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Samuel Bowles papers

Call Number: MS 94

Scope and Contents

Samuel Bowles II was the second editor of the Springfield Republican, an independent provincial newspaper founded by his father on September 8, 1824. Bowles went to work on the Republican at the age of seventeen, and within a year, he was responsible for changing the paper from a weekly to a daily paper on March 27, 1844. At the Know-Nothing Convention in Philadelphia, 1855, Samuel Bowles gained national fame for himself and his newspaper.

The Samuel Bowles Papers cover the time span 1853-1890; excluding the Civil War period. During the Civil War, the paper doubled its number of subscribers, and its price went from two cents to four cents.

The period 1868-1878, is the richest, providing vivid and detailed accounts of national political and legal issues.

Bowles never hesitated in speaking out on issues of corruption or moral wrong. The famous New York Jail episode of 1868 ensured from his stand against financial swindlers. James Fisk (1834-1872) of New York issued a libel suit for $50,000 against Samuel Bowles who was seized by order of Judge McCunn and jailed in New York for one night.

Another and more famous incident described in the papers is Bowles' denunciation of James Fisk and Jay Gould (1836-1892) as thieves of the stockholders of the Eire Railroad. In this case, Bowles collided with the renowned David Dudley Field (1805-1894) who according to Bowles, could not honorably defend such clients as Fisk and Gould. The published correspondence and letters congratulating Bowles on his stand on the moral issue of the rights and duties of counsel are in this collection.

Bowles' steadfast convictions are best shown in the Liberal Republican movement of 1872. Ample correspondence from Carl Schurz (1829-1906) and some from Horace White (1834-1916) shows the movement in its formation and end. Bowles worked long hours for the presidential nomination of Charles Francis Adams (1807-1886) at this convention; yet he supported Horace Greeley (1811-1872) who was nominated. Information on the Liberal Republican movement of 1872 may be found in the 1872 and 1876 files of the collection.

The Bowles Papers are rich in correspondence from eminent personages of the 1860s and 1870s. Henry Laurens Dawes (1816-1903), James Gillespie Blaine (1830-1893), Nathaniel Prentiss Banks (1825-1894), and Newton Booth (1825-1892) all have large numbers of letters in the collection.

Henry Laurens Dawes, a representative and senator from Massachusetts, was responsible for the Dawes Act of 1887. This act allows individual Indians to own land within reservations and gives citizenship to competent Indians. Dawes helped build a method of Indian education and put Indians under federal criminal law protection. The warm political and personal friendship of Bowles and Dawes is apparent in the many letters containing abundant political agreement as well as exchange of ideas.

The James Gillespie Blaine correspondence is at quite an opposite pole from the Dawes relationship. In 1869, Blaine and Dawes were opponents for the position of Speaker of the United States House of Representatives. Dawes was defeated by Blaine in a contest which Bowles believed Blaine to have won through a coalition with the notorious Benjamin Franklin Butler (1818-1893). An exchange of letters over this issue between Bowles and Blaine forms an interesting part of this collection.

Samuel Bowles did not allow family ties to stand in his way. In 1874, he opposed his brother-in-law, Henry Alexander, Jr., for Congress, because he believed that Alexander's health was not strong enough for the strain. Alexander and Bowles were never reunited. Bowles fired his younger brother, Benjamin Franklin Bowles, from the Republican counting room due to inadequacy for the job. Benjamin died in 1876 in Paris.

Samuel Bowles II is a great figure in the history of American journalism, whose political influence and favor were coveted and feared by the leading thinkers of America during the 1860s and 1870s. He pushed the Springfield Republican, a provincial Massachusetts newspaper, to national prominence, thus establishing a precedent in journalism. A glance at the following list of Bowles' correspondents shows the value of the collection to the history of the United States in the nineteenth century.


  • 1852-1893


Conditions Governing Access

The materials are open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

Unpublished materials authored or otherwise produced by the creator(s) of this collection are in the public domain. There are no restrictions on use. Copyright status for other collection materials is unknown. Transmission or reproduction of materials protected by U.S. Copyright Law (Title 17, U.S.C.) beyond that allowed by fair use requires the written permission of the copyright owners. Works not in the public domain cannot be commercially exploited without permission of the copyright owners. Responsibility for any use rests exclusively with the user.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Gift of Richard Hooker, 1963. Richard Hooker donated his own papers in 1964 and the two were combined as the Bowles-Hooker Collection. This was separated into the Samuel Bowles Papers and the Richard Hooker Papers in 1979.


1 Linear Feet

Language of Materials


Catalog Record

A record for this collection is available in Orbis, the Yale University Library catalog

Persistent URL


The papers include correspondence, legal documents, petitions, pamphlets, and printed material of Samuel Bowles, journalist and political activist. As editor of the influential Springfield Republican, Bowles was a prominent national voice on many public issues during the mid-nineteenth century and included in the papers is correspondence from a number of national political and business figures.

Biographical / Historical

Samuel Bowles was born in Springfield, Massachusetts, on February 9, 1826. He was the editor of the daily edition of the Springfield Republican from 1844 to 1878. Noted for his willingness to comment on matters of political corruption, he was the subject of a libel suit. Bowles was involved in the Liberal Republican movement of 1872 and worked for the presidential nomination of Charles Francis Adams at the party's convention. He authored several books and was considered a pioneer of independent journalism. Samuel Bowles died in Springfield, Massachusetts, on January 16, 1878.

Guide to the Samuel Bowles Papers
Under Revision
compiled by staff of Manuscripts and Archives
February 1979
Description rules
Finding Aid Created In Accordance With Manuscripts And Archives Processing Manual
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English.

Part of the Manuscripts and Archives Repository

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