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Profile of Chester Bowles in Harper’s Magazine.
Chester Bowles Papers. Manuscripts & Archives, Yale University.

Elizabeth Campbell ’09, Chester Bowles: Intellectual or Politician?

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The Honorable Chester Bowles (1901-1986), a former governor, congressman, Under Secretary of State, and Ambassador to India, was an accomplished public servant. Does such public service qualify Bowles as a modern intellectual? Bowles’s background may suggest a sort of general intellectualism, but Bowles was a gentleman-scholar turned businessman, not a professional thinker.

Bowles’s foray into politics was impressive to Washington insiders. In 1941, Bowles sold his advertising company and signed up to work with Connecticut’s wartime rationing offices. Bowles was so effective that Roosevelt appointed him to head the federal Office of Price Administration in 1943. In Washington, Bowles became renowned for his brilliance at committee hearings, at which he applied his charisma and knowledge of advertising psychology, to persuade congressmen. This 1946 Harper’s magazine article profiles Bowles’s younger years at Choate and Yale, his general youthful indirection, and his initial foray into the advertising business that made him a Depression-era millionaire.