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Charles Fowler Letters, 1900-1997 (bulk 1904-1910): Finding Aid

Published in May 2017

Summary Information

  • Publisher: United States Naval Academy. Special Collections & Archives.
  • Publisher Address:
    589 McNair Road
    Annapolis, Maryland 21402-5029, USA
    Phone: 410-293-6917
    https://www.usna.edu/Library/sca/index.php
  • Call number: MS 445
  • Location: Special Collections & Archives Department - Manuscripts
  • Title: Charles Fowler Letters
  • Dates: 1900-1997
  • Bulk Dates: 1904-1910
  • Size: 3.4 linear feet (2 manuscript boxes, 1 half-manuscript box, 2 flat boxes)
  • Creator: Fowler, Charles Smith, -1943
  • Language(s) of material: English
  • Abstract: Charles Smith Fowler was an enlisted sailor and Paymaster's Clerk in the United States Navy. The Charles Fowler Letters and their associated documentation span from 1900 to 1997, with the bulk of the material spanning from 1904 to 1910. The collection focuses on Fowler's service in the U.S. Navy Asiatic Fleet, the life and routine of enlisted sailors, and efforts to publish Fowler's letters.

Biography of Charles Smith Fowler

Charles Smith Fowler was born on October 14, 1883 in Minneapolis, Kansas. In May 1904, Fowler and his brother, Fred, left their childhood home in Denver, Colorado for Oregon. Eventually settling in Portland, Fowler secured employment with Portland General Electric Company. Following Fred Fowler's return to Denver in September 1904, Charles Fowler moved to San Francisco where he enlisted in the United States Navy in December 1904.

Following training at Goat Island and aboard U.S.S. Buffalo (Auxiliary cruiser), Fowler was attached to the Asiatic Fleet, where he served aboard U.S.S. Oregon (Battleship: BB-3), U.S.S. Monadnock (Monitor: BM-3), and U.S.S. Mohican (Screw sloop-of-war) at Olongapo Naval Station. In 1907, Fowler accepted an appointment as a Paymaster's Clerk, serving in such capacity at Olongapo Naval Station and aboard U.S.S. Chattanooga (Protected cruiser: C-16) and U.S.S. Mohican.

In December 1909, Fowler was transferred to U.S.S. Denver (Protected cruiser: C-14) for his return to the United States and release from active duty. Following his return to civilian life in April 1910, Fowler took a job installing railroad block signals for the Union Switch and Signal Company. On July 18, 1914, Fowler married Mary Catherine Johnson of Milwaukee (with whom he would ultimately have five sons), and began working as a clerk for the Milwaukee District of the Milwaukee Road Railroad six months later. In 1920, Fowler joined the Otis Elevator Company, where he would spend the rest of his career. Charles Smith Fowler died in 1943 following successive bouts of pneumonia.

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Description of Contents

The Charles Fowler Letters and their associated documentation, comprising 1.7 linear feet of documentation, span from 1900 to 1997, with the bulk of the material spanning from 1904 to 1910. The collection focuses on Fowler's service in the U.S. Navy Asiatic Fleet, the life and routine of enlisted sailors, and efforts to publish Fowler's letters.

Included in the collection are letters, postcards, photographs, orders, event programs, pamphlets, telegrams, and draft manuscripts.

The Charles Fowler Letters are organized into three series by document type and topic. Series 1: Letters and Documents consists primarily of letters written by Fowler to his sister, Clare Grabill, as well as several documents that were likely enclosures of the letters. The letters focus on the circumstances of Fowler's enlistment in the United States Navy, his service with the Asiatic Fleet, and the everyday life of an enlisted sailor. Postcards purchased and sent by Fowler from Asia, as well as photographs taken by Fowler, are found in Series 2: Postcards, Photographs, and Ephemera. While many of the postcards are blank, several include correspondence between Fowler and Grabill. Series 3: Publication and Research Files documents the efforts of Naval Academy Professor Rodney Tomlinson to publish Fowler's letters and includes correspondence with Fowler's children, copies of images used throughout the publication, and drafts and proposals by Tomlinson. Scattered across all three series are pieces of ephemera pertaining to Fowler's various duty stations, including event programs, menus, and calendars.

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Arrangement

The Charles Fowler Letters are organized into the following three series:

  • Series 1: Letters and Documents, 1904-1910
  • Series 2: Postcards, Photographs and Ephemera, 1900-1920
  • Series 3: Publication and Research Files, 1900-1997
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Access and Use

Access

Access is unrestricted.

