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Series 3: Samuel Bowles III and Mary S. D. Schermerhorn, circa 1844-1904

 Series — Multiple Containers

Scope and Contents

Series 3, "Samuel Bowles III and Mary S.D. Schermerhorn," is comprised of a wide range of material with an emphasis on correspondence. The correspondence sub-series consist of outgoing letters from Sam and Mary to their children, to each other, and to friends, as well as incoming correspondence to them from family members and friends.


  • circa 1844-1904

Conditions Governing Access

There is no restriction on access to the Bowles-Hoar Family Papers for research use. Particularly fragile items may be restricted for preservation purposes.

Biographical / Historical

Samuel Bowles III was the third child of Samuel and Huldah Deming Bowles. He was born in Springfield, Massachusetts on February 9, 1826, and, except for brief trips to other places and a short stint in Boston, lived in that small city all his life. He was perhaps the "First Citizen of Springfield," and it's likely that everyone in town knew who he was, and many knew him personally or felt that they did when they passed him in the street. Sam was a huge personality, the kind of person who filled a room and drew people to him. He had many friends -- men and women -- and his attachment to them and theirs to him was strong.

On the basis of Sam's letters to women friends, some modern writers have regarded Sam as a libertine and treated this idea as the salient aspect of his personality. While it is absolutely true that he was fond of women -- admired them, believed in their abilities, enjoyed their society -- he also wrote to friends like Charles Allen in much the same, sentimental way. He was in general a sentimental man. Additionally, while it spices up an article, biography, or film, seeing him this way misses the conservatism (small "c") of his family life, the genuine religiosity and deep belief in the importance of family. These characteristics are in evidence throughout the materials in Series 3; in fact, one sees them carried through explicitly in the next generation, where Sam's children evince this same attachment to family writ large: the Bowleses stuck together.

Sam Bowles experienced a lifetime of ill health, particularly in connection with his bowels, about which a researcher would find ample evidence, but many aspects of his health were probably attributable to, or at least exacerbated by, the high stress and long hours of his work. He took several "cures" for his ailments, including a visit to Dr. Deniston's in Northampton, but he doesn't seem to have enjoyed a long stretch of good health after perhaps the mid-1860s, and most later photographs reveal the toll of what he endured. After an illness of several months, Sam died at the age of 51 in January, 1878.

Quite a lot has been published about Sam Bowles, including a two-volume biography by George Spring Merriam, "The Life and Times of Samuel Bowles" (1885). This biography is old-fashioned by today's standards, but it contains information that Merriam had firsthand from Sam's children, wife, friends, colleagues -- in short, from anyone who knew Bowles and was still alive and able to be interviewed or corresponded with at the time Merriam was writing. It is therefore still the most important resource for information about Sam Bowles. The collection, especially Series 3, Sub-series F, contains the original correspondence that Merriam used, as well as the correspondence he didn't use, or that wasn't shared with him. This material is a way to both confirm and expand on Merriam's work.

Mary Sanford Dwight Schermerhorn was born on August 14, 1827, to Henry Van Rensselaer Schermerhorn and Hannah Buckminster Dwight of Geneva, N.Y. Mary was the oldest of three children born to the couple. Her father was a lawyer for nearly twenty years and then retired to run his farm. When Hannah died in 1838, Mary went to live with Dwight relatives in Springfield, Massachusetts. There she attended the “Old High School” at 77 Maple Street in Springfield, where she met Samuel Bowles III. Mary and Sam were married at her father’s Geneva home in 1848 but returned to Springfield to live in the Bowles family home until 1852, when they moved into their own home on Maple Street. Later, they moved to a home on Central Street -- her husband's last home, and Mary's for most of the next fifteen years. Mary died in 1893.

Although the limited published information about Mary (such as in biographies of or articles about Emily Dickinson) tends to present her as meek when young and dour when old, the picture that emerges from the collection is quite different, showing her command in running her large household and admitting a constant stream of cosmopolitan visitors to the family home, including prominent politicians, judicial figures, journalists, artists, and many, many relatives and friends. While performing these duties, she also endured ten pregnancies, three of which ended in miscarriage. She adored her husband and, by his own description, gave him "latitude," allowing for his effusive, outgoing personality and providing a stable foundation for the demands of his work. She was, in fact, a strong figure, not a weak one, at least not until the death of her beloved husband. Her surviving seven children remained devoted to her all their lives.


From the Collection: 50.0 Linear feet (41 records boxes, 6 archives boxes, 2 1/2-archives boxes, 8 flat boxes, 2 small boxes)

Language of Materials

From the Collection: English


Series 3 is comprised of 8 sub-series:

  1. Sub-series A: Samuel III and Mary S. D. Schermerhorn Bowles: Personal Affairs, circa 1850-1910
  2. Sub-series B: Samuel III and Mary S. D. Schermerhorn Bowles: Incoming Correspondence--General, circa 1853-1881
  3. Sub-series C: Samuel III and Mary D.S. Bowles: Incoming Correspondence from Their Daughters, circa 1859-1891
  4. Sub-series D: Samuel Bowles III: Outgoing Correspondence -- General, 1844-1877, 1904
  5. Sub-series E: Samuel III and Mary S.D. Schermerhorn Bowles: Outgoing Correspondence to Each Other, circa 1850-1876
  6. Sub-series F: Samuel Bowles III: Outgoing Correspondence to Charles Allen, 1851-1876
  7. Sub-series G: Samuel III and Mary S.D. Schermerhorn Bowles: Outgoing Correspondence to Their Children, 1860-1884
  8. Sub-series H: Samuel III and Mary S.D. Schermerhorn Bowles: Miscellaneous Materials, circa 1850-1893

A Note about Incoming Correspondence

Note that incoming correspondence from family will be from family members who do not have their own series in the collection; that is, in this series there is correspondence to Sam and Mary from all or nearly all their children except his son Samuel Bowles IV, who has a series of his own, and whose correspondence to his parents is filed in his series.

See also the arrangement notes at each sub-series.

Repository Details

Part of the Amherst College Archives and Special Collections Repository

Amherst College Archives & Special Collections
Robert Frost Library
61 Quadrangle Drive
Amherst MA 01002-5000
(413) 542-2299