Henry D. Cogswell

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Henry D. Cogswell
Henry Cogswell.jpg
Henry D. Cogswell, ca. 1850-52
Born(1820-03-03)March 3, 1820
DiedJuly 8, 1900(1900-07-08) (aged 80)
Known forTemperance

Henry Daniel Cogswell (March 3, 1820 – July 8, 1900) was an American dentist and a crusader in the temperance movement. Cogswell and his wife Caroline also founded Cogswell College in San Jose, California. Another campus in Everett, Washington was later dedicated in his honor.


Born in Tolland, Connecticut, as a youth, he worked in the New England cotton mills and studied by night. He became a dentist in Providence, Rhode Island at age 26. When the California Gold Rush started, the Cogswell family decided to go west. They did not do any mining themselves. He offered dentistry services to miners and invested in real estate and mining stocks, becoming one of San Francisco's first millionaires. A pioneer in his field, Cogswell designed the vacuum method of securing dental plates and was the first in California to perform a dental operation using chloroform.[1]


Temperance fountains by Henry D. Cogswell
Boston Common, ca. 1890
Destruction of Cogswell's fountain in San Francisco, 1894
Tompkins Square Park, New York City
Pawtucket, Rhode Island

Cogswell believed that if people had access to cool drinking water they wouldn't consume alcoholic beverages. It was his dream to construct one temperance fountain for every 100 saloons across the United States, and many were built.[2] These drinking fountains were elaborate structures built of granite that Cogswell designed himself.

Cogswell's fountains are found in Washington, D.C., Tompkins Square Park New York City,[3] Washington Square, San Francisco[4][5] Pawtucket, Rhode Island,[6][7][8][9] and Rockville, Connecticut.[2][10][11] Other examples were erected and then razed at: Buffalo, Rochester, Boston Common,[12][13][14] (removed 1900)[15] Fall River, Massachusetts, Pacific Grove, California,[16][17] San Jose, California,[18] and San Francisco (California and Market Streets).[19] The concept of providing drinking fountains as alternatives to saloons was later implemented by the Women's Christian Temperance Union.[20][21]

These grandiose statues were not well received by the communities where they were placed.[22] Washington, DC's Temperance Fountain has been called "the city's ugliest statue"[23] and spurred city councils across the country to set up fine arts commissions to screen such gifts.[24]

Although the D.C. statue survived mostly unscathed, the San Francisco one was torn down by "a lynch party of self-professed art lovers" including Gelett Burgess (who was subsequently fired from his job at University of California at Berkeley)[25] and one in Rockville, Connecticut, was thrown into Shenipsic Lake.[26] In Dubuque, Iowa, a statue of Cogswell that sat in Washington Park was pulled down by a group of vandals in 1900 and buried under the ground of a planned sidewalk. The next day the sidewalk was poured and the object was entombed. However, when new sidewalks were laid in the early 2000s, the statue was not found.[27]

Death and legacy[edit]

Cogswell's tomb in Oakland

Cogswell also designed the statue for his own tomb, a 400-ton granite tower, complete with fountains and statues of Hope, Faith, Charity and Temperance. He is buried in Mountain View Cemetery in Oakland, California.[28]

The diaries of Cogswell and his wife Caroline cover 37 years (1860–1897) and are an unusually long and consistent record of busy personal and financial life in the western United States. They are kept at the Bancroft Library at the University of California, Berkeley.


  1. ^ "Historical Overview". Cogswell Polytechnical College. Archived from the original on June 9, 2007. Retrieved June 10, 2007.
  2. ^ a b Foster, Lee (April 6, 2004). "Town Plans to Restore Fountain as Part of Park Project". The Hartford Courant. Retrieved June 10, 2007.
  3. ^ "Tompkins Square Park Highlights - Temperance Fountain". New York City Department of Parks & Recreation. Retrieved August 8, 2011.
  4. ^ CA000016 OR CA000029 - Smithsonian Institution Research Information System
  5. ^ "FRANKLIN, Benjamin statue in Washington Square in San Francisco, California". Archived from the original on September 3, 2014. Retrieved August 27, 2014.
  6. ^ "God's Free Gift to Man and Beast". Read the Plaque. Retrieved November 13, 2015.
  7. ^ Duffy, Kathrinne. "God's Free Gift to Man and Beast". Rhode Tour. Brown Center for Public Humanities and Cultural Heritage. Retrieved November 13, 2015.
  8. ^ "Cogswell Fountain, (sculpture)". Save Outdoor Sculpture, Rhode Island survey. 1993. Retrieved August 9, 2011.
  9. ^ Elizabeth J. Johnson, James L. Wheaton, Susan L. Reed (2003). Pawtucket: Images of America. Arcadia Publishing. p. 103. ISBN 978-0-7385-1287-7.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: uses authors parameter (link)
  10. ^ Monica Polanco (August 4, 2005). "Dr. Cogswell Returns To Central Park". The Hartford Courant.
  11. ^ Rowe, Jason (May 19, 2006). "Cogswell Fountain restoration earns RDA an award". Journal Inquirer. Retrieved August 8, 2011.
  12. ^ "Current News of the Fine Arts" (PDF). The New York Times. January 14, 1894.
  13. ^ Jane Holtz Kay (2006). Lost Boston. University of Massachusetts Press. p. 254. ISBN 978-1-55849-527-2. cogswell fountain boston.
  14. ^ American architect and architecture. Vol. 41. 1893. p. 918.
  15. ^ Reports of proceedings ... Municipal Printing Office. 1901.
  16. ^ Kent Seavey (2005). Pacific Grove. Arcadia Publishing. ISBN 978-0-7385-2964-6.
  17. ^ "Pacific Grove: The Chautauqua Years / Birdseye View of Pacific Grove". Pacific Grove Museum of Natural History. September 8, 2005. Archived from the original on July 27, 2011. Retrieved August 8, 2011.
  18. ^ Carlson, Eric (June 20, 2005). "Statue of Yore". San Jose Inside. Retrieved August 8, 2011.
  19. ^ "Image Breakers: Dr. Cogswell's Stature Overturned Under Shadow of Night By a Silent Gang of Hoodlum Miscreants". San Francisco Call. January 3, 1894. p. 8.
  20. ^ "Temperance Water Fountain". Read the Plaque. Retrieved November 13, 2015.
  21. ^ Krinehart (March 28, 2013). "Petaluma and the WCTU". Sonoma County Library. Retrieved November 13, 2015.
  22. ^ "Weeding Out Bad Sculpture" (PDF). The New York Times. March 13, 1894.
  23. ^ "...Toasted Temperance". Washington Post. September 21, 2003. pp. C02. Retrieved June 10, 2007.
  24. ^ Rash, Bryson (1983). Footnote Washington. EPM Publications. ISBN 0-914440-62-4.
  25. ^ Kitsock, Greg (January 3, 1992). "Fountain of Hooch". Washington City Paper. Retrieved October 10, 2009.
  26. ^ Ciparelli, Jessica (November 1, 2005). "Back where he belongs: Dr. Henry Cogswell statue once again graces Rockville's Central Park". Rockville Reminder. Retrieved June 10, 2007.
  27. ^ "Monument Park". Geocaching.org. Retrieved June 10, 2007.
  28. ^ Cohn, Abby (January 5, 2001). "They're 6 Feet Under, But Pioneers Draw Crowds to Oakland". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved June 10, 2007.

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