Copyright and Permission

The Charles Fowler Letters are the physical property of Nimitz Library. Copyright belongs to the authors or creators of the works, or their legal representatives. For further information, consult the Head, Special Collections & Archives.

It is the responsibility of the researcher to secure written permission to publish, reprint, or reproduce material from Special Collections & Archives. The researcher assumes responsibility for infringement of copyright or literary or publication rights. Please contact the Head, Special Collections & Archives for permission to publish and for further information.

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Acquisition and Appraisal

Custodial History

The Charles Fowler Letters were transferred to Special Collections & Archives by Rodney G. Tomlinson in January 2017.

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Related Materials

Related Archival Material

There are no other known collections of papers of Charles Smith Fowler.

Materials Cataloged Separately

No materials have been removed from this collection and cataloged separately.

Publications Citing These Papers

An annotated edition of the letters in this collection was published in A Rocky Mountain Sailor in Teddy Roosevelt's Navy: The Letters of Petty Officer Charles Fowler from the Asiatic Station.

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Processing and Other Information

Preferred Citation

Charles Fowler Letters, MS 445

Special Collections & Archives Department

Nimitz Library

United States Naval Academy

Selected Bibliography

The following sources were consulted during preparation of the biographical note:

Tomlinson, Rodney G., ed. A Rocky Mountain Sailor in Teddy Roosevelt's Navy: The Letters of Petty Officer Charles Fowler from the Asiatic Station. Boulder, Colorado: Westview Press, 1998.

Processing Information

This collection was processed by David D'Onofrio in May 2017. Finding aid written by David D'Onofrio in May 2017.

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Subject Headings

These materials have been indexed in the Naval Academy Library online catalog using the following terms. Those seeking related materials should search under these terms.

Name and Subject Terms

  • Buffalo (Auxiliary cruiser)
  • Chattanooga (Protected cruiser : C-16)
  • Denver (Protected cruiser : C-14)
  • Fowler family
  • Fowler, Charles Smith, -1943
  • Fowler, Charles Smith, -1943 -- Correspondence
  • Grabill, Clare Fowler
  • Grabill, Clare Fowler -- Correspondence
  • Mohican (Screw sloop-of-war)
  • Monadnock (Monitor : BM-3)
  • Navy-yards and naval stations -- Philippines -- Olongapo
  • Philippines -- Description and travel
  • Sailors -- United States -- Correspondence
  • Sailors -- United States -- Social life and customs
  • Tomlinson, Rodney George
  • United States. Navy -- Warrant officers -- Correspondence
  • United States. Navy. Asiatic Fleet

Genre Terms

  • Correspondence
  • Manuscripts
  • Orders (military records)
  • Photographs
  • Postcards
  • Printed ephemera
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Contents List

Series 1: Letters and Documents, 1904-1910 Box 1

Series Description

Letters sent by Fowler to his sister, Clare Grabill, focusing largely on the everyday life of an enlisted sailor in the U.S. Asiatic Fleet. The letters the Grabill, the first of which is 206 pages long, were written from Fowler's duty stations aboard U.S.S. Oregon, U.S.S. Monadnock, U.S.S. Mohican, U.S.S. Chattanooga, and U.S.S. Denver, and cover subjects such as Fowler's assignments and daily routine as both a yeoman and a pay clerk, the movements of other ships of the Asiatic Fleet, comments on various books and publications, and life in the Philippines, particularly Olongapo. The letters also include inquiries about Grabill's life and experiences, as well as Fowler's own introspection.

Included among the letters written by Fowler are several telegrams, as well as letters written by his sister, Clare, and brother, Fred.

Filed at the end of the series are miscellaneous documents, including several of Fowler's orders, assorted bills for goods purchased throughout Asia, and general orders and rosters of the Asiatic Fleet.

Series Arrangement

Arranged chronologically by date and duty station.

Box 1 Folder 1

Letters Sent, 1904

From Portland, Oregon. Relocation from Denver to Portland, work for Portland General Electric, and likelihood of leaving Portland. Includes letter to Fowler's parents and brother in addition to his sister, Clare.

