Biography:A.S. Bowman

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A.S. Bowman


 Given name:     Albert
 Middle name:     
 Family name:     Bowman
 Place of birth:     Manheim, Pennsylvania
 Place of death:     Manhattan, New York
 Year of birth:     1844
 Year of death:     1935
 Profile:     Composer, Editor, Musician
 Source of information:     

The following well-researched information was originally posted at the Banjo Hangout [1] on 08/15/2014 by ajisai.

Albert S. Bowman was born in Pennsylvania in 1844 and grew up in Manheim, a small town in Lancaster County. His father was Henry B. Bowman, a physician and business man who served two terms in the state legislature, and his mother was Elizabeth Neff.

As one of three children in a family that lived in comfortable circumstances, I suspect Albert had access to formal musical training from a young age, but I haven't been able to confirm that.

In the 1860 census, Albert was sixteen, living at home, and working as a clerk. By 1867, he was a "Professor of Music on the Flute, Viol, Bass Viol, etc." (1867 Course Catalog) at the State Normal School in Millersville, and in 1868, the year he turned 24, he took over leadership of a local orchestra. The Lancaster Intelligencer announced "Professor W. H. Keffer has withdrawn from Keffer's Orchestra. A. S. Bowman, a member of the band, and an excellent musician, will take the leadership so long and so ably filled by Prof. Keffer." Washington H. Keffer was a music teacher, composer, and "dealer in all kinds of MUSIC and MUSICAL INSTRUMENTS" in the Lancaster area.

The newspaper then began reporting on "Professor Bowman's Orchestra." The group played for a number of events at the school including a literary society anniversary where "the music was furnished by Bowman's Orchestra in their usual excellent style."

In the 1870 Lancaster census, Albert was enumerated as a musician living with his wife Annie S. and his son, four-year-old Charles L. By 1880 the family had relocated to Reading, a larger city about thirty miles northeast of Lancaster. This time his occupation was listed in the census as "music dealer." Charles, age 15, was a "clerk in store," most likely working in his father's business.

As a music dealer, A. S. probably sold instruments and sheet music. It's also possible that he gave lessons and participated in the local music community. He was also composing and publishing. In the early 1880s, Albert authored a violin method book entitled Excelsior method and progressive school for the violin (Pt. 1) and in 1885 he wrote a 55-page guide called How to teach orchestras: a thorough instructor in the art. He published The Young Violinist's Favorite in 1891.

The 1890 census is unavailable and I haven't been able to find Albert in the 1900 census, but by the turn of the century, he had moved to Philadelphia and developed a relationship with J. W. Pepper, a music publisher in Philadelphia. He authored numerous books for them including works focusing on opera, band, and orchestral music.

In 1908, The J.W. Pepper collection of 500 reels, jigs, clogs, flings, hornpipes, stop jigs, sand jigs, straight jigs, walk-arounds, buck and wing dances and fancy and country dances for violin with tunes "Composed, Selected and Arranged by A. S. Bowman" was published. I borrowed a copy through interlibrary loan hoping to discover new Bowman tunes but, unfortunately, the book didn't indicate which of the entries were composed by Albert and which ones were from other sources. (In the late 1980s, someone by the name of Roland S. Mulder owned the book that I borrowed and it looks like he studied the tunes methodically, making check marks and noting dates. If you recognize the name, please message me.)

Albert's wife Annie died in 1909. The following year, Albert, age 65, was still living in Philadelphia. His occupation, recorded in the 1910 census, is difficult to read but it probably says "theater musician." Albert appeared in the 1911 Philadelphia directory living at the same address and then the next mention I find of him is in a 1922 issue of Music Supervisor's Journal in an advertisement for Thirty Standard and Popular Operas, Selected and Arranged by A. S. Bowman and Mackie-Beyer and published J. W. Pepper. The advertisement reads, "Ready at last!" and "Just off the press!" Mackie-Beyer was "Pepper's most prolific arranger/composer."

In 1930, Albert and his son Charles were both "music writers" living in Manhattan, near Times Square. Albert died five years later at the age of 91. His death certificate tells us that he succumbed to chronic lymphatic leukemia and bilateral bronchopneumonia at City Hospital on Welfare Island in Manhattan. His son signed a notarized document stating that Albert had expressed a desire to be cremated and his death certificate lists place of burial as "Fresh Pond Crematory."

A number of his published compositions and/or arrangements can be found at IMSLP [2]. A banjo attributed to him can be found at Vintage Instruments, Philadelphia [3]