Liquid Assets

July 2017

A Texas Pioneer’s Unusual Gift to His City

Henry Rosenberg arrived in Galveston, Texas, in 1843, a nineteen-year-old Swiss fabric apprentice with an eight-dollar-a-week job waiting for him. When he died fifty years later he was a wealthy banker, and had developed considerable feelings of gratitude to the city that had made him rich. Many would-be benefactors consider donating libraries; Rosenberg gave the city a fine one. But he had another idea as well, one which developed into a civic legacy unusual even in a city known for its elaborate architecture. In his will, Rosenberg put aside a bequest for “the erection of not less than ten drinking fountains for man and beast.” Each was to be a sort of aquatic temple of granite and bronze, and that they were objects of considerable splendor is clear from renderings by the architect, J. Massey Rhind of New York. In the end, seventeen of them got built; twelve in March, 1898 (one for each ward of the city), and five larger ones the following October. Each bore the inscription “Gift of Henry Rosenberg.”