Box 1 Folder 2

Letters Sent, 1906 January 24-February 18

From U.S.S. Oregon, Cavite, Philippines. Circumstances of Fowler's enlistment and naval training, attachment to U.S.S. Oregon on the Asiatic Station, cruises in Chinese waters, the Taft mission to Asia, Navy life (uniforms, hammocks, mess, daily routine, pay, discipline, drills, coaling), life on Goat Island (Yerba Buena Island), training aboard U.S.S. Buffalo, desertions, transfer to the Asiatic Station aboard U.S.S. Lawton, and transfer to U.S.S. Monadnock at Canton.

Box 1 Folder 3

Letters Sent, 1906 March 11

From U.S.S. Monadnock, Canton, China. Fleet organization and hierarchy, descriptions of different classes of vessels, Admiral's inspection, organization of the Asiatic Station, sampans and junks, Chinese scavenging, fighting fires in Canton, rickshaws, Chinese currency, and poverty in China.

Box 1 Folder 4

Letters Sent, 1906 March 18-23

From U.S.S. Monadnock, Canton, China. Perceptions of bluejackets, description of Honolulu, voyage from Honolulu to Guam aboard U.S.S. Lawton, spoiled food served at sea, and description of Guam.

Box 1 Folder 5

Letters Sent, 1906 March 27

From U.S.S. Monadnock, Canton, China. Description of Chefoo (Yantai), difficulty with a Kodak camera, Chinese metal and wood workers, Chinese food and eating habits, Chinese mills, and growing anti-American sentiment.

Box 1 Folder 6

Letters Sent, 1906 May 22-28

From U.S.S. Monadnock, Cavite, Philippines. Lament over a lack of personal interests and ambition, ease of Navy life, and difficulties in finding time to write.

Box 1 Folder 7

Letters Sent, 1906 May 30-June 6

From U.S.S. Monadnock, Cavite, Philippines. Memorial day exercises, loss of all personal belongings in San Francisco earthquake, mail in the Navy, local newspapers, Filipino cockfighting, Filipino dress, and sightseeing in and description of Manila.

Box 1 Folder 8

Letters Sent, 1906 June 10-28

From U.S.S. Monadnock, Cavite, Philippines. Potential of transfer to U.S.S. Helena, suspicion of financial reforms, phosphorescence in Manila Bay, Clare's recent marriage, orderly duty, Scandinavian immigrants in the Navy, and impending transfer to U.S.S. Mohican at Olongapo.

Box 1 Folder 9

Letters Sent, 1906 August-October

From U.S.S. Mohican, Olongapo, Philippines. Transfer to U.S.S. Mohican, explanation of Navy clerical work and log keeping, ships' departments, conduct and discipline, liberty in Subic, relative freedom aboard U.S.S. Mohican, and a tug collision.

Box 1 Folder 10

Letters Sent, 1906 November

From U.S.S. Mohican, Olongapo, Philippines. Weather in the Philippines, transient nature of life aboard U.S.S. Mohican, ship's library, the supply allowance book, and the Naval Station at Olongapo.

Box 1 Folder 11

Letters Sent, 1906 December

From U.S.S. Mohican, Olongapo, Philippines. Filipino fishing, fires in Olongapo, Filipino clothing and manner of dress, family relations and rationale for enlisting, conducting a ship-wide inventory, and Christmas celebrations.

Box 1 Folder 12

Letters Sent, 1907 January

From U.S.S. Mohican, Olongapo, Philippines. New Years Eve ball, celebrations for Rizal in Olongapo, description of landscape around Olongapo, hiking in the Philippines, description of the various yeomen aboard, and progress of ship-wide inventory. Includes several sailors' prayers.

Box 1 Folder 13

Letters Sent, 1907 February-April

From U.S.S. Mohican, Olongapo, Philippines. Mohican's change of command, thoughts on socialism, liberty in Manila, the "big four" battleships, affection for a fellow yeoman, and progress of the ship-wide inventory.

Box 1 Folder 14

Letters Sent, 1907 May-June

From U.S.S. Mohican, Olongapo, Philippines. Vegetarianism in the Navy, listless nature of duty aboard U.S.S. Mohican, mangoes, entertainment by the Orpheum Company, and various rumors aboard ship.

Box 1 Folder 15

Letters Sent, 1907 July-August

From U.S.S. Mohican, Olongapo, Philippines. Grabill's recent land acquisitions and sudden fleet mobilization orders.

