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Louis Andrew Bowman Papers

Identifier: spe-n00183

Scope and Contents

Material in the collection documents Bowman’s varied volunteer service. The writings include radio addresses, speeches, articles, pamphlets, and his book. In addition, there are two Oversize items, as well as a run of Photographs.


  • Creation: Circa 1876-circa 1959


Conditions Governing Access

Materials are open without restrictions.

Conditions Governing Use

Please consult staff to determine ability to reuse materials from collection.

Biographical / Historical

Louis Andrew Bowman was born November 23, 1872, in Rock Island, Illinois, the son of Edward H. and Ellen Sinnett Bowman. His mother died when he was 2, and Louis was raised by his maternal grandmother. When his father remarried four years later, he returned to his father and stepmother's care. Bowman attended the Rock Island public schools at which time he became involved with the Rock Island YMCA.

In 1890, 17-year-old Bowman left Rock Island and settled in Chicago, where he continued with YMCA work and attended the Moody Bible Institute. Bowman's early career included positions as an office manager for an insurance agency and a bank collector. In 1900, he received a degree from Kent College of Law in Chicago and was admitted to the Illinois bar in 1901.

Throughout the 1890s, Bowman was a member of Third Presbyterian Church on Chicago's West Side. It was there that he married Ella Mae Colville on June 28, 1898. Colville was born in London, Ontario, on May 3, 1873, the daughter of C.R. Colville. She was a resident of Chicago at the time of her marriage and met Bowman at a church retreat at Conference Point near Williams Bay, Wisconsin.

By 1900, the Bowmans had settled in Oak Park, Illinois, where they joined that community's First Presbyterian Church and became involved in many aspects of the church's ministry. Bowman continued to practice law and volunteer with the YMCA. In the early 1900s he became involved with the work of the Olivet Institute, a rescue mission on Chicago's Near North Side, and eventually became Olivet's treasurer. Norman Burton Barr (1868-1943), Olivet's director, arranged for the private adoption in 1915 of the Bowman's only child, Norman Barr Bowman. In recognition of his years with Olivet, the chapel at the Norman Barr Camp on Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, was named in Bowman's honor in 1949.

In addition to church and charitable work, Bowman was active in the Sons of the American Revolution, serving in various capacities for 35 years. He was a member of the Union League Club, the Hamilton Club and the American Protective League. From 1919 to 1928 he was the non-resident treasurer of the Yenching Women's College in China. These and many other volunteer efforts were made possible by Bowman's long and successful business career, including positions as: Instructor at Chicago Business Law School (1906-1907); Assistant Manager of the Chicago Trust Company (1912-1915); Assistant Attorney for the Northern Trust Company (1915-1922); Vice President and Trust Officer for the American Trust and Safe Deposit Company (1922-1929); Trust Officer, National Builders Bank (1930-1941); and Department Manager and Assistant Trust Officer for the Central National Bank (1941 until retirement).

Louis Bowman authored several pamphlets and one monograph, The Life of Isaac E. Brown (1927). Of his many accomplishments, he was perhaps most proud of his work which culminated in the words "Under God" being added to the Pledge of Allegiance to the United States flag.

Ellen Colville Bowman died in Oak Park on August 23, 1947. Louis Bowman continued to live in Oak Park until his death on January 26, 1959. Both were cremated and their ashes scattered on Lake Geneva in Wisconsin at the Norman Barr Camp.


1.75 Linear Feet (in 2 boxes, including 17 photographs, plus 2 oversize folders)

Language of Materials



Personal papers related to Louis Bowman’s ministry and volunteer work, including radio addresses, speeches, articles, pamphlets and correspondence.


This collection is arranged with general files first, followed by writings. Within each categories, folders are arranged alphabetically. Photographs are listed separately and are arranged somewhat chronologically.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

This collection was given by Louis Bowman’s son, Norman Barr Bowman, in 1991-1992.

Guide to the Louis Andrew Bowman Papers
Galen Wilson. Updated by Andrea Telli, 2001. Updated by Johanna Russ, 2022. Ingested into ArchivesSpace by Rachel Esser, 2022.
May 1991
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English

Repository Details

Part of the Special Collections Unit at Harold Washington Library Center Repository

Harold Washington Library Center, 9th Floor
Chicago Public Library
400 S. State Street
Chicago IL 60605 United States
(312) 747-4875