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Lamont Montgomery Bowers papers

Identifier: BUSC-1976-001

Scope and Contents

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 Bowerss business career beginning with his move to Omaha. During this period, papers were accumulated related to Bowerss 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 lifes 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 Bowerss 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 Bowerss 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, Bowerss 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 Bowerss papers during his years with the Colorado Fuel and Iron Company. Social historians will find the papers pertaining to Bowerss 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.

Register Compiled by

Jerry Pepper and Marion Hanscom


  • Creation: 1847-1941

Language of Materials


Conditions Governing Access:


Administrative History:

1847                       Born in Maine, New York

1866                       Attended Lowells Commercial College, Binghamton, New York

1867                       Became a traveling salesman for Ford and Meagley, Binghamton soap manufacturers

1868                       Bought out Ford, and became a partner of Meagley and Bowers

1871                       Sold his interest in the soap business and became a partner in M.A. Sheak and Co., a Binghamton wholesale grocery business

1872                       Married Fanny Gray of Maine, New York

1875                       Son, Franck Taylor Bowers, born

1878                       Ill health forced a move to Omaha, Nebraska, where he formed a real estate business, Bemis and Bowers, with George Pickering Bemis

1879                       Formed a second partnership, Parker and Bowers, Omaha, state agents for several farm implement manufacturers

1883                       Returned to Binghamton and spent next 10 years in semi-retirement while investing in several local businesses and working on inventions

1893                       Son, Clement Gray Bowers, born

1895                       Began his association with Rockefeller interests as a confidential representative in many enterprises with some specific assignments

1895-1901            Manager of the Rockefeller-owned Bessemer Steamship Co., Cleveland, Ohio. It was during this period that he formed his own anchor company

1904                       Supervised the building of the 17-story Rockefeller Building, Cleveland

1907-1915            Chairman of the board of the Colorado Fuel and Iron Company

1909                       His first wife died

1911                       Married Frances Irene Gere of Montrose, Pa.

1915                       Returned to Binghamton where he maintained interest in local affairs and remained a representative of Rockefeller interests on several directorates. He journeyed to Cleveland every month til he was well over 80 to attend directors meeting of the American Shipbuilding Co. and the Great Lakes Towing Co.

1941                       Died in Binghamton, New York


32.00 lf


The papers of Lamont Montgomery Bowers (1847-1941), inventor, businessman, manufacturer, were acquired by the State University of New York at Binghamton by gift of Janet B. Bothwell, granddaughter of L.M. Bowers. The collection consists of business and personal correspondence, business records relating to Bowerss career in Binghamton and Broome County, New York industry, civic affairs and finance. L.M. Bowers was also a real-estate developer and land agent in Nebraska, manager for and confidential representative of John D. Rockefeller, Sr., and Jr., principally in Cleveland, Ohio, and in Colorado. The papers were organized and described by Jerry Pepper, a graduate student in the Department of History, in 1976-77. The Register was revised by Marion Hanscom, Special Collections Librarian. The literary rights in the Bowers Papers have been dedicated to the public.

Acquisition Information:


Guide to the Lamont Montgomery Bowers Papers
Finding Aid Authors: Jerry Pepper.
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the Binghamton University Libraries Special Collections Repository

Binghamton NY 13902 USA