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Edwin Freeman Bowker Collection

 Collection
Identifier: CHC030

Collection Description

This collection is composed of five boxes and two flat files containing Edwin F. Bowker’s professional correspondence as a civil engineer and surveyor. Included are surveyor’s notes and records, draft sketches, manual calculations, notes on markers, drawings, plans, transcripts regarding property boundaries from deeds, and correspondence from mid-1886 through 1919.

Dates

  • 1886-1919

Language of Materials

Material is in English.

Access

Collection is available for research under the CHC rules of use. The boxes in this collection are currently stored offsite, requiring forty-eight hours’ advance notice for retrieval purposes.

Copyright Notice

Copyright for materials resides with the creators of the items in question, unless otherwise designated.

It is the responsibility of the researcher to understand and observe copyright law and to identify and satisfy the holders of all copyright. Questions concerning copyright and permission to publish should be directed to the Cambridge Historical Commission Archives.

Historical Note

Edwin Freeman Bowker (1840-1924) was born in Boston, the son of Freeman and Sarah Batchelder [Bowles] Bowker.

From his obituary in the Cambridge Chronicle, June 14, 1924:

“…He graduated from the English high School in 1856 when he was awarded a Franklin Medal for efficiency. He learned his profession of civil engineering from Professor Henck, of the firm of Whitwell and Henck, civil engineers, with offices at 41 State Street, Boston. Mr. Bowker worked for the firm and did the surveying for Boston’s first horse-car railroad. This included track-laying in Jamaica Plain and Dorchester and double-tracking along the side of Boston Common terminating at the burying ground near Park Street Church. In the early [18]60’s Mr. Bowker was one of the engineers engaged in surveying the battleground at Antietam which called for much horseback riding. Before this work was completed he suffered and attack of hay fever and was obliged to return North."

He then entered the employ of the Cambridge Street Department under J. G. Chase, the first City Engineer of Cambridge. He left the city employ in 1872 and has since been engaged in his profession on his own account. Among his larger operations was the laying out of St. Paul’s cemetery, East Arlington. In early manhood Mr. Bowker joined Joseph Warren Lodge, F. & A. M., of Boston.

He married Jane H. Wellington in 1872. In 1905 he became associated with the civil engineering firm of Dana Perkins. He was an enthusiastic musician who played the viola In addition to his professional work as a Civil Engineer and Surveyor he had extensive land holdings in Cambridge and the surrounding towns. He died at home (129 Austin Street, Cambridge) of Bright’s disease on June 11, 1924 and is buried in the Cambridge Cemetery.

Resources consulted:
  1. Cambridge Chronicle. February 28, 1880.
  2. Cambridge Chronicle. May 18, 1901.
  3. Cambridge Chronicle. June 14, 1924.

Extent

5 boxes (2 flat files)

Scope and Content

This collection is composed of five boxes and two flat files containing Edwin F. Bowker’s professional correspondence as a civil engineer and surveyor. Included are surveyor’s notes and records, draft sketches, manual calculations, notes on markers, drawings, plans, transcripts regarding property boundaries from deeds, and correspondence from mid-1886 through 1919.

Many of the tracings are manual copies of the previous surveying work of W. A. Mason (some as early as 1805). Many of the notes regarding properties refer to having been taken from “Cade’s Book.” George L. Cade was Superintendent of Streets in Cambridge from 1864-1876 . The collection also includes an 1861 City map (condition poor) and an engraved map of 1852 by O. Pelton (condition good).

Series I and II are housed in 5 archival cartons and are stored off-site. The five boxes contain approximately 140 folders. Other materials are housed in the CHC flat files and searchable in the Bowker spreadsheet. This portion of the collection contains approximately 90 tracings, schematic drawings, and plans.

Collection Arrangement

The original order of the collection was lost before it came to the Historical Commission. Hence it has been arranged by (1) street and (2) by property owner’s name. All the items have been entered into a spreadsheet which identifies the following information when known: street, street number, description, owner, document date, original surveyor, page/book references from the Registry of Deeds, the folder or flat file currently housing the item, the “Cade Book” reference, and notes. Nearly all the documents relate to Cambridge properties; the few located in other towns are clearly marked.

The spreadsheet of all items in this collection can be found in the internal CHC shared drive under: CHC Library and Archives/Finding Aids/Bowker Collection/Inventory_Bowker.xslx

Additional Materials: A folder in Box #1 contains a flyer from the Joseph Warren Lodge to which Bowker belonged, correspondence re: the “John Reed” lot in Lexington, MA, and excerpts of deeds from 1804-1806 regarding “Lot #30” on an unidentified street.

Physical Location

The 5 boexes of this collection are stored offsite. Otheer materials are housed in the CHC flat files.

Custodial History

The collection is part of Bowker’s papers found by the donor in a sale, and does not represent his entire professional correspondence. It consists of approximately 480 items filed both in folders and flat files.

The bulk of Bowker’s actual surveys were acquired by a dealer and put up for sale on eBay. A few of these plans have been acquired by CHC staff and are included in this collection, housed in the flat files.

Provenance

Gift of Margaret Bernier, October 2017

Related Sources:

For more on Bowker see the CHC Vertical files – Architects -- Bowker.

The CHC has a Field Notebook of E.F. Bowker. SeeCambridge City Engineer Records (CHC066).

Processing Information

Processing and finding aid by Kathleen M. Fox.

Encoded by: Brittany Fox, September 2020.
Title
Inventory of the Edwin Freeman Bowker Collection, 1866-1919
Author
Processing and finding aid by Kathleen M. Fox. Machine-readable finding aid by Brittany Fox, September 2020.
Description rules
Finding Aid Was Prepared Using Dacs
Language of description
English
Script of description
Code for undetermined script
Language of description note
Description is in English.

Repository Details

Part of the Cambridge Historical Commission Archives Repository

Contact:
831 Massachusetts Avenue
2nd Floor
Cambridge Massachusetts 02139 US
617-349-4683