads and streets (Roads Improvement Bureau of the League of American Wheelmen) 2 (1): 1–3. Retrieved 21 May 2015. I am a strong believer in good roads 
  10. ^ Encyclopedia Brunoniana | Ladd Observatory at
  11. ^ "Governor Herbert W. Ladd (1843 - 1913), Papers of, 1872-1912". State of Rhode Island. Retrieved March 26, 2014. 
  12. ^ University of Rhode Island - URI History and Timeline at

External links

  • The Political Graveyard
Political offices
Preceded by
Royal C. Taft
Governor of Rhode Island
Succeeded by
John W. Davis
Preceded by
John W. Davis
Governor of Rhode Island
Succeeded by
Daniel Russell Brown
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