Administrative Information

Biographical Sketch


Scope and Content Note

Library of Congress Subject Headings

Box and Folder List

2 file boxes
.83 linear feet
Processor: Nicole Perrault
Date: November 2011

Acquisition: The bulk of the Maria Bowen Papers were left to the Cambridge Historical Society by bequest in1935. Earlier items were donated by Maria Bowen in 1908 and 1928. Photographs were donated by Maude Vosburgh in 1940.

Access: There are no restrictions on items in this collection.

Permission to Publish: Requests for permission to publish from the collection should be made to the Executive Director.

Copyright: Although the Cambridge Historical Society does not hold copyright on all items in the collection, copyright has expired for the majority of items.

Biographical Sketch:

Maria Bowen, the daughter of Francis Bowen (philosopher and Harvard professor), was born in Cambridge on March 12, 1852. A devoted Cambridge resident, Bowen was a member of both the Cambridge Historical Society and the Female Humane Society for many years. While a member of the Historical Society, she wrote papers on the houses and people of Follen Street and Sparks Street for the Society’s Proceedings. In addition to these essays, she published the following books: The Only True Mother Goose Melodies in 1904, Flora Transmuta: A Calendar of Translations in 1913, and Flos Sanctorum: A Calendar of Saints in Verse in 1920.

Bowen was also an artistic woman. She sketched portraits of people she knew, landscapes of places she visited (e.g., New England and Italy), and Cambridge buildings, as well as painting watercolors. She used this artistic talent to create her own paper doll collection, drawing and coloring both the dolls and their clothing.

In her will dated March 19, 1935 she left the Cambridge Historical Society her house (9 Follen Street) and land and one half of the residue of her estate. Bowen died in Cambridge on July 21, 1937 and, following her death, the Cambridge Historical Society sold her house for $15,000 with the proceeds being used to establish the Maria Bowen Fund to be used for the mission of the Society.


Cambridge Historical Society. (1915). Proceedings January 27, 1914 – October 27, 1914.

Cambridge Historical Society. (1934). Proceedings for the Years 1927, 1928, 1929.

Cambridge Historical Society. (1937). Proceedings for the Years 1932 and 1933.

Cambridge Historical Society. (1938). Proceedings for the Years 1936 and 1937.

Peppler, J. (2011). Descendants of Griffith Bowen. Retrieved from here.

Scope and Content Note:

The collection consists of family and personal papers, paper dolls, original poetry, pencil sketches, watercolors, and photographs. The collection is organized chronologically by document type.

The collection includes school papers of Bowen’s brother, Charles Stuart and a bond from Harvard University signed by her father, Francis Bowen. Also included are letters received by Maria Bowen and The Early Irish Fairies and Fairyland, inscribed by the author, Norreys Jephson O’Conor, to Bowen.

This bulk of this collection consists of paper dolls created by Bowen. While the collection includes machine-manufactured paper dolls, the majority of the dolls and their sizeable wardrobes were hand-drawn and colored by Bowen. Most of these dolls were named by Bowen; the names are either written on the back of the dolls and their clothes, or written on the envelopes which originally housed the paper dolls. Included is a family tree of the paper-doll “Gordon family” (Box 1 Folder 7). In addition to loose poems, one scrapbook in which she pasted clippings also includes an original poem by Bowen. The majority of the sketches are of Cambridge buildings and friends, acquaintances, etc. of Bowen. Watercolors generally depict landscapes.

The photographs included in this collection reflect Cambridge buildings and inhabitants of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. They include professional portraits, tintypes, carte-de-visites, and paper prints. There are three photo albums included in the collection. One photo album includes professional photos of various dogs, a rarity of this time period.

Library of Congress Subject Headings:

  • Bowen, Francis A.
  • Bowen, Maria
  • Bowen, Charles S.
  • Cambridge (Mass.)–Buildings.
  • Paper dolls
  • Pencil Drawing
  • Poetry
  • Watercolor painting

Maria Bowen

Papers, 1855-1936 (inclusive), 1860-1925 (bulk)

