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Oliver Bowles, noted Mineralogist with the U.S. Bureau of Mines

Back to The William Bowles of Tiny township Family

My thanks to Peggy Perazzo, publisher of the Stone Quarries and Beyond web site for much of the content on this page.

For Oliver's Family Tree see entry 3.2 Oliver at Robert Bowles Family Tree and for his family's history see The Robert Bowles Family of Quebec City


Oliver  Bowles was born in 1877 in Fenelon, Ontario, the second son of William Henry Bowles and Sarah Glaspell.  He was brought up on a small farm but he was determined to pursue a  home-grown interest in biology and geology.  He completed such courses at the University of Toronto as his finances permitted and achieved his B.A. at age 30 receiving the Governor General's Gold Medal for Superior Academic Achievement the same year. His M.A. in Mineralogy was achieved the very next year.  He then accepted a teaching position at the University of Michigan in 1908 and while there received an attractive offer to work for the United States Bureau of Mines.  The position required that he obtain U.S. citizenship, during that 5 year process he taught at the University of Minnesota and moved to Washington in 1914 to join the staff of the Bureau of Mines where he spent the majority of his professional career until his retirement in 1947 at age 70.  While working there he continued his studies and obtained his Ph.D. from George Washington University in 1922.  During his career he published hundreds of books and technical papers in the field of non-metallic minerals.  Upon his retirement he received the Distinguished Medal of the Department of the Interior.  He continued to work for the bureau as a consultant until one day in 1958 when he left work, drove his family to their summer home in Virginia, lay down for a nap before dinner and passed away in his sleep at age 81.

Oliver Bowles entry in The Canadian Who’s Who 1948

Bowles, Oliver; mining engineer (retired); b. near Lindsay, Ont., 10 Jan. 1877; son William Henry and Sarah (Glaspell) Bowles; educ. Univ. of Toronto B. A. 1907; M. A. 1908; George Washington Univ. Ph. D. 1922; m. Eva H., daug.  George Workman, 11 Apr. 1908;  children: William, Edgar; served as field geol., Ont. Bureau of Mines, summers of 1908 and 1910; instructor in Petrography, Univ. of Michigan 1908-09; ditto in Geology Univ. of Minn. 1909-14; Minn. State Geol. Survey 1911-14; joined U.S. Bureau of Mines as its 1st Quarry Technologist 1914; Mineral Technologist ditto, Washington, D.C. 1917-23; supervising engineer Non-metallic Minerals  Experimental Station, Bureau of Mines, New Brunswick, N.J., 1923-28; supervising engineer Building Materials Section, Bureau of Mines, Washington, D.C., 1928-37; asst. chief, Nonmetal Economics Division, ditto, 1937-42; chief ditto 1942-47; retired 31 Jan. 1947; he introduced the wire saw into the American Slate Industry, a device which has proved highly successful in speeding up production, reducing waste and cutting cost;  director American Inst. Of Mining and Metall. Engineers; charter fellow, Mineralogical Society of America; member Society of Economic Geologists; N.Y. Academy of Sciences; hon. member Inst. Of Quarrying of Great Britain; author of “The Stone Industries” , 1st ed. 1934; 2nd ed. 1939; has contributed more than 250 publications covering field of non-metallic minerals to various tech. journals, 143 of which were official Bureau publications; Sigma Xi; Republican; Christian Scientist; recreation: floriculture; Club: Cosmos; Address: 5000 Massachusetts Avenue, N.W., Washington 16, D.C.

The 1952-54 edition is as above plus added:

Awarded Gold Medal of Dept. of Interior for “distinguished service”, Dec. 19


Oliver Bowles Obituary in The Washington Post  <click here>

Oliver Bowles Obituary in The American Mineralogist <click here>


The following is from: http://www.batmanagement.com/Projects/Canoe%20Creek%20Map/canoecreek.html 

A letter written on February 4, 1925 by Oliver Bowles, then Superintendent of the Non-metallic Minerals Station of the U.S. Department of Mines in New Brunswick, New Jersey, gives us a glimpse of the "roaring" 1920's setting:

"Dear Mr. Hartman:

I visited your limestone mine near Hollidaysburg, Pa. on November 8, 1923. At that time three drift faces had been projected, the deepest being about 320 feet from the entry. These drifts were 30 feet high and 33 feet high, and were being arranged in such a way that supporting pillars 30 feet by 30 feet would be left. The roof was very smooth and secure on account of an open roof seam in the rock. With a bed of good stone 30 feet thick, no drainage problem, a safe roof, and easy transportation practically on a level, this deposit is very favorably situated for underground work. I have visited quite a number of limestone mines and none that I have seen have more favorable conditions for mining. In view of the fact that one limestone mine I have visited has been in profitable operation for years hoisting stone through a vertical shaft nearly 400 feet deep, and another with an inclined shaft nearly 400 feet deep, a hillside drift such as you have should be even more profitable. It may interest you to know that I have a record of between 50 and 60 limestone mines now in operation in the United States, one of them having more than 4.5 miles of underground workings. Some of these companies are finding that costs are lower for underground than open pit work. The chief advantages of mining are (1) no stripping cost, (2) no contamination from overburden, (3) greater comfort for workers and no interruption from bad weather. Some disadvantages are: (1) usually a greater proportion of fines, (2) dynamite fumes, (3) about 30% of stone unavailable as pillars. There is so great an increase recently in underground production of limestone that I have secured the services of an engineer experienced in such work to make a complete study of the problem and to prepare a report on underground methods. This work is now about half completed."


