Herbert W. Ladd

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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
LieutenantDaniel Littlefield
Preceded byRoyal C. Taft
Succeeded byJohn W. Davis
42nd Governor of Rhode Island
In office
May 26, 1891 – May 31, 1892
LieutenantHenry A. Stearns
Preceded byJohn W. Davis
Succeeded byDaniel Russell Brown
Personal details
Born(1843-10-15)October 15, 1843
New Bedford, Bristol County, Massachusetts, U.S.
DiedNovember 29, 1913(1913-11-29) (aged 70)
Cause of deathcerebral hemorrhage
Resting placeSwan Point Cemetery
Political partyRepublican
Spouse(s)Emma Burrows
ParentsWarren Ladd and Lucy Washburn Kingman
ProfessionDry 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[edit]

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, ran under the Prohibition Party. Under the rules of the time, if no candidate received an outright majority, the result was 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 winning a majority in any of the three races.[7] The Assembly decided in favor of Ladd twice (1889 and 1891) and for Davis in 1890.[7] The majority requirement was amended in November 1893 by the adoption of Amendment X to the Rhode Island Constitution, which allowed for a winner by plurality vote.[7] In later years, several governors would win the office with a plurality, including: Lincoln Almond in 1994 with 47%; Lincoln Chafee in 2010 with 36%; and Gina Raimondo in 2014 with 41%.

State House commission[edit]

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[edit]

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[edit]


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]


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.[10]

Honors and legacy[edit]

The Ladd Laboratory, an agricultural research facility established at the University of Rhode Island in 1891, was named for Governor Ladd.[11]

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 US$25,000, but the building reportedly cost over US$40,000,[6] equivalent to $1,100,000 in 2019. The Ladd Observatory, completed in 1891, is named in his honor.[12]

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


  1. ^ a b The New England Historical and Genealogical Register, 1896 (reprinted 1998 ed.). Heritage Books. 1896. p. 98. ISBN 9780788408656. Retrieved May 21, 2015.
  2. ^ "Rhode Island Governor Herbert Warren Ladd". National Governors Association. National Governors Association. Retrieved January 24, 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 May 21, 2015.
  5. ^ "The Political Graveyard: Freemasons, politicians, Rhode Island".
  6. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k "Herbert W. Ladd, Ex-Governor, Dead". Providence, Rhode Island: The Providence Sunday Journal. November 30, 1913. p. 1.
  7. ^ a b c d Conley, Patrick T. (2011). The Rhode Island State Constitution. USA: Oxford University Press. p. 154. ISBN 9780199877768. Retrieved May 22, 2015.
  8. ^ Windham, Ryder (2006). You Know You're in Rhode Island When... Globe Pequot. p. 84. ISBN 9780762739400. Retrieved May 21, 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 May 21, 2015. I am a strong believer in good roads
  10. ^ "Governor Herbert W. Ladd (1843 - 1913), Papers of, 1872-1912". State of Rhode Island. Retrieved March 26, 2014.
  11. ^ University of Rhode Island - URI History and Timeline Archived 2013-01-30 at the Wayback Machine at www.uri.edu
  12. ^ Mitchell, Martha (1993). "Ladd Observatory". Encyclopedia Brunoniana. Providence, RI: Brown University Library.

External links[edit]

Party political offices
Preceded by
Royal C. Taft
Republican nominee for Governor of Rhode Island
1889, 1890, 1891
Succeeded by
Daniel Russell Brown
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