Special Collections and Archives Finding Aids
The Lamont Montgomery Bowers Collection spans the years 1876-1937 and consists of thirty-two boxes containing letters, business records and papers, photographs, newspaper clippings, and assorted miscellaneous items. The collection represents a major portion of the mass of information generated and accumulated by Bowers throughout his ninety-two years. The bulk of the material is concentrated in the years 1878-1930 and corresponds to the years of greatest activity in Bowers's business career beginning with his move to Omaha. During this period, papers were accumulated related to Bowers's real estate business in Nebraska, the various enterprises he managed for John D. Rockefeller, his other investments in real estate and securities, the L.M. Bowers Roofing Company, and the L.M. Bowers Anchor Company, as well as personal papers dealing with family and friends.
The multifaceted nature of the Bowers papers presented a challenge to the historian who arranged them. Historical methodology requires a systematic effort to locate information and a plan for the arrangement of that data in a way which will illuminate the past. The cataloguer had to delineate identifiable units, no matter how vague or artificial, and employ them to portion a life's produce into describable series. Although there are natural elements, such as chronology, which lend a systematic approach to the information, the cataloguer still had to discover relationships in the papers which were only implicit. In this collection the challenge, therefore, was to devise an arrangement which created access to the information from various approaches while doing as little damage as possible to the overall continuity.
Lamont Bowers was constantly launching himself into new projects: first the wholesale grocery business, then the Nebraska real estate market, next the roofing business, followed by the Rockefeller-owned companies, and finally, the anchor business. The Rockefeller period was broken down neatly into the years in which Bowers worked at Bessemer, the Cleveland Steel Co., the Rockefeller Building, and finally the Colorado Fuel and Iron Company. While Bowers maintained interest and correspondence about various projects over many years, his career did provide sequences with definite starting dates.
Thus, the overall arrangement of the collection is topical. The initial sorting required the segregation of the material into several topics from which three major categories emerged and were delineated:
Personal Papers (1878-1937), Personal Financial Enterprises (1876-1928), and Rockefeller Enterprises (1896-1933). The differentiation between papers concerned with Bowers's personal business and from the business handled for Rockefeller has the advantage of defining a particularly hazy point. John D. Rockefeller, Sr. rarely limited the outside business activities of his executives. These men gained a powerful advantage in the financial world by virtue of their association with the Rockefeller name and consequently were appointed to boards of directors of several companies. At best such situations created confusion; at worst they represented the possibility of conflicts of interest. In Bowers's particular case, his anchor company sold merchandise to many of the companies which he had dealt with as the manager of the Rocke-feller-owned Bessemer Steamship Company. In addition, Bowers's anchors were used to equip the freighters and barges owned by the Standard Oil Company of New York. It is therefore important clearly to define those enterprises Bowers managed for himself from those which he managed for Rockefeller, to understand his papers in proper perspective.
The basic continuity of the collection is based on the chronological order of the containers within the three major categories, and the chronological order of the items within each box.
The Bowers collection is potentially a valuable source for historical inquiries of various types. A biographer of Lamont Montgomery Bowers will have to go through the entire collection. The papers dealing with the Rockefeller Enterprises provide new insight into the way Rockefeller organized his businesses, particularly the role of upper middle management. Labor historians will be interested in the section containing Bowers's papers during his years with the Colorado Fuel and Iron Company. Social historians will find the papers pertaining to Bowers's personal life and his years in Nebraska full of valuable information including contemporary accounts of the impact of such important events as the construction of railroads in central New York. Even the ephemeral material contains invaluable information for the reconstruction of price indexes during the last quarter of the nineteenth century. Although it is impossible to predict the emphases of future historians, it is safe to say that the Bowers collection is an important addition to the literature available to historians with a broad range of interests.
Jerry Pepper and Marion Hanscom
Lamont Montgomery Bowers
- Descriptive Summary
- Biographical Note
- Scope and Content Note
- Description of Series
- Container List
- L.M. Bowers - Personal
- L.M.B. - Personal Papers - 1878-1925
- L.M.Bowers - Personal 1926-1940
- L.M.Bowers - Personal Books 1926-1940
- L.M.Bowers - Personal Misc.
- L.M.Bowers - Personal Financial Enterprises
- L.M.B. - Real Estate (Nebraska) - 1876-1928
- L.M.B.-L.M. Bowers & Co. (Roofing) - 1879-1900
- L.M.B.-L.M. Bowers & Co. (Roofing) - Books - 1887-1906
- L.M.B. - Real Estate (New York City) - 1887-1902
- L.M.B. - Real Estate (Binghamton, N.Y. region) - 1896-1952
- L.M.B. - Real Estate (Binghamton, N.Y. region) - 1883-1890
- L.M.B.-L.M.Bowers & Co. (anchors) - 1898-1914
- L.M.B.-L.M.Bowers & Co. (anchors) - 1915-1918
- L.M.B.-L.M.Bowers & Co. (anchors) - 1919-1940
- L.M.B.-L.M.Bowers & Co. (anchors) - Books - 1898-1914
- L.M.B.-Securities - 1910-1940
- L.M.B.-Real Estate (Colorado & Ohio) - 1908-1937
- L.M.B.-Copybooks - 1902-1907
- L.M.Bowers - Rockefeller Enterprises
- L.M.B.-Rockefeller-Bessemer Steamship Co. - 1896-1901
- L.M.B.-Rockefeller-Cleveland Steel Co. - 1891 - 1918
- L.M.B.-Rockefeller-Frasch Soda Processing Co. - 1898-1904
- L.M.B.-Rockefeller-American Shipbuilding Co. - 1899-1932
- L.M.B.-Rockefeller-Great Lakes Towing Co. - 1900-1929
- L.M.B.-Rockefeller-American Linseed Co. - 1901-1929
- L.M.B.-Rockefeller-Ohio Real Estate - 1902-1926
- L.M.B.-Rockefeller-Ohio Real Estate - 1908-1923
- L.M.B.-Rockefeller-Misc. - 1903-1910
- L.M.B.-Rockefeller-Colorado Fuel & Iron Co. - 1905-1933
- L.M.B. -Rockefeller-Colorado Fuel & Iron Co. - 1908-1933