Collection Scope and Content Note
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Personal and professional papers of John M. Dow include shipping and trading contracts with Central American governments; administrative records, cargo and freight (primarily coffee and indigo) statements; and financial and commercial records, annual reports, logs, schedules, and telegraph code. Also included are letters and newspaper clippings concerning political events in Central America in the second half of the nineteenth century; correspondence with Central American politicians such as General Barrios, Rafael Zaldívar and Enrico Palacio regarding United States policy toward attempts to unify the Central American countries into a single federation. Also included is Dow's correspondence as arbitrator in the settlement between the Compagnie Universelle du Canal Interoceanique and the American Contracting and Dredging Company, 1887. Dow also pursued his interests as a naturalist, exploring the Central American coast to collect marine flora and fauna and carrying on
an extensive correspondence with Professor Spencer Baird of the Smithsonian Institution and Osbert Salvin and P. L. Sclater of the Zoological Society of London concerning the collection and transportation of specimens native to Central America. Papers also contain several letters to his wife, Elizabeth Allen Dow, which provide daily accounts of his life on board ship and in port.
Among other correspondents are William Henry Aspinwall, John Cassin, Alexander Center, William Pancoast Clyde, Charles Dorat, John Charles Fremont, Joseph I. Henry, David Hoadley, J. B. Houston, J. Jacquier, Joseph F. Joy, W. H. Lane, George Newbold, James Orton, Henry Shelton Sanford, George Ure Skinner, Henry Bartholomew Slaven and Jeffries Wyman. Eight diaries kept by Dow provide comments on his daily life, and two notebooks give descriptions of the coast of Central America. Photographs include Dow and several Central American scenes. An album contains portraits of Dow's family, relatives and acquaintances, and well-known persons. There are two albums of caricatures and a book of "Ocean Mosses" (pressed specimens) given to Elizabeth Allen "from her friend Capt'n John M. Dow." Remaining items include a significant group of nineteenth century maps, membership certificates, inventories of property, bills, bank books, insurance policies, memoranda, passenger lists,
menus, invitations, and printed matter pertaining primarily to natural history.