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Chester Bowles records

Identifier: RG005_031

Scope and Content

Gov. Chester Bowles' subject files related to state agencies, commissions, legislative bills, and appointments among other topics.


  • Creation: 1949-1951

Language of Materials

The records are in English.

Restrictions on Access

These records are stored at an off-site facility and therefore may not be available on a same-day basis.

See the Rules and Procedures for Researchers Using Archival Records and Secured Collections policy.

Biographical Note

Born: April 5, 1901, Springfield, Massachusetts.

College: Yale, 1924.

Political Party: Democrat.

Offices: Governor of Connecticut, 1949-1951; U.S. Ambassador to India, 1951-1953 & 1963-1969; U.S. Congress, 1959-1961; U.S. State Dept., 1961-1963.

Died: May 25, 1986, Essex, Connecticut.

Thought to be one of Connecticut's most liberal governors, Chester Bowles was the last governor of the state to serve a two-year term. Bowles credited his liberalism to the influence of certain members of his family, his desire to be in public service, and what he saw government accomplish during the Great Depression and World War II. When he graduated from Yale in 1924, he went to work for a New York City advertising agency and by 1929, he and William Benton opened their own advertising company. Despite the economic difficulties of the 1930's, Benton and Bowles made enormous profits so that by the 1940's both men were able to leave their company to pursue other interests. For Bowles, this took the form of government service. Bowles was married twice. His fist wife was Julia Fisk. They had two children before their divorce in 1932. Shortly after this, he married Dorothy Stebbin and they had three children.

When Connecticut developed programs as part of World War II, Governor Hurley appointed Bowles to oversee the rationing of products in the state. In 1943, Bowles took a similar position with the Federal Government's Office of Policy and Management Council. Turned on to what he saw government capable of doing during the depression and the war, Bowles was convinced government could also overcome poverty and injustice in society. He decided that the best place to begin this work was on the state level and in 1946 he sought the support of Connecticut's Democratic leaders to be that party's candidate for governor. However, he was unaware of the existence of John Bailey during his visit to Hartford and Bailey used this slight to back Wilbert Snow for governor. Snow won the nomination over Bowles and Bailey won the position of state party chairman, which he held for 29 years. Bowles again ran for the Democratic nomination for governor in 1948, only this time he sought Bailey's support. Nominated by his party, a private poll gave him no chance of winning the November election. Nevertheless, Bowls was able to overcome these odds and was elected governor for the next two years.

The 1949 legislative session was not a smooth one for Bowles. He produced a budget that was balanced, but only because he introduced the concept of bonding funds to pay for the projects that he advocated. The Republican controlled General Assembly produced its own budget. Bowles also proposed replacing the sales tax with an income tax, but this idea quickly died in the legislature. When the assembly failed to agree on a budget by its mandated time for adjournment, Bowles had to call it back into special session to complete this task before the new fiscal year began on July 1, 1949. He would eventually call four more special sessions to deal with his concerns for improving Connecticut and its government. He was successful in getting legislation passed so that more housing could be built in the state. He also had some civil rights legislation passed, made some improvements in welfare benefits, provided for more buildings at the state's colleges and university, and instituted more teacher training. However, many of his progressive ideas for government and society were unacceptable during his term, although most were passed under later governors.

Bowles ran for reelection in 1950 and lost to John Lodge. Democrats close to him conceded that he had tried to do too much too soon. Bowles remained active in government, serving in Congress and with the administration of President Kennedy. He was also ambassador to India for a number of years. A prolific writer, Bowles died in 1986 at the age of 85. His house in Essex, overlooking the Connecticut River, was offered for sale in 1991 at a value of nearly three million dollars. In 1972, he donated large sections of his property along the river to be used as a wildlife refuge. Connecticut's Route 9, which runs through Middletown, is named in his honor.


5 cubic feet


Gov. Chester Bowles' subject files.


Series 1. Subject Files.

Related Material

Chester Bowles Papers, 1924-1982, (MS 628), located in Manuscripts and Archives, Sterling Memorial Library, Yale University. These papers include correspondence, speeches, and photographs from Bowles' time as Governor.


Bowles, Chester. Promises to Keep: My Years in Public Life, 1941-1969.New York: Harper's, 1971 [CSL call number E748.B73 A3].
Bowles, Chester. Tomorrow Without Fear. New York, Simon and Schuster, 1946 [CSL call number HC106.5 .B65].
Congressional Quarterly's Guide to United States Elections. Washington, D.C.: Congressional Quarterly, 1994 [CSL call number GIRS Ref JK1967 .C662 1994].
Glashan, Roy R. American Governors and Gubernatorial Elections, 1775-1975. Stillwater, Minn.: Croixside Press, 1975 [CSL call number JK2447 .G53 1975].
Lieberman, Joseph. The Legacy, Connecticut Politics, 1930-1980. Hartford, Conn.: Spoonwood Press, 1981 [CSL call number JK3395 .L53 1981].
Sobel, Robert and John Raimo. Biographical Directory of the Governors of the United States, 1789-1978. Westport, Conn.: Meckler Books, 1978 [CSL call number GIRS Ref E176 .B573].
Van Dusen, Albert E. Connecticut. New York: Random House, 1961 [CSL call number Hist Ref F94 .V3].
RG 005:031, Office of the Governor: Chester Bowles (1949-1951)
Inventory of Records
Finding aid prepared by Connecticut State Library staff.
Language of description
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Repository Details

Part of the Connecticut State Library Repository