Monday, September 4, 2017

James Latham (1830-1876): Stock Broker; Early Animal Rights Advocate

James Latham monument (photos: OaklandWiki)
James Hoge Latham (1830-1876) was born in Columbus, Ohio, served in the US-Mexican war at age 17, and worked for Wells Fargo & Co. in Victoria and Sacramento. He later opened what was then the largest brokerage business in San Francisco.  One of his brothers, Milton S. Latham, was the 6th governor of California, a Congressman and a United States Senator. 

His wife Henrietta had family roots in the California Gold Rush. 

Along with his wife, he was an early advocate for animal welfare, donating large sums of money to the cause of animal rights. Henrietta was a staunch advocate for the humane education of children from an early age. The family claimed that when James visited a new city, he often visited the zoological gardens first to check on his animal friends.
Latham Fountain (photo: City of Oakland; drawing: Oakland Tribune)

The Latham Fountain was erected in their memory James and Henrietta's memory by their three children, Edith, Milton and Charles. The fountain at the intersection of Telegraph & Broadway in downtown Oakland, was built to honor the Latham's work in "animal respect activism" and for the promotion of humane education, whose purpose was to teach the respect of animals and others in schools. A foundation was created, which originally stood at the Latham Square Building overlooking the fountain. The Latham Foundation continues today at

Before the unveiling there had been only one memorial to local citizens in downtown Oakland, the Jack London memorial oak tree in Frank Ogawa Plaza.

In 1876, James Latham had been ill so, his doctors recommended a sea voyage for his health. Just three days out from New York, James died at sea aboard the steamship Celtic. Henrietta returned to Oakland with his body, and James was buried in Mountain View Cemetery, in the Latham family grave in plot 9. The funeral was held at St. Paul's Church on 12th Street near the Grand Central Hotel. The music for the program was lead by Oakland Municipal Band director Paul Steindorff, who is buried right down the road from the Lathams. 

The Latham monument was designed by the noted firm of Seregni & Bernieri, who also designed the nearby monument of A.K.P. Harmon, as well as those for David Colton, Frederick Delger and the iconic angels sitting atop the graves of Henry Crocker and Frances Scmidt. The angel at the top of the Latham monument glances downward awaiting the arrival of the departed.

Henrietta Latham, who also wrote one of the first vegetarian cookbooks, published in 1898, called The Golden Age CookBook, lived until 1909.

The 15' x 12' fountain was designed by the distinguished French sculptor Monsieur Payre, and was originally envisioned to be built on a smaller scale. The memorial originally contained drinking fountains alongside water troughs so that both man and beast could enjoy refreshment. After Payre’s model was sent to the US, the Gorham Company of New York fabricated the piece using expensive pink Maine granite and American standard bronze. 

In August 2017, noted vegan author and activist Colleen Patrick-Goudreau led a walking tour to the fountain to honor the legacy of these early animal rights pioneers.

Sources: OaklandWiki,, Oakland Tribune, City of Oakland

1 comment:

Chris Pattillo, FASLA said...

Michael, I particularly like your photo of the Latham fountain in downtown Oakland. It captures how this triangular island has been re-envisioned as a centerpiece of downtown. The lushness of the tree canopy plus the B bus reflects today's sensibilities that I think Latham would approve of. Chris