Box 1 Folder 16

Letters Sent, 1907 August-September

From U.S. Naval Station, Olongapo, Philippines. Fowler's appointment and duties as a Paymaster's Clerk, and family affairs.

Box 1 Folder 17

Letters Sent, 1907 December

From U.S. Naval Station, Olongapo, Philippines. Secretary of War Taft's visit to Olongapo, duties as Paymaster's Clerk, Christmas celebrations, and a Filipino festival in Olongapo.

Box 1 Folder 18

Letters Sent, 1908 January-July

From U.S. Naval Station, Olongapo, Philippines. Pay clerk duties, Washington's Birthday celebrations, Japanese and Chinese mess stewards, civilian career prospects, personal finances, family affairs, recollections of Portland, liberty in Manila, and bouts of dengue fever.

Box 1 Folder 19

Letters Sent, 1908 August-November

From U.S. Naval Station, Olongapo, Philippines. Excursion up the Santa Rita River, the Negritos of Tiboa Bay, Fowler's photography, and possible impending discharge from the Navy.

Box 1 Folder 20

Letters Sent, 1908 December-1909 June

From U.S.S. Chattanooga, Cavite, Olongapo, Hong Kong, and Yokohama. Transfer to U.S.S. Chattanooga, Zamboanga and Parang, New Year's celebrations, praise for Chinese mess attendants, requests to work at his brother's business, the purchase of various curios, and complaints regarding Chattanooga's Paymaster Lathrop.

Box 1 Folder 21

Letters Sent, 1909 July-August

From U.S.S. Mohican, Olongapo, Philippines. Transfer to Olongapo aboard U.S.S. Buffalo, hiking in Olongapo, and continued work for Paymaster Lathrop.

Box 1 Folder 22

Letters Sent, 1909 September-December

From U.S.S. Mohican, Olongapo, Philippines. Family affairs, desires to resign or be discharged, curios and souvenirs, and difficulties with Paymaster Lathrop.

Box 1 Folder 23

Letters Sent, 1909 December-1910 March

From U.S.S. Denver. Transfer to Denver for return to U.S., reflections on reclusiveness, and decommissioning the Denver.

Box 1 Folder 24

Letters Sent, 1910 March-April

From San Francisco and en route to Vermillion, South Dakota. Settling accounts in San Francisco and plans for traveling to Denver and Vermillion after discharge. Includes two telegrams sent after Fowler's return to the United States.

Box 1 Folder 25

Letters Sent, undated

Primarily cover letters and notes transmitting photographs.

Box 1 Folder 26

Letters Sent - Fred Fowler, 1904

Box 1 Folder 27

Letters Received, 1906-1908

Letters and postcard received from J. S. Irwin, Fowler's sister Clare, and Paymaster Haff, the latter of which is attached to a set of Fowler's orders.

Box 1 Folder 28

Bills and Receipts, 1909

Bills and receipts for items purchased for Fowler's family in Asia.

Box 1 Folder 29

Fleet Rosters and Orders, 1903-1908

Box 1 Folder 30

Orders, 1907

Orders detaching Fowler from U.S.S. Chattanooga for duty aboard U.S.S. Mohican at Olongapo.

Box 1 Folder 31

Vouchers, 1907

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Series 2: Postcards, Photographs and Ephemera, 1900-1920 Boxes 2-4 [OS]

Series Description

Postcards, photographs, and to a lesser extent, ephemera sent by Fowler to his sister, Clare Grabill. The photographs and postcards primarily depict landscapes and cityscapes in China, Japan, and the Philippines during the early 1900s. In addition to the photographs and postcards, the series includes two calendars and two ribbons, as well as a selection of event programs, menus, notes, letters, and greeting cards pertaining to Clare Grabill.

Series Arrangement

Arranged alphabetically by document type, thereunder by topic.

Box 2 Folder 1

Calendars, 1909-1910

Two calendars featuring images from the Philippines.

Box 2 Folder 2

Clare Grabill Items, 1900-1912

Event programs, menus, notes, letters, and greeting cards kept by Fowler's sister, Clare.

Box 4 [OS] Folder 1

Photograph and Ephemera Binder, 1905-1909, 1995

Originals and copies of photographs and postcards from Hawaii, U.S.S. Oregon, U.S.S. Villalobos, Cavite, Olongapo Naval Base, U.S.S. Mohican, floating drydock U.S.S. Dewey, Subic Bay, Filipino Negritos and Moros, and U.S.S. Denver. Also includes programs for shipboard events.

