Louis Andrew Bowman Papers

Dates: 1876-1959
Size: .25 linear feet, 17 photographs, 2 oversize folders
Repository: Chicago Public Library, Harold Washington Library Center, Special Collections, 400 S. State St., Chicago, IL 60605
Collection Number: spe.n00183
Immediate Source of Acquisition: This collection was given by Louis Bowman’s son, Norman Barr Bowman, in 1991-1992.
Conditions Governing Access: Materials are open without restrictions.
Conditions Governing Use: Please consult staff to determine ability to reuse materials from collection.
Preferred Citation When quoting material from this collection the preferred citation is: Louis Andrew Bowman Papers [Box #, Folder #], Special Collections, Chicago Public Library.
Finding Aid Author: Galen Wilson, May 1991. Updated by Andrea Telli, May 2001. Updated and ingested into ArchivesSpace by Johanna Russ, 2022.


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


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.

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.


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.


  • Bowman, Ella Mae Colville, 1873-1947
  • Bowman, Louis Andrew, 1872-1959
  • Sons of the American Revolution. Illinois Society — History
  • YMCA of Rock Island (Ill.) — History
  • Lawyers — Illinois — Chicago — History
  • Norman B. Barr Camp (Wis.) — History

Related Collections

  • Norman B. Barr Papers
  • Louis A. Bowman. The Life Issac Eddy Brown. New York: Association Press, 1926. Special Collections book collection, call number BV1085.B7B6

Container List

Box 1 Folder 1 General: Bowman, Ella Mae Colville (1873-1947). Obituary, funeral address 1947 August 26
Box 1 Folder 2 General: Correspondence. Norman Burton Barr to Norman Barr Bowman 1915 October 21, 1922 March 10
Box 1 Folder 3 General: Correspondence. Charles Doak Lowry to Norman Barr Bowman 1959 May 26
Box 1 Folder 4 General: First Presbyterian Church of Oak Park 75th anniversary 1958
Box 1 Folder 5 General: Lewis, Marvin H. The Man Who Made Us, presentation copy to Louis A. Bowman. Privately printed circa 1925
Box 1 Folder 6 General: Memo. Norman B. Bowman regarding the disposition of Louis A. Bowman’s ashes 1957 November 23
Box 1 Folder 7 General: Newspaper clippings 1955, undated
Box 1 Folder 8 General: Olivet Summer Assembly Association. Membership certificate 1908 December 25
Box 1 Folder 9 General: Pledge of Allegiance "Under God" clause. Correspondence, affidavit, clippings, DAR certificate 1955
Box 1 Folder 10 General: Sons of the American Revolution. George Washington birthday dinner dance program 1934
Oversize Folder 1   General: Sons of the American Revolution, Illinois Society, Membership Certificate to Louis A. Bowman 1903 May 15
Oversize Folder 2   General: Supreme Court of the United States, Washington, D.C., Certificate to Louis A. Bowman as attorney and counselor 1949 May 31
Box 1 Folder 11 Writings: "The Beautiful in Human Life." WGN Radio 1939 July 29
Box 1 Folder 12 Writings: Bible Study: The Means of the Highest Culture. Chicago: Fleming H. Revell Co. 1903
Box 1 Folder 13 Writings: The Christian Philosophy of Life undated
Box 1 Folder 14 Writings: Dogs Are Not Dumb undated
Box 1 Folder 15 Writings: "The Laymen’s First Chicago Campaign," in The Bible Today undated
Box 1 Folder 16 Writings: Norman B. Barr Camp Chapel dedication address 1949 August 7
Box 1 Folder 17 Writings: Order to Come Out of Chaos undated
Box 1 Folder 18 Writings: Outline of paper to the Irving Literacy Club of Chicago 1956 February 3
Box 1 Folder 19 Writings: "Outlines in the Gospel of John for Individual and Class Use" undated
Box 1 Folder 20 Writings: Prayer at service of Oak Park First Presbyterian 1951 August 19
Box 1 Folder 21 Writings: "The Soul of America." WGN Radio undated
Box 1 Folder 22 Writings: The Strength of Manhood. Chicago: Young Men’s Presbyterian Union 1905
Box 1 Folder 23 Writings: The Strength of Manhood. Correspondence from readers 1905-1906
Box 1 Folder 24 Writings: "Suggested Plan to make the 18th Amendment Effective” undated
Box 1 Folder 25 Writings: "The 23rd Psalm as interpreted. . .by [a] Shepherd," [See also: Louis A. Bowman. The Life Issac Eddy Brown. New York: Association Press, 1926. Special Collections book collection, call number BV1085.B7B6] undated
Box 1 Folder 26 Writings: Cards and flyers for Bowman’s "Jokes" lectures 1903, 1905, undated
Box 1 Folder 27 Writings: Volunteer certificate to Louis A. Bowman 1953


Box 2 Photograph 1.1 Louis A. Bowman, carte d’visite, Rock Island, IL circa 1876
Box 2 Photograph 1.2 Louis A. Bowman, cabinet photo, Rock Island, IL circa 1882
Box 2 Photograph 1.3 Louis A. Bowman, cabinet photo, Rock Island, IL (2) circa 1884
Box 2 Photograph 1.4 Louis A. Bowman, cabinet photo, Chicago, IL (2) circa 1888
Box 2 Photograph 1.5 Louis A. Bowman, cabinet photo, Macomb, IL circa 1890
Box 2 Photograph 1.6 Louis A. Bowman, Chicago, IL 1896 July 21
Box 2 Photograph 1.7 Louis A. Bowman, Chicago, IL 1897 November 23
Box 2 Photograph 1.8 Louis A. Bowman, snapshot circa 1950
Box 2 Photograph 1.9 Louis A. Bowman, head-and-shoulders studio portrait circa 1950
Box 2 Photograph 1.10 Louis A. Bowman, three-quarters view studio portrait circa 1950
Box 2 Photograph 1.11 YMCA workers group, Louis A. Bowman, Frank Burd (?), Issac Eddy Brown (1849-1917), [?] Smith, A. M. Bruner, A. G. Copeland circa 1895-1898
Box 2 Photograph 1.12 YMCA Camp, Lake Geneva, WI 1898
Box 2 Photograph 1.13 Olivet Institute, Norman Barr Camp, Bowman Chapel, interior undated
Box 2 Photograph 1.14 Louis A. Bowman with unidentified group of youths 1890s
Box 2 Photograph 1.15 Postcard of Rock Island & Davenport ferry undated
Box 2 Photograph 1.16 Norman Barr Bowman (1915- ) circa 1918
Box 2 Photograph 2.1 Louis A. Bowman, Chicago, IL [This photograph was received by the Special Collections Department in September 1992.] circa 1930
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