Our History | Robert Bowne
Robert Bowne Foundation: Of Men and Dreams Excerpt
The Robert Bowne Foundation
Unmindful of a a light snowfall or their audience, Robert Bowne and his two associates began carrying the merchandise from the walk to the shelves of their new shop.
Although all this happened about a year and a half before the Declaration of Independence, Robert Bowne
was an American of four generations.
The latter's fifth child by his first wife was John Bowne, whose son, Robert
, was to leave the old family home to establish, in 1775, the firm which todays bears his name.
, a Quaker and successful merchant, was not altogether sympathetic to the cause of the "Revolution.
religious scruples forbade violence as a means of resolving conflict and, from a business standpoint, he
could see only economic chaos as the result of the struggle.
The following letter, written at the home of his
father-in-law, gives some insight into his
As yet we have been much favored in every respect.
The 27th of last month Betsy was safely delivered of a fine son, Robert Hartshorne Bowne
, I have endeavored to avoid giving offense to any and have associated with very few persons here, finding it much the best thing to do.
In one respect this development saddened Robert Bowne
, because one of his
most promising young associates, whose interests lay in another direction, decided to strike out on his
With a background of peddling bakery goods from door to door, he
started with the company in 1784 at $2 per week, but soon amazed his
new employer with his
industry and ready grasp of the business.
handled what fur trade the firm had and made a few trips into the wilderness, gaining the friendship of many of the trappers and even learning the rudiments of the Mohawk and Seneca languages.
return from a trip to Montreal, he
tried to persuade Robert Bowne
to devote all the capital of the company to this growing and profitable business, but after careful consideration, the latter declined.
The business grew and became sufficiently well-established for Robert Bowne
to be able to devote some time to philanthropic and other endeavors.
Incensed by this inhuman practice and slavery in general, a public meeting was held, and the "Manumission Society
" formed, with George Clinton, Alexander Hamilton, Robert Bowne
, John Jay, Thomas Eddy and several others, as directors.
Henry Rutgers, Robert Bowne
and a few others met at the home of John Murray, Jr. in Pearl Street to discuss the problem.
held an enviable record of service to this institutions which was to grow to become the world-famous New York Hospital-Cornell Medical Center.
As its governor for 34 years and as its vice president for 13, Robert Bowne
worked at various times with James Duane, Robert Murray, Thomas Eddy, Samuel Franklin, Isaac Roosevelt, and many other prominent figures of the time.
In 1793, with the yellow fever epidemic raging, Robert Bowne formed the New York City Health Committee and became its first chairman.
first act was to provide a sedan chair, which in those days must have served the combined purposed of stretcher and ambulance, to bring those afflicted to the newly established hospital on the site of what is now Bellevue Hospital
At the next meetings, twelve directors were elected, including Alexander Hamilton, Robert Bowne
, Samuel Franklin, John Vanderbilt and Isaac Roosevelt.
At first the bank was not incorporated but later a petition to incorporate was signed by Robert Bowne
and twelve others.
The petition was renewed in 1789, 1790 and 1791, when it was finally passed by the legislature.
showed a great deal of interest in these surveys and in 1791 helped organize an inland navigation company.
was a modest undertaking, a three-mile canal of five locks near Little Falls, New York, but it proved what might be done on a larger scale.
Let me on this occasion discharge a debt of gratitude and of justice to the late Robert Bowne
is now elevated above human panegyric and reposes, I humbly and fervently believe, in the bosom of his
had at an early period devoted his
attention to this subject and was master of all its important hearings.
wise counsels, intelligent views and patriotic exertions, we were under incalculable obligations.