Skip to main content

John G. Bowman Papers

Identifier: RG05.0001.007

  • Staff Only
  • Please navigate to collection organization to place requests.


The John G. Bowman papers, 1907-1932, bulk 1911-1914, contains correspondence, annual reports, speeches, and materials relating to the Smith-Lever Act of 1914 from the ninth president of the University of Iowa, John Gabbert Bowman.


  • Creation: Majority of material found within 1911-1914
  • Creation: 1907 - 1932


Conditions Governing Access

This collection is open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

Copyright restrictions may apply; please consult Special Collections staff for further information.

Biographical / Historical

The first University of Iowa alumnus to become its president, John Gabbert Bowman was also the school's first Iowa-born chief administrator. The Davenport native received the B.A. degree in 1899, the M.A. in 1904, and the Litt.D. in 1934.

Bowman was born in Daveport, Iowa, on May 18, 1877. He spent two years as a newspaper reporter after receiving his B.A. in 1899 and then returned to the University as an instructor of English. In 1904, he went to Columbia University and was selected as the secretary of the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. He remained in this position until he returned to Iowa to become the president of the State University of Iowa in 1911.

While university president, Bowman oversaw the formation of the colleges of Education and Fine Arts, the latter existing as a college for only a few years until it was reorganized as a school within the College of Liberal Arts. He also promoted the work of the University's Extension Division. Following his departure from Iowa, he became the first director of the American College of Surgeons in 1915. From 1921 to 1945 he was chancellor of the University of Pittsburgh and was its president from 1945 until retiring in 1947.

A controversial educator, Bowman promoted construction of the 42-story Cathedral of Learning at Pittsburgh, over the objections of many faculty members. Completed in 1929, it was at the time the tallest educational structure in the world.

Following his departure from Iowa, he became the first director of the American College of Surgeons in 1915. From 1921 to 1945 he was chancellor of the University of Pittsburgh and was its president from 1945 until retiring in 1947.

He married Florence Ridgway Berry in 1908, and they had two children. He died on December 2, 1962, at age 85.


6.93 Linear Feet (17 containers)

Language of Materials


Method of Acquisition

These papers were transferred to the University Archives from the Office of the President; date undetermined. Guide posted to the Internet December 2006.

Related Materials

Bowman, John Gabbert. The World That Was. New Brunswick, New Jersey: Rutgers University Press, 1947.

Processing Information

From 1911 to 1976, the Office of the University President maintained a name and subject index of correspondence sent to and recieved by the office. However, the index for President Bowman's index (1911-1914) was lost and in 2024, an approximation of the index was created by Rachel Poppen, Collections Archivist, based on the numbered filing system of the correspondence in order to faciliate use of the collection.

This approximation was used in the creation of this finding aid, where the numbers in parenthesees refer to the original numbers given to the correspondence by the Office of the President and the folder titles were inferred by the Collections Archivist. It is likely that some aspects of the approximated index are not true to the original and any special considerations are noted in the item record.

The correspondence remains in its original arrangement, organized by index number and then, chronologically. In the finding aid, the items are arranged alphabetically to mirror the other presidential indices and allow for browsing by name/subject.

If you have any recommendations to change the approximated index, please contact a staff member.

Rachel Poppen
2024 April
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note

Revision Statements

  • 2024 April: Index approximation created by Rachel Poppen (Collections Archivist)
  • 2024 April: Rehoused by Adair Jost (Museum Studies Intern), Sarah Keen (University Archivist), Rachel Poppen (Collections Archivist), and Matrice Young (Student Life Archivist)
  • 2024 June: Vertical file integrated by Rachel Poppen (Collections Archivist)

Repository Details

Part of the University of Iowa Archives Repository

100 Main Library
University of Iowa Libraries
Iowa City IA 52242