The Cyclopædia of American Biography/Bowles, Samuel (4th)

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The Cyclopædia of American Biography (1918)
edited by James E. Homans
Bowles, Samuel (4th)
1245638The Cyclopædia of American Biography — Bowles, Samuel (4th)1918

BOWLES, Samuel (4th), journalist, newspaper publisher, b. in Springfield, Mass., 15 Oct., 1851, d. in Springfield, Mass., 14 March, 1915, son of Samuel and Mary S. Dwight (Schermerhorn) Bowles. He was a direct descendant of John Bowles, who was an elder of the first church in Roxbury, in 1640, and a founder of the Roxbury Free School. His mother was the daughter of the late Henry Van Rensselaer Schermerhorn, of Geneva, N. Y. For three generations the family has been inseparably connected with the Springfield “Republican,” founded, in 1824, by Samuel Bowles (2d), grandfather of Samuel Bowles (4th). At that time it was a weekly publication. In 1851, when Samuel Bowles (3d) (1826-78) assumed the active direction of the paper, it was changed into a daily, and soon attained that peculiar position in journalism which it has maintained to this day. Samuel Bowles (4th) was one of ten children. He attended the public schools of Springfield, and then traveled abroad for two years. It was his father's intention that he should succeed him as editor of the “Republican,” and his education was planned with this end in view; his belief being that a newspaper editor should know the world directly, and not merely from books. The travel course was followed by special studies in Yale University (1871-72) and a term at the University of Berlin. Then, having completed his education, Mr. Bowles entered the business office of the “Republican.” During his two years' travel he had been sending in letters for publication in the paper, all of which had first to pass the critical eye of his father. In 1873, having served his apprenticeship to the business management, he entered the editorial department as an assistant editor, again under the exacting criticism of his father. In 1875 he returned to the business department, this time as business manager, so that he now had a well-grounded knowledge of every branch of the enterprise; thus making it possible for him to assume immediate control with a full comprehension of the requirements and responsibilities of his place in the family succession. Soon after he also performed the duties of treasurer and president of the company. As was destined, the time was not long before his knowledge and abilities were to be put to the test, for three years later his father died and he was obliged to take his place at the helm. Nor was it a small task that then fell to him. His father had developed the character of the “Republican” to such a high degree of excellence that in national reputation he stood on an equality with Horace Greeley, Dana, and other famous journalists of his time. The “Republican” was one of those rare papers which could in no way be influenced in its editorial policies, either through the business office or through political inducements. Its editor was known as a man who stood firmly by his own opinions, and those opinions were based on his own moral convictions, regardless of whether such views were popular or not. As editor and publisher of the “Republican” Mr. Bowles maintained a decisive command of its character no less complete than that of his father. It was as publisher, rather than as editor, in making certain that the news of the “Republican” was handled and interpreted day by day according to principles dictated by strong moral and intellectual convictions, that Mr. Bowles wielded his power, for the increasing burden of business details made it impossible for him to do more than exercise a general supervision of the editorial department. Within a year of his father's death he established the Sunday edition of the “Republican,” still conscientiously read and devoutly respected up and down the Connecticut Valley by all those who have been reared in the “Republican” traditions. As a review, summing up current events week by week, it soon gained an audience which extended practically all over the Eastern section of the United States. Editorially the policy of the “Republican” remained as fearless as ever. Its attitude toward all public questions, both local and national, was based entirely on the personal convictions of Mr. Bowles. To him old traditions or time-honored conventions meant nothing, if they were founded on wrong principles, and if he felt that a thing was wrong, he attacked that thing vigorously and openly, regardless of whom it might displease. Curiously enough, it was in the mechanical make-up of his paper that Mr. Bowles showed an innate conservatism. Though never unresponsive to new and more effective methods in journalism, he made alterations in the typographical appearance of his paper with the utmost reluctance. The “Republican” was one of the last of the big dailies to abandon the old-fashioned custom of covering the first page with advertisements, by replacing them with the featured news articles. It was so with various other demands that the multiplication of affairs and the growth of the paper called for. He feared to sacrifice the fine qualities of the small, compact carefully-edited newspaper of the days before the advent of the sensational “yellow” journal. Mr. Bowles' personal life was one of quiet concentration on the interests of the “Republican.” He refused many honors and opportunities in public life and took up few direct responsibilities in the life of his city, although his interest in social and educational problems could always be counted on. He was a director of the Springfield Library Association, succeeding his father in 1878 and resigning in 1902. In this capacity he took an active part in establishing one of the best municipal library systems in the country. He also gave a number of years to the board of trade of the city, and was largely rosponsible for Springfield's initiative in the “safe and sane Fourth of July” movement, which later swept over the whole country. Mr. Bowles' home was a quiet center of the city's intellectual life. To strangers he appeared cold and formal, but this was not his demeanor toward those with whom he associated intimately. In extending his friendship he did not consider the “social standing” of the individual, he considered only his character regardless of any other matters. He rarely appeared as a public speaker, but in 1886, when Springfield celebrated its 250th anniversary, he broke the family tradition and spoke for the press. During the last few years of his life he delivered addresses at the University of Missouri, Columbia University, and other educational institutions. He was given the honorary degree of A.M. by Amherst College, of which his father had been a trustee, and in 1912 Olivet College, in Michigan, conferred upon him the degree of L.H.D. In 1913 he was chosen a director of the Associated Press to succeed Frederick Roy Martin of the Providence “Journal” who had become assistant manager of the association under Mr. Stone. Mr. Bowles was keenly interested in the confederated affairs of the newspapers of the United States, and in the Association of Publishers, at whose annual gatherings he was a familiar figure. He was also a member of the Connecticut Valley Historical Society, of the Nayasset, the Economic, the Colony, the Literary, and the Twentieth Century Limited Clubs. On 12 June, 1884, Mr. Bowles married Elizabeth Hoar, daughter of Judge Ebenezer Rockwood Hoar, of Concord, Mass., and brother of the late Senator George Frisbie Hoar. They had two sons: Samuel, engaged as a journalist in Boston, and Sherman, who is connected with a newspaper in Philadelphia.