Dr. Henry Daniel Cogswell, born in Tolland, Connecticut, March 3, 1820, was a man of both vision and distinguished heritage. The Cogswell family was descended from Alfred the Great and Charlemagne and emigrated to America in 1635 from England. Dr. Cogswell cherished his family crest and motto, “Nec Sperno Nec Timeo,” which means, “I neither despise nor fear.” As his ancestors numbered among America’s pioneers, so was Dr. Cogswell’s own life one of pioneering and service.
Henry D. Cogswell had a humble childhood. It was necessary for young Cogswell to go to work at an early age in the New England cotton mills. After a day’s work in the mills, he spent the evening hours reading, writing, and learning arithmetic. Eventually he became a teacher, but after one year, he decided to enter the dental profession. Upon completion of his training at the age of 26, Dr. Cogswell began the practice of dentistry in Providence, Rhode Island. One year later, in 1846, he married Caroline E. Richards, daughter of Ruel Richards, a manufacturer in Providence.
When gold was discovered in California, Dr. Cogswell followed the pioneering urge he inherited from his ancestors. He left for California by sea and after 152 days aboard the clipper ship “Susan G. Owens”, landed in San Francisco on October 12, 1849. Rather than enter the rugged and uncertain business of mining, he practiced dentistry and established a mercantile business in the mining region. After several successful years of dental practice and real estate investments and buoyed by his ever-present strength of purpose, Dr. Cogswell became one of San Francisco’s first millionaires.
Dr. Cogswell was a pioneer in his profession as well. In 1847 he designed the vacuum method of securing dental plates. In 1853 he performed the first dental operation in California using chloroform.