Joseph H. Gainer

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Joseph H. Gainer
Joseph H. Gainer Prov Mayor.jpg
26th Mayor of Providence, Rhode Island
In office
January 1913 – January 1927
Preceded by Henry Fletcher
Succeeded by James E. Dunne
Personal details
Born (1878-01-18)January 18, 1878
Providence, Rhode Island
Died December 12, 1945(1945-12-12) (aged 67)
Resting place St. Francis Cemetery, Pawtucket
Political party Democratic
Spouse(s) Christina McPherson
Parents John and Margaret (Keogh) Gainer
Residence Providence, Rhode Island
Alma mater College of the Holy Cross, Catholic University of America
Occupation Lawyer

Joseph Henry Gainer (January 18, 1878 – December 15, 1945)[1] was the 26th mayor of Providence, Rhode Island. He served seven terms, from 1913 until 1927.

Personal life[edit]

Joseph Henry Gainer was born January 18, 1878 in Providence. His parents, John and Margaret (Keogh), were born in Ireland and settled in Providence's North End, where they operated a grocery store.[2] Gainer's father died when he was four, and three of his four brothers died in infancy.[2]

Gainer graduated from LaSalle Academy in 1896.[2][3] He received his bachelor's degree from Holy Cross College in 1899.[2][3][4] He went on to earn a law degree at The Catholic University of America in 1902,[2] and passed the Rode Island bar examination the same year.[3]

Gainer practiced law in Providence, at one time partnering with future congressman George F. O'Shaunessy and Edward G. Carr under the name O'Shaunessy, Gainer, and Carr.[3]

Gainer married Christina McPherson of Quincy, Massachusetts on April 22, 1915.[2] They had two daughters, Christine and Margaret, and a son, Joseph.[5] They lived on the East Side of Providence at 55 Grotto Avenue for 30 years.[2][6]

Gainer was a Roman Catholic, and member of St. Sebastian's Parish.[7]

Political career[edit]

Gainer was elected to the Providence School Committee in 1902.[2] Two years later, he was elected councilman, then in 1908 he became alderman.[2] In 1912, he lost the mayor's race against Republican incumbent Henry Fletcher by only 95 votes.[2] Running again in 1913, Gainer this time defeated Fletcher by 400 votes.[2] At age 34, Gainer was the youngest person elected mayor in Providence history at the time.[2][3]

In 1916, Gainer was a delegate to the 1916 Democratic National Convention.[8] By 1918, Gainer was so broadly popular with both Republicans and Democrats that he ran for the mayor's office unopposed.[2][3] He was said to be one of the most popular public officials who ever held office in the state.[3]

Gainer ran a progressive administration during World War I. Some notable events during this time:

  • A new city water supply project was developed, at $15 million cost[3]
  • The Scituate Reservoir (begun under Fletcher) was completed[2]
  • Expansion of the port was completed[2]
  • Providence City Hall was remodeled and beautified[2][7]
  • Formerly barren Exchange Place was redesigned[2]
  • The school system was modernized,[9] and several schools were built including Commercial High School (now Central)[2]
  • City playgrounds were expanded[2]
  • The unusually cold winter of 1917-1918 caused the Providence Harbor to freeze, along with water pipes across the city.[9] A resulting coal shortage caused residents to be without heat; Gainer arranged an emergency coal delivery system.[3][9]

In 1924, Gainer fought Governor William S. Flynn for nomination to the U.S. Senate.[5] Flynn defeated Gainer, and city Democrats persuaded Gainer to run for re-election as mayor, winning a seventh term.[5] Two years later, in 1926, Gainer ran against incumbent Aram Pothier for Governor. Although Gainer carried Providence, his popularity was not enough to win the state; he lost the election by over 16,000 votes.[2] After losing this election, Gainer returned to his law practice,[2] having served a total of seven terms of office.[5]

Death and burial[edit]

Gainer was ill for several months before he died December 15, 1945, with his family by his side at his home.[5] He is buried at St. Francis Cemetery in Pawtucket.[2] He was inducted into the Rhode Island Heritage Hall of Fame in 2014.[7]


  1. ^ "Rhode Island Deaths and Burials, 1802-1950". FamilySearch. Retrieved 17 January 2016. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v Conley, Patrick T. "Rhode Island Hall of Fame Honorees: Six Legal Luminaries" (PDF). Rhode Island Bar Journal. Rhode Island Bar Association. 63 (May/June 2015): 27–30. ISSN 1079-9230. Retrieved 17 January 2016. 
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i Bicknell, Thomas (1920). The history of the state of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations. New York: The American Historical Society. pp. 348–349. Retrieved 17 January 2016. 
  4. ^ Holy Cross College Bulletin. Worcester, Mass: College of the Holy Cross. 1906. p. 60. Retrieved 17 January 2016. 
  5. ^ a b c d e "Joseph H. Gainer, Mayor 7 terms, Dies at age of 67". Providence, RI: The Providence Journal. 16 December 1645. p. 1. 
  6. ^ PPS Records for 55 Grotto Avenue (PDF). Providence Preservation Society. Retrieved 17 Jan 2016. 
  7. ^ a b c "Inductee details: Mayor Joseph Henry Gainer". Rhode Island Heritage Hall of Fame. Retrieved 17 January 2016. 
  8. ^ "Rhode Island Delegation to the 1916 Democratic National Convention". The Political graveyard. Retrieved 17 January 2016. 
  9. ^ a b c "Mayors of the City of Providence". The City of Providence website. Retrieved 17 Jan 2016. 

External links[edit]

Political offices
Preceded by
Henry Fletcher
Mayor of Providence
Succeeded by
James E. Dunne