Charles Fowler Letters, 1900-1997 (bulk 1904-1910): Finding Aid
Published in May 2017
- Publisher: United States Naval Academy. Special Collections & Archives.
- Publisher Address:
589 McNair Road
Annapolis, Maryland 21402-5029, USA
- Call number: MS 445
- Location: Special Collections & Archives Department - Manuscripts
- Title: Charles Fowler Letters
- Dates: 1900-1997
- Bulk Dates: 1904-1910
- Size: 3.38 linear feet
- Container Summary: 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.
Description of Contents
The Charles Fowler Letters and their associated documentation, comprising 3.38 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.
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
Access and Use
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.
Acquisition and Appraisal
Provenance and Acquisition
Transfer from Naval Academy Professor Rodney G. Tomlinson in January 2017.
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.
Processing and Other Information
Charles Fowler Letters, MS 445
Special Collections & Archives Department
United States Naval Academy
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.
This collection was processed by David D'Onofrio in May 2017. Finding aid written by David D'Onofrio in May 2017.
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
- Orders (military records)
- Printed ephemera
Series 1: Letters and Documents, 1904-1910 Box 1Series 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.