Box 2 Folder 3

Photographs - China, undated

Photographs taken by Fowler.

Box 2 Folder 4

Photographs - China, undated

Commercial photographs of temples and pagodas.

Box 2 Folder 5

Photographs - Luby Tombstone, undated

Box 2 Folder 6

Photographs - U.S.S. Mohican, 1908, undated

Box 2 Folder 7

Photographs - Philippines, 1908, undated

Images of Olongapo Naval Station and locals.

Box 2 Folder 8

Photographs - Portraits and Family, 1920, undated

Box 2 Folder 9-10

Photographs - Portraits and Family, undated

Box 2 Folder 11

Photographs - Unidentified, undated

Box 2 Folder 12

Postcards - Borneo, 1909, undated

Box 2 Folder 13

Postcards - China (Canton), 1906, undated

Box 2 Folder 14

Postcards - China (Chefoo/Yantai), 1906, undated

Box 2 Folder 15

Postcards - China (Hong Kong), 1906-1909, undated

Also includes images of Chinese life and funerals.

Box 2 Folder 16

Postcards - China (Macau), undated

Box 2 Folder 17

Postcards - China (Shanghai), 1906, undated

Box 2 Folder 18

Postcards - Korea (Yuensan), undated

Box 2 Folder 19

Postcards - Japan (Hakodate), undated

Box 2 Folder 20

Postcards - Japan (Kamakura), 1909, undated

Box 2 Folder 21

Postcards - Japan (Kobe), 1909, undated

Box 2 Folder 22

Postcards - Japan (Nagasaki), 1908

Box 2 Folder 23

Postcards - Japan (Nikko), 1909, undated

Includes a picture book from the Kanaya Hotel.

Box 2 Folder 24

Postcards - Japan (Osaka), 1909, undated

Box 2 Folder 25

Postcards - Japan (People), 1908-1909, undated

Box 2 Folder 26

Postcards - Japan (Tokyo), undated

Box 2 Folder 27

Postcards - Japan (Woodblock Prints), 1909, undated

Box 2 Folder 28

Postcards - Philippines (General), 1908, undated

Includes a picture book.

Box 2 Folder 29

Postcards - Philippines (Manila), 1906-1908, undated

Box 2 Folder 30

Postcards - Philippines (People), 1906-1908

Box 2 Folder 31

Postcards - Russia (Vladivostok), undated

Box 2 Folder 32

Postcards - Ships, 1908

Box 3 Folder 1

Postcards - United States, 1910, undated

Images from San Francisco, Mare Island, and University of South Dakota at Vermillion.

Box 3 Folder 2

Postcards - Miscellaneous, undated

Box 3 Folder 3

Ribbons, undated

Cap ribbons for U.S.S. Denver and U.S.S. Oregon.

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Series 3: Publication and Research Files, 1900-1997 Boxes 3, 5 [OS]

Series Description

Documentation of the publication of Fowler's letters as A Rocky Mountain Sailor in Teddy Roosevelt's Navy: The Letters of Petty Officer Charles Fowler from the Asiatic Station by Naval Academy Professor Rodney G. Tomlinson. In addition to including additional original documents from Charles Fowler and Clare Grabill, the series documents Tomlinson's correspondence with Fowler’s sons Vernon, Eugene, and Richard Fowler, efforts to procure additional photographs and images for publication, and research into Fowler's U.S. Navy service record and family history.

Series Arrangement

Arranged alphabetically by document type and topic.

Box 5 [OS] Folder 1

Binder - Book Proposal, undated

Box 5 [OS] Folder 2

Binder - Correspondence and Info, 1906-1995

Copies of letters and postcards of Charles Fowler, as well as correspondence from Richard Fowler.

Box 5 [OS] Folder 3

Binder - Work List and Info, 1900-1997

Correspondence from Eugene Fowler, copies of Charles Fowler's U.S. Navy service record, copies of photographs, and ephemera pertaining to Clare Grabill.

Box 3 Folder 4

Correspondence - Fowler Family, 1988-1997

Includes a copy of Charles Fowler's U.S. Navy service record.

Box 3 Folder 5

Correspondence - Westview Press, 1995-1997

Box 3 Folder 6

Fowler Family Genealogy, undated

Box 3 Folder 7

Notes, undated

Box 3 Folder 8

Proofs and Drafts, undated

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