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Rowan (Andrew Summers) papers
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Collection Details
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  • Access
  • Use
  • Acquisition Information
  • Preferred Citation
  • Biographical Note
  • Scope and Content of Collection

  • Title: Andrew Summers Rowan papers
    Date (bulk): 1898-1930
    Collection Number: 45008
    Contributing Institution: Hoover Institution Library and Archives
    Language of Material: In English, Spanish, and Italian
    Physical Description: 6 manuscript boxes, 4 oversize boxes, 2 oversize folders (8.5 Linear Feet)
    Abstract: Writings, correspondence, military orders, maps, photographs, clippings, and reports relating to the exploit of Andrew Summers Rowan in carrying the "message to Garcia" during the Spanish-American War, and to other American military activities in Cuba and in the Philippines during the Philippine-American War.
    Creator: Rowan, Andrew Summers
    Physical Location: Hoover Institution Library & Archives


    The collection is open for research; materials must be requested in advance via our reservation system. If there are audiovisual or digital media material in the collection, they must be reformatted before providing access.


    For copyright status, please contact the Hoover Institution Library & Archives.

    Acquisition Information

    Acquired by the Hoover Institution Library & Archives in 1945.

    Preferred Citation

    [Identification of item], Andrew Summers Rowan papers, [Box no., Folder no. or title], Hoover Institution Library & Archives.

    Biographical Note

    Andrew Summers Rowan was born April 23, 1857 in Gap Mills, Virginia. He graduated from West Point in 1881 and was commissioned into the U.S. Army as second lieutenant. With his regiment he served on various special projects, including inspecting the Mississippi River flood of 1897. From 1891 to 1892, Rowan was in charge of barometric hypsometry of the Intercontinental Railway Survey in Central America, which brought him to Guatemala and Mexico. In 1896, Rowan, along with coauthor Marathon Montrose Ramsey, published the book The Island of Cuba: A Descriptive and Historical Account of the "Great Antilla."
    Prior to the outbreak of the Spanish-American War, President William McKinley asked Colonel Arthur L. Wagner if he knew of someone who could get a message to General Calixto García, a leader among the Cuban rebels, whose whereabouts were then unknown. Anticipating that war with Spain would soon be declared, President McKinley wanted to reach out to the Cuban insurgents in hopes of gaining their allegiance. Col. Wagner recommended Rowan for the task, and he was sent to Jamaica to await further instruction.
    On April 21, 1898, the same day the US officially declared war on Spain, Rowan received a ciphered cablegram telling him to join García. After making the treacherous journey to Cuba, Rowan successfully located García at his camp in the Oriente Mountains, where he gained the general's favor and was able to secure valuable information about the Spanish forces in Cuba. Additionally, General García sent five of his men back with Rowan to Washington, D.C., in order to give the US additional intelligence information.
    Rowan was highly regarded for the role he played in the war by meeting with General García, known as "the message to García." In 1899, Elbert Hubbard published A Message to Garcia, a short essay praising Rowan's mission in Cuba and lamenting on the difficulty in finding employees who complete assignments efficiently, take initiative when challenges arise, and follow instructions without question. The essay became extremely popular, especially among schoolteachers, industry employers, and the military. It was translated into several languages and was the inspiration for two motion pictures of the same title, the first produced in 1916 and the second in 1936. Additionally, the phrase "to take a message to García" became a popular American slang term for taking initiative. Rowan wrote his own account of his mission to Cuba, How I Carried the Message to García, published in 1922.
    Following his mission to find General García, Rowan briefly returned to Cuba before completing two tours of service in the Philippines during the Philippine Insurrection, also known as the Philippine-American War. He served in the region of Cebu from 1899 to 1900 and in Bohol from 1900 to 1902. He was awarded the Silver Star Citation for his gallantry during the attack on Sudlon Mountain in Cebu and received the Distinguished Service Cross for his service in Cuba. Rowan retired from the military in 1909 and died on January 10, 1943, in San Francisco.

    Scope and Content of Collection

    The Andrew Summers Rowan papers contain writings, correspondence, military orders, maps, photographs, clippings, and reports relating to his exploit in carrying the "message to Garcia" during the Spanish-American War, and to other American military activities in Cuba and in the Philippines during the Philippine-American War. The collection contains material dating from 1730 to 1940, with the majority dating from 1898 to 1930.
    A majority of the material found in the collection pertains to Rowan's mission to meet with General Calixto García in April of 1898 and the recognition he received from it. The Cuba section of the Military File contains items from Rowan's exploit to Cuba deemed as being particularly significant by him that he arranged in numerical order. Among these materials are Rowan's official report of the mission written in 1922, a handwritten letter General García wrote to the U.S. Secretary of War that Rowan delivered upon his return from Cuba (Box/Folder 3:12), and ciphered cablegrams Rowan received while in Jamaica awaiting orders to join General García in Cuba (Box/Folder 3:11). Copies of deciphered cablegrams (Box/Folder 2:2) and other correspondence Rowan received during this mission can be found in the Correspondence series. Additionally, maps of Cuba that Rowan used during his mission can be found in the Oversize Material series.
    Clippings and ephemera relating to Rowan's exploit in Cuba are included in multiple scrapbooks located in the Scrapbooks series. These scrapbooks also contain clippings regarding anniversaries of Rowan's mission to Cuba and Elbert Hubbard's essay A Message to García. For a printed copy of Hubbard's essay, see the Printed Matter series. Drafts of Rowan's own account of his experience in Cuba, How I Carried the Message to García, are located in Writings.
    Rowan's military service in Bohol and Cebu during the Philippine-American War is documented in the Writings, Military File, Photographs, and Scrapbooks series. The Oversize Material series also contains maps, flags, and a handkerchief captured by Rowan while in the Philippines.
    Additionally, the collection includes material relating to Rowan's early military career, including hypsometric work in Guatemala, which can be found in the Journals and Photographs series.

    Subjects and Indexing Terms

    Philippines -- History -- Philippine American War, 1899-1902
    Spanish-American War, 1898
    Cuba -- History -- Revolution, 1895-1898
    United States. Army