From about 1915 to 1930, C. L. Bowes of Hinsdale, Illinois was in business publishing catalogs of home plans. The plans were collected in catalogs and probably sold to lumber yards across the upper Midwest and as far east as New York. Lumber dealers then distributed the catalogs under their name to prospective home builders. Often, Bowes' plans are unattributed. Even Classic Houses of the Twenties (Loizeaux's Plan Book No. 7) published by Dover clearly shows the content as being copyrighted by Bowes, but all the credit seems to be given to Loizeaux.
In fact, the Loizeaux book is kind of a missing link between many of the unattributed lumber dealers' catalogs and the Bowes plans in the Home Builder's Catalog, which was compiled, edited, and published by National Building Publications, a division of National Trade Journals, Inc. of Chicago and New York.
Bowes' earliest book was Modern American Homes. We've published some of the plans, but the quality is so uneven it's hard to say exactly what was going on. That makes Bowes interesting. On his WWI Draft registration, he lists his employment as publisher and it would have taken him at least six months to assemble the drawings for production let alone design them.
As for Bowes himself, little is known. Preliminary research finds him in the U.S. Census in 1900 living at home and working with his father as an iron monger, then in Chicago for 1910 and 1920. In 1910, Charles Lane Bowes lists his occupation as advertising and a decade later as publishing. Born in Illinois in the early 1870s, Charles L. Bowes married another Illinoisan, Eunice Bell Patten in 1900. They had two children. Such are the spartan facts of C. L. Bowes.
More research needs to be done to confirm that this is indeed the correct fellow. At least one source describes Bowes as an architect. If it's true that Bowes was more entrepreneur than architect or builder, who were the architects that designed the houses in his catalogs? No hint appears in the books in our collection, but we'll update our article when more surfaces.
Until then, we have published a few plans from a c. 1923 (undated) and 1925 catalog for you to enjoy. Additional sources in our collection include the Bowes' first, unprepossessing Modern American Homes (1918), and the entire collection of Home Builders Catalogs for 1926–1931.
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