Samuel Bowles (1826-1878) was an American journalist based in in Springfield, Massachusetts who set the standard for high quality news coverage and conservative editorial comment during the Ciivl War and Reconstruction eras of American history.
Bowles was the son of Samuel Bowles (1779-1851) of Springfield, who had established the weekly Springfield Republican in 1824. The daily issue began in 1844, as an evening newspaper, afterwards becoming a morning journal. To its service Samuel Bowles, junior, devoted his life (with the exception of a brief period during which he was in charge of a daily in Boston), and he gave the paper a national reputation by the vigor, incisiveness and independence of its editorial utterances, and the concise and convenient arrangement of its local and general news-matter.
During the controversies affecting slavery and resulting in the American Civil War, Bowles supported, in general, the Whig Party and Republican Party, but in the period of Reconstruction under President Ulysses S. Grant his paper represented anti-administration or Liberal Republicans and supported Horace Greeley in 1872. In the disputed election of 1876 Bowles favored the claims of Samuel J. Tilden, and subsequently became independent in politics. Bowles died in Springfield in 1878.
During his lifetime, and subsequently, the Republican office was a sort of school for young journalists, especially in the matter of pungency and conciseness of style, one of his maxims being: "put it all in the first paragraph". Bowles published two books of travel, Across the Continent (1865) and The Switzerland of America (1869), which were combined into one volume under the title Our New West (1869). He was succeeded as publisher and editor-in-chief of the Republican by his son Samuel Bowles (b. 1851).
The highest quality of journalism during the mid-19th century is typified in the Springfield Republican. Established in 1824 as a country weekly, it was converted into a daily in 1844. From the beginning it was a clean, well written, honest, independent, and conservative paper that reported all of the happenings of its own vicinity, with brief mention of the gist of important events generally. As rapidly as possible its news-gathering was extended until within a few years its columns contained departments of items from every town and hamlet along the Connecticut valley, as well as from Springfield. Bowles believed that the newspaper should be a power in the moral, religious, and literary, as well as the political life of the community, and he tried to make his paper fulfill those functions, not for the world at large but for the people of western Massachusetts. With the aid of J. G. Holland and others who joined the staff the paper attained excellent literary quality and a high moral tone. Probably its success rested most of all upon its political discussions. The excellence of its short, crisp, pithy editorial paragraphs and longer discussions, free from pedantry and heaviness, based always on fundamental ideas and principles, made the Republican widely known and respected. Its opinions soon reached all New England, and after the formation of the Republican party they extended far beyond the limits of any section. But in spite of the extent of its influence, the Republican held steadily to its purpose as a provincial newspaper; it told all the news, gave all sides a fair hearing, preserved its self-respect and independence, frowned on all “isms,” and presented invariably the personal opinions of its editor, whom all its readers knew.
- George S. Merriam, Life and Times of Samuel Bowles V. 1 (1885) Google version
- Richard Hooker, The Story of an Independent Newspaper (1924)
- John J. Scanlon, The Passing of the Springfield Republican (1950)
- Samuel Bowles, Across the Continent: A Summer's Journey to the Rocky Mountains, the Mormons, and the Pacific (1865), 437 pages online edition
- Parts of this article come from the Encyclopedia Britannica 11th ed (1911) and Cambridge History of English and American Literature (1921) in the public domain