The following books are from the "Sources" list

on the Stone Quarries and Beyond web site:



Bowles Oliver. Granite as Dimension Stone, Information Circular 7753. U.S. Bureau of Mines, 1956a. 18 pp.

Bowles, O., and N. C. Jensen. "Industrial Uses of Limestone and Dolomite," U. S. Bureau of Mines Inf. Circular 7402. 1947.

Bowles, O. The Lime Industry, U. S. Bureau of Mines Inf. Circ. 7651. 1952.

Bowles Oliver. Limestone and Dolomite, Information Circular 7738. U.S. Bureau of Mines, 1956b. 29 pp.

Bowles Oliver. Marble, Information Circular 7829. U.S. Bureau of Mines, 1958. 31 pp.

Bowles Oliver. Memorial Stone, Information Circular 7720. U.S. Bureau of Mines, 1955a. 6 pp.

Bowles, Oliver. Quarry Problems in the Lime Industry, Bulletin 269. Washington, D. C.: Government Printing Office, 192. (From the Introduction: "The many problems involved in winning this great quantity of raw material from the natural rock and preparing it for the kilns have in the past received little attention from any governmental agency. Therefore...the Bureau of Mines began a study of problems in limestone quarrying in an effort to advance more economical methods of operation and the utilization of waste material. Field studies were made at many quarries, and the information thus compiled.")

Bowles, Oliver. Safety in Stone Quarrying, Technical Paper 111. U.S. Geological Survey, Washington, 1915, 48 pp.

Bowles Oliver. Sandstone as Dimension Stone, Information Circular 8182. U.S. Bureau of Mines, 1963. 30 pp.

Bowles, Oliver. Sandstone Quarrying in the United States, Bulletin 124. Washington, D. C.: Government Printing Office, 1917. Series: United States. Bureau of Mines Bulletin 124. 143 pp.

Bowles, O. "Seventy-Five Years of Progress in the Nonmetallics," Seventy-Five Years of Progress in the Mineral Industry. New York: A.I.M.E., 1948. pp. 303-357.

Bowles Oliver "Slate," Information Circular 7719, U.S. Bureau of Mines, Washington, D.C.: United States Department of the Interior, June 1955. (An updated and condensed version of Bowles' earlier accounts of slate in The Stone Industries.)

Bowles, Oliver. "Stone," Mineral Facts and Problems, U. S. Bureau of Mines Bulletin 556, 1955. 14 p.

Bowles, Oliver. Stone Cutting and Polishing, Bureau of Mines Information Circular 7863. United States Department of the Interior, Washington: United States Government Printing Office, 1953. 26 pp.

Bowles, Oliver. The Stone Industries: Dimension Stone, Crushed Stone, Geology, Technology, Distribution, Utilization, New York: McGraw-Hill Book Company, Inc., 1934. (2nd ed., New York: McGraw-Hill, 1939, 519 pp.)    In the Preface he mentions his wife, Eva, and his sons, Edgar and George.

Bowles, Oliver. The Structural and Ornamental Stones of Minnesota, Bulletin 663. Department of the Interior, United States Geological Survey, Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1918. By Oliver Bowles, Department of the Interior, U. S. Geological Survey, Washington:  Government Printing Office, 1918.

Bowles, Oliver. The Technology of Marble Quarrying, Bulletin 106. Washington, D. C.: Government Printing Office, 1916. Series: United States Bureau of Mines, Bulletin 106, Mineral Technology 13.

Bowles, O. "The Technology of Slate," United States Bureau of Mines, Bulletin 218, 1922. (Thesis) by Oliver Bowles, Department of the Interior, Bureau of Mines, Bulletin 218, A thesis submitted to the faculty of George Washington University in part fulfillment of the requirement for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy, Washington: Government Printing Office, 1922.

Bowles, Oliver, and N. C. Jensen. Trends in Consumption and Prices of Building Materials. U.S. Bureau Mines Inf. Circular IC 7265, 1943. 25 pp.

Bowles, Oliver.  Tables for the Determination of Common Rocks, By Oliver Bowles, published by D. Van Nostrand and Company, 1910. 

In 1954 Oliver also co-authored the book "Atlas of the World's Resources" with William van Royen; published by Prentice-Hall for the University of Maryland.

Oliver's son Edgar Bowles

Edgar was born in Minneapolis in 1911 when Oliver was lecturing at the University of Minnesota prior to taking up his position with the Bureau of Mines in Washington and followed his father's footsteps into the field of geology.

The Stone Quarries and Beyond web site's Sources page also mentions a book by Edgar:

Bowles, Edgar. The Geology and Mineral Resources of Cherokee County, Alabama. Alabama Geological Survey Circular 15, 1941. 38 pp.

Other books by Edgar Bowles:

The Talc Deposits of Talladega County, Alabama  by Lynn McMurray and Edgar Bowles. University, Ala. : Geological Survey of Alabama, 1941.
31 p. : ill., map ; 23 cm.

Well logs of Alabama  by Edgar Bowles, with the oil and gas conservation law of Alabama, and the rules and regulations of the State oil and gas board.  University, Ala. : Geological Survey of Alabama 1941. 357 p. : ill., map ; 23 cm

"Kyanite in Eastern Alabama," by Edgar Bowles, Bulletin of American Ceramics Society, Vol. 18, August, 1939.


This site was last updated 12/30/20