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Elijah J. Bond | Charles W. Kennard | Harry Welles Rusk | Washington Bowie | Washington Bowie, Jr. | William H. A. Maupin | John F. Green | E. C. Reiche

Col. Washington Bowie
July 12th 1841 - May 28th 1922
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Col. Washington Bowie - click to launch popup
Col. Washington Bowie

Colonel Washington Bowie III was born on July 12, 1841 on the family’s Roseneath estate in Montgomery County, Maryland. He was the fourth child of Thomas Johns Bowie and Catherine Worthington Davis. A prominent and well-connected family, this Bowie line claims a direct ancestral line to Jim Bowie – famous for the Bowie knife. An extensively educated man, Col. Washington Bowie’s academia included a college education in agriculture. He became a member of the Masonic Order in 1872. During his stint as a journalist he became enamored with politics and found himself on the staff of Maryland Governor Oden Bowie. It was under this assignment that he received his commission of Colonel. Col. Washington Bowie was a Democrat and aligned himself as a southern sympathizer in the Civil War. He later became a Customs official and in 1886 was appointed Chief Clerk by then Surveyor of the Port of Baltimore, Mr. Warefield.

In 1893 Bowie was appointed to the post of Deputy Surveyor of the Port of Baltimore by U.S. President Cleveland and in 1894 he was appointed as Acting Surveyor of the Port of Baltimore, a post left vacant by the sudden death of Charles Ridgley Goodwin. Shortly thereafter Col. Buchanan Schley was appointed as Surveyor, but this too would not last. As administrations changed and internal politics prevailed, Col. Buchanan Schley was removed from his post in 1897 and U.S. President McKinley again appointed Col. Washington Bowie as Acting Surveyor of the Port of Baltimore until a permanent person could be agreed upon. Bowie would remain connected to Customs taking lesser positions until his retirement. His custom’s career made quite an impact on his close friend William Fuld whom Bowie advised to apply for an open Customs Inspector position in 1896.

Col. Washington Bowie married twice. He first married Nettie Schley on June 23, 1868 and had five children. Listed from oldest to youngest – Nettie Schley, Mary George, Washington Jr., Harriet Hall, and Donald McAlpin. Washington Bowie Jr. would represent William Fuld as his legal counsel in many court battles involving the Ouija board. After a long and painful illness Nettie Schley Bowie, Col. Washington Bowie’s wife, died on September 4th 1891. He later married Catherine Poole Gaither on January 8th 1896. Tragically, Catherine would succumb to injuries sustained from a fall down a flight of stairs on August 19th 1916.

Col. Washington Bowie's Patents - click to launch popup
Bowie's Patents

Bowie was one of the original investors of the Kennard Novelty Company which manufactured the Ouija board from 1890–1892. His name along with Harry Welles Rusk, Charles W. Kennard, William H. A. Maupin, and John F. Green can be found on the Kennard Novelty Company’s incorporation papers filed October 20th 1890 and certified on October 30th 1890. He would then dismiss the other founders of the company sparing only Harry Welles Rusk who remained as its president. He then renamed the company the Ouija Novelty Company, and put his close friend William Fuld in charge of daily operations. On April 12th 1898 the Ouija Novelty Company would assign its assets and interest including the U. S. Bond Ouija patent 446,054 and U. S. Ouija trademark 18,919 to Bowie and Rusk in the split of 5/6 to Col. Washington Bowie and 1/6 to Harry Welles Rusk. On December 2nd 1902 Rusk sold his 1/6 remaining interest to Bowie for $100.00 giving Bowie full ownership and control of the Ouija board.

The Ouija Novelty Company would manufacture Ouija boards from 1892-1898. Further linking him to Elijah J. Bond, the first person to patent the Ouija/Talking Board, both Bowie and Bond were assigned two patents for water and steam boilers in 1892, (No. 474,645) and (No. 482,384.) We aren’t sure if these water boiler patents had anything to do with the Kennard Novelty Company or if it was simply a side venture. They do, however, indicate a strong business relationship between Bowie and Bond.

These patents were filed by M. H. Plunkett. Besides these patents Plunkett is not mentioned again and we aren’t sure of any deeper connection between them. Interestingly, Jacob Krebs Rusk Jr., Harry Welles Rusk's brother, is listed as M. H. Plunkett’s lawyer on one of these patent papers. A similar situation occurs in 1893 when Rusk’s brother acts as Charles Kennard’s lawyer filing his patents and acting as his lawyer as well.

Patent No. 498,905 on a water motor by Richard M. Shaffer was assigned to Charles W. Kennard and Col. Washington Bowie. This is the last patent tying Kennard and Bowie together. It was filed on October 23rd 1891. Seven days later Bowie reorganized the Kennard Novelty Company forcing out Kennard. It was registered on June 6th 1893 a year after Bowie, Rusk, and William Fuld had shut down Kennard’s Northwestern Toy and Manufacturing Company of Chicago, Illinois.

Col. Washington Bowie's Gravestone - click to launch popup
Col. Washington Bowie's grave

Col. Washington Bowie would continue to receive a royalty on the Ouija board until April 24th 1919 when he assigned all remaining rights and interest in the U. S. Ouija trademark 18,919 to William Fuld. Retiring from Customs and the Ouija business, he would become the librarian for the Fidelity and Deposit Company in Baltimore, Maryland. Incidentally, the same company his son Washington Jr. was General Counsel and Vice President of. Suffering from illness and in bad health for two years Col. Washington Bowie died on May 28th 1922. He is buried with his family members in St. Johns Episcopal Cemetery in Hagerstown, Maryland.