Henry J. Labatt: Influential Early Pioneer Jewish Attorney of San Francisco

Henry J. Labatt

Henry Labatt, 1896 WS 16/2292

Henry Labatt, 1896, #WS16/2292

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The Labatt family was a prominent Sephardic Jewish presence in pioneer San Francisco.

Abraham Cohen Labatt, who had been born in Charleston, South Carolina, became the first president of Congregation Emanu-El when it was or­ganized in April 1851.


San Francisco

Henry J. Labatt, one of Abraham’s sons, was born in New Orleans.

He was probably the most influential of the early Jewish attor­neys in the Bay City.

By 1853 Henry Labatt was considered an authority on California law, having written a series of forty-eight-page booklets on the decisions of district courts in the State.

In 1856, he authored one of the State’s first law books, The Practice Act of Californiaon civil law proceedings.

When The Voice of Israel, the first Jewish newspaper in the West, was established in October 1856, Henry Labatt was its co-editor with Rabbi Herman Bien.

He was an active and effective polemist, defending the good name of California Jewry from its occasional detractors.


Galveston, Texas

After spending the 1850’s and 1860’s in San Francisco, Henry Labatt moved to Galveston, Texas, where he continued his distin­guished legal career and served in the Texas legislature.

Labatt even had a small Texas town named after him. Labbat, Texas was a small, one-store flag stop-and-switch on the San Antonio and Arkansas Pass Railroad. The town was abandoned in the 1930’s.



Labatt effected the incorporation of the Chebra Bikur Cholim U-Kadischa and the Chebra Berith Sholomearly San Francisco benevolent groups.

He was also active in the Hebrew Young Men’s Literary Association.

When Congregation Emanu-El was founded, Henry Labatt prepared an illuminated manu­script of the Articles of Incorporation, which he signed.

He served as secretary of the Congregation from 1854 to 1860.

Labatt was also active with the largely Polish membership of the First Hebrew Benevolent Society, serving as secretary and board member in the 1850’s.



Henry Labatt became President of Zacharias Frankel B’nai B’rith Lodge #242 of Galveston in 1878.

At the dedication of the Lodge, Labatt spoke, together with Rabbi Abraham Blum, who would soon become the spiritual leader of Congregation B’nai B’rith (now Wilshire Boulevard Temple) of Los Angeles.


Henry Labatt died in 1899 in Texas.

For information about his Texas years, click here.


  • William M. Kramer, “Henry J. Labatt (1832-1900): Pioneer Lawyer of California and Texas,” Western States Jewish History 28/3.
  • “Henry J. Labatt on the Commercial Position of the Jews in California, 1856,” Western States Jewish History 29/3.
  • William M. Kramer, “Henry J. Labatt: Pioneer Lawyer of California and Texas,” Western States Jewish Historical Quarterly 15/1.
  • Norton B. Stern, “Henry J. Labatt,” Western States Jewish History 41/1.