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A guide to the Alphonzo B. Bowers papers, 1657-1926
HDC1618 (SAFR 22225)  
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Collection Details
 
Table of contents What's This?
  • Access
  • Publication and Use Rights
  • Preferred Citation
  • Acquisition Information
  • Historical or Biographical Note
  • Collection Scope and Content
  • Collection Arrangement

  • Title: Alphonzo B. Bowers papers
    Date: 1657-1926
    Date (bulk): 1863-1926
    Identifier/Call Number: HDC1618 (SAFR 22225)
    Creator/Collector: Bowers, Alphonzo Benjamin
    Physical Description: 18.30 linear feet
    Repository: San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park, Historic Documents Department
    Building E, Fort Mason
    San Francisco, CA 94123
    Abstract: The Alphonzo B. Bowers Papers, (SAFR 22225, HDC 1618) consists of correspondence, drawings, patent bulletins, court proceedings and images regarding the inventor, Alphonzo Benjamin Bowers (1830-circa 1926) and the development of the hydraulic dredge and system and infringement lawsuits. Inclusive dates are 1657-1925 and bulk dates are 1863-1925. The collection has been processed to the file unit level and is open for use with no restrictions.
    Physical Location: San Franicsco Maritime NHP, Historic Documents Department
    Language(s): In English. --In Spanish --In French.

    Access

    This collection is open for use unless otherwise noted.

    Publication and Use Rights

    Some material may be copyrighted or restricted. It is the researcher's obligation to determine and satisfy copyright or other case restrictions when publishing or otherwise distributing materials found in the collections.

    Preferred Citation

    [Item description], [Location within collection organization identified by Collection Number/Series Number/File Unit Number/Item Number], HDC1618 (SAFR 22225), Alphonzo B. Bowers papers, San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park

    Acquisition Information

    SAFR-02102
    SAFR-02162
    The collection was retained by Bowers' caregiver after his death and donated to San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park in 2010.

    Historical or Biographical Note

    Alphonzo B. Bowers, Alphonzo Benjamin Hay-Thompson Bowers or A. B. Bowers, was the inventor and patentee of the hydraulic dredger and the hydraulic system. He was born September 25, 1830, in West Baldwin, Maine. He was the son of Sarah (Hay) Bowers and Wilder Bowers, both of Maine. He moved to San Francisco is 1867. The 1910 United States Federal Census has Bowers recorded as living in New York City at the age of 79 and the 1920 U.S. Census has him listed as living in Lynn, Massachusetts at the age of 89. Bowers' documents his age as 96 in his autobiography. Information posted on Bowers.com states he passed away at the age of 95.
    Bowers' health began to decline in his early twenties. In turn, he traveled to California by way of the Isthmus of Panama in 1853. He taught at several schools in Sonoma County, California. In 1863, he was employed to finish a farm map of the county and was never paid for it. To record this event he wrote and published HISTORY OF THE BOWERS MAP. In San Francisco, he built models of his hydraulic dredging inventions. He contracted typhoid fever and remained unemployed. In 1873, he was appointed Secretary of a Board of Engineers to remodel the Mare Island Navy Yard in Vallejo, California.
    It appears the Patent Office delayed processing of his applications for several years. He could not afford an attorney and so began his study of patent laws and traveling to Washington to secure the patents. In 1884, he was successful in completing 12 invention patents. A patent bulletin from May 26, 1885 shows and describes patent number 318,859 as the A. B. Bowers Dredging Machine and A. B. Bowers as the inventor.
    In 1888, Bowers' sued Colonel A. W. Von Schmidt for infringement and won. This suit was the basis for many future lawsuits regarding infringement of his patents. Some of the companies sued were Williams & Bixler, the Golden State and Miners Iron Works, the San Francisco Bridge Company, and the Pacific Coast Dredging and Reclamation Company (San Francisco), L. W. Bates of Chicago and the New York Dredging Company. An 1897 appeal case ruling declared Bowers to be the inventor of the hydraulic system of dredging.
    After moving back to the northeastern United States, he continued fighting infringement battles and wrote journal articles regarding hydraulic dredges, politics, engineering, the economy and religion.

    Collection Scope and Content

    The Alphonzo B. Bowers Papers, (SAFR 22225, HDC 1618) consists of correspondence, drawings, patent bulletins, court proceedings and images regarding the inventor, Alphonzo Benjamin Bowers (1830-circa 1926) and the development of the hydraulic dredge and system and infringement lawsuits. Inclusive dates are 1657-1925 and bulk dates are 1863-1925. The collection has been processed to the file unit level and is open for use with no restrictions.
    Affidavits and exhibit drawings from specific courts cases, United States Patent Office documents, illustrations, and correspondence in the form of written letters and telegrams record A. B. Bowers infringement lawsuits against several entities. New York Dredging Company, Atlantic Gulf and Pacific Company, Roderick G. Ross, San Francisco Bridge Company, and Steers make up the largest volume of lawsuit documents. Much of the correspondence is between Bowers and Miller, his attorney. Documents cover mostly California but due to Bowers contracting for various projects and providing licenses for use of the hydraulic dredge, Cuba, Oregon, Mississippi, Indiana and New York are represented as well. Subjects not pertaining directly to lawsuits include: Bowers' family history, dredge history drafts, agreements and licenses, Aladdin Coal Mining Company, American Magnesite Company, patent bulletins, dredging contracts, Physician's Who's Who Publishing Company, receipts, Packard Gun Company, Los Angeles Harbor Company, and San Fernando Sugar Plantation.

    Collection Arrangement

    Organized in 7 series: Series 1. Autobiographical and Bowers family history, undated and 1864-1925. Series 2. Bound volumes and publications, 1866-1918. Series 3. Correspondence, undated and 1885-1925. Series 4. Drafts, undated and 1863-1902. Series 5. Dredge images, undated and 1657-1923. Series 6. Legal proceedings, undated and 1858-1917. Series 7. Subject files, undated and 1830-1926.
    The papers were arranged in seven series keeping any original order and then according to material type. Series 1, 4, and 5 are original groupings and the contents retain original order. Series 2, 6, and 7 are also original groupings but the contents have been arranged in alphabetical and then ascending chronological order. Series 3 retains orginal grouping with its contents in ascending chronlogical order.

    Subjects and Indexing Terms

    Dredges.
    Dredges--California--History
    Dredging.
    Hydraulic engineering.
    Bowers, Alphonzo Benjamin
    California
    Blueprints
    glass negative
    technical drawings
    vandyke photoprints
    Photographic prints
    Patents
    Maps
    Engineer
    Channels (Hydraulic engineering)