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Roger Dearborn Lapham (6 December 188316 April 1966) was a shipowner and businessman who was elected Republican mayor of San Franciscomarker from 1944 to 1948.


Lapham was born in New York Citymarker, the son of Antoinette N. (née Dearborn) and Lewis Henry Lapham. He was educated at Harvard, a member of the Pacific Union Club and president of the American-Hawaiian Steamship Company beginning in 1925. Lapham championed the employers' position in the 1936 waterfront strike and was elevated as a "business" Mayor by a member of the Police Commission, J. Ward Maillard, after collapse of the Angelo Rossi constituency. Upon taking the mayor's seat, Lapham declared his intention to serve only one term. According to Radebaugh, Lapham was "so convinced of the employers' cause that he took on Harry Bridges, leader of the striking (C.I.O.) Congress of Industrial Organizations longshoremen, in public debate."

During World War II, Lapham was the industry representative on the National War Labor Board, but resigned to run for mayor of San Francisco.

Lapham presided over the formation of one of San Francisco's perennial Charter Review Commissions and the consolidation of the private street railway systems into municipal ownership. Though the private franchises were set to expire in a few years, Lapham drove a horsecar up Market Street to launch a campaign for a Charter Amendment to purchase the private streetcar lines. Lapham was blamed for his plan of reducing the principle by spending the increased streetcar incomes during the war years and neglecting upkeep and maintenance of the rolling stock.

Lapham was subject to the first recall attempt in city history due to his increasing of streetcar fares in July 1946. The recall was fought by all four daily newspapers and failed by 32,000 votes at a special election. In 1947 he attempted to scrap the city's cable car systemmarker, claiming it was too expensive. This idea was abandoned in the face of protests, led by Friedel Klussmann, and the city retains the cable cars to this day. Lapham also presided over the founding of the United Nations at the first meeting of the United Nations Conference on International Organization, in April 1945. The meetings were held at the War Memorial Opera House.

Lapham encouraged the formation of the Council for Civic Unity and he appointed the first Asian to the Recreation Commission and the first African American to the Housing Authority. After leaving the mayor's seat, he acted as chief of the post-war Economic Cooperation Administration for China, and later Greece.

Lapham was the paternal grandfather of Harper's Magazine editor Lewis H. Lapham.

Further reading

Our Fair City -1947, Vanguard Press N.Y. Edited by Robert S. Allen. Chapter on San Francisco by Charles Radebaugh.

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