Box Folder
1 1 Charles Bowen: report card, essays, 1866, 1870
1 2 Francis Bowen: bond, 1867
1 3 Maria Bowen correspondence: 1899, 1920, 1934
1 4 Paper dolls, n.d.
1 5 Paper dolls, n.d.
1 6 Paper dolls, n.d.
1 7 Paper dolls, n.d.
1 8 Paper dolls, n.d.
1 9 Paper dolls, n.d.
1 10 Paper dolls, n.d.
1 11 Poems, 1928, 1936
1 12 Sketches: portraits, ca.1877
1 13 Sketches: landscapes, 1888, 1889, 1891, 1893, 1895
1 14 Sketches: Kittery, Marblehead, Cambridge, 1895, 1897, 1923, 1930
1 15 Sketches: Italy, 1899, 1906
1 16 Sketches: houses, portraits, and related, n.d.
1 17 Watercolors, n.d.
2.1V Photo Album, ca.1860-1874
1.01 MBP Grandmother Bowen, ca. 1860 [Warren]
1.02 MBP Eliza Mason Hoppin, ca.1860 [Whipple]
1.03 MBP Francis Bowen, ca.1855 [Warren]
1.04 MBP Charles, Maria and Helen Bowen, c. 1860 [Warren]
1.05 MBP Maria Bowen, ca.1900 [Warren]
1.06 MBP Augusta Bowen Kent Matthews, 1861 [Fassett]
1.07 MBP Fanny Valeda Matthews Johnson, 1861 [Fassett]
1.08 MBP Frances Bowen Kellogg, ca.1870 [Black & Batchelder]
1.09 MBP Mary W. Bowen Hodges, ca.1870 [Black & Batchelder]
1.10 MBP Clara Bowen, ca.1860 [Silsbee, Case & Co.]
1.11 MBP Ada Bowen Paxson, ca.1865 [Warren]
1.12 MBP Susan Wheelwright Wyman, ca.1860
1.13 MBP Charles Bowen, ca. 1865 [Warren]
1.14 MBP Charles, Maria and Helen Bowen, ca.1860 [Warren] [duplicate]
1.15 MBP Francis Bowen, ca.1860 [Whipple]
1.16 MBP Martha Sargent and Carlo, 1868 [Black & Case]
1.17 MBP Martha Sargent and Carlo, 1868 [Black & Case]
1.18 MBP Leo, 1868 [Davis Brothers]
1.19 MBP Charlie Möving and Bello, ca.1865 [Warren]
1.20 MBP Kate Bowen Fowle, ca.1860 [Tresize]
1.21 MBP Charles Stuart Bowen, ca.1865 [Warren]
1.22 MBP Ellen Dimmock Francis, ca.1865 [Whipple]
1.23 MBP Abby Bradford Francis, ca.1870 [Ferret]
1.24 MBP Louisa Lee Sargent, ca.1870 [Allen & Rowell]
1.25 MBP Louisa Lee Sargent, ca.1864 [Whipple]
1.26 MBP Helen Elizabeth Bowen, ca. 1870
1.27 MBP Alice Cutter, ca.1870
1.28 MBP Villa Pallavicini in Pegli, 1874 [Noack]
1.29 MBP Maria Decatur Mayo, 1874 [McCormick]
1.30 MBP Belfry of Bruges, ca.1874 [Bernheim & Peemans]
2.2V Photo Album, ca.1870-1930
1.31 MBP Nellie, ca.1930 [Warren]
1.32 MBP Unidentified, ca.1930 [Hanns Hanfstaengl]
1.33 MBP Unidentified, 1931 [F. Hartmann]
1.34 MBP Martha Sargent, ca.1870 [J.J. Hawes]
2 1 Photographs of Maria Bowen, friends and family, ca.1870-1880
1.35 MBP Mary Isabella James, ca.1870 [G &L Fratelli Vianelli]
1.36 MBP Mary Isabella James, ca.1870 [G & L Fratelli Vianelli]
1.37 MBP Charles Bowen, ca.1870
1.38 MBP Martha Sargent, ca.1870
1.39 MBP Louisa Lee Sargent, ca.1870
1.40 MBP Charles Bowen, ca.1870
1.41 MBP Charles Bowen, ca.1870 [duplicate]
1.42 MBP Maria Bowen, ca.1870 [Holton]
1.43 MBP Maria Bowen, ca.1870 [Holton] [duplicate]
1.44 MBP Martha Sargent, ca.1875 [Black]
1.45 MBP Maria Bowen, ca.1880
1.46 MBP Maria Bowen, ca.1880 [duplicate]
1.47 MBP Maria Bowen, ca.1880 [duplicate]
1.48 MBP Maria Bowen, ca.1880 [duplicate]
1.49 MBP unidentified, n.d.
2 2 Photographs of Maria Bowen, friends, and family, ca.1910-1922
1.50 MBP Maria Bowen and 3 unknown, ca.1910
1.51 MBP Child at well, ca.1910
1.52 MBP Marion Lane, ca.1910
1.53 MBP Mabel Kittredge, ca.1910
1.54 MBP Maria Bowen, ca.1910
1.55 MBP Helen and Marion Lane, 1922
1.56 MBP Maria Bowen, ca.1922
1.57 MBP L. Brewer, Mrs. Blackman, Maria Bowen, ca.1910
1.58 MBP Maria Bowen and unknown children, ca.1920
1.59 MBP Maria Bowen and unknown children, ca.1920
2 3 Photographs of Cambridge Houses and Streets, ca.1925
1.60 MBP Abbott House, ca.1925
1.61 MBP Follen Street, G. Bowen-Goodwin-Dennen House, ca.1925
1.62 MBP Follen Street, Follen House, ca.1925
1.63 MBP Follen Street, Fales-De Chant House, ca.1925
1.64 MBP Follen Street, Bowen House, ca.1925
1.65 MBP Waterhouse Street, Follen-Walcott House, ca.1925
1.66 MBP Waterhouse Street, Hodges House, ca.1925
1.67 MBP Waterhouse Street, William Vassall House, ca.1925
1.68 MBP Waterhouse Street, William Vassall House, 1925
1.69 MBP Hall-Whittemore-Black House, ca.1925
1.70 MBP Jackson-Lyman House, ca.1925
1.71 MBP Abbot Tower from Follen Street, ca.1925
1.72 MBP Abbot Tower from Chauncy Street, ca.1925
1.73 MBP Rectory-Fay House, ca.1925
1.74 MBP Hodges House, ca.1925
1.75 MBP unidentified, ca.1925
1.76 MBP unidentified, ca.1925
1.77 MBP unidentified, ca.1925

Items removed:
Flora Transmuta, A Calendar of Translations and Flo Sanctorum, A Calendar of Saints in Verse have been transferred to the Cambridge Historical Society library. These books were donated to the Cambridge Historical Society by Mary Isabella Di Gozzaldi.