Skip to main content
Please contact the Booth Family Center for Special Collections for assistance with accessing these materials.

Hartley Rowe Papers

Identifier: GTM-160701

Scope and Contents

The Hartley Rowe papers document the life and works of Hartley Rowe, an American electrical engineer who worked for the Isthmian Canal Commission and the Panama Railroad Company in the early 20th century. The collection is organized into three series as detailed below.

Series 1: Correspondence. More than 200 autograph letters from Hartley Rowe to his future wife Inez Oswald. The first set of letters was written by Rowe from Purdue University. Subsequently, in a large number of letters written from Panama, Rowe discusses at length personal issues and to some extent professional issues during his time with the Isthmian Canal Commission and the Panama Railroad Company. Arranged chronologically. Bulk dates: 1904-1908.

Series 2: Photographs. Contains black-and-white photographs depicting scenes related to the Panama Railroad Company and the construction of the Panama Canal. Most of the photographs were taken by E.N. Nelson of Colon. The photographs date from 1910 to 1911. Arranged chronologically.

Series 3: Reports. Contains typed and printed reports. As Hartley Rowe was an electrical engineer, some of the reports deal with electrical issues in Panama. Also includes coverage of scientific aspects of the Panama Canal. Arranged chronologically. Bulk dates: 1910 to 1919.


  • 1904 - 1929


Conditions Governing Access

Most manuscripts collections at the Georgetown University Booth Family Center for Special Collections are open to researchers; however, restrictions may apply to some collections. Collections stored off site require a minimum of three days for retrieval. For use of all manuscripts collections, researchers are advised to contact the Booth Family Center for Special Collections in advance of any visit.

Conditions Governing Access

Researchers are solely responsible for determining the copyright status of the materials being used, establishing who the copyright owner is, locating the copyright owner, and obtaining permission for intended use.

Biographical / Historical

Hartley Rowe (1882-1966) was an electrical engineer who helped build the Panama Canal and worked for the Panama Railroad. Born in Goodland, Indiana, he graduated from Purdue University with a degree in electrical engineering. Soon after graduation, Rowe signed on to work on the American effort to construct the Panama Canal. In June 1908, Rowe married Inez Oswald, who was also from Goodland.

Rowe began work in Panama in 1904 for the Panama Canal Commission. In 1905, he transferred to become an engineer on the Panama Railroad. Rowe managed a power plant in the La Boca neighborhood of Panama City. He also was resident engineer in the Canal Commission's Building Division. In 1919, Rowe moved back to the United States.

Later, Rowe was vice president of the United Fruit Company. In 1944, he worked at Los Alamos as part of the Manhattan Project charged with building an atomic bomb. In 1946, he became a member of the Atomic Energy Commission.

Hartley Rowe died in 1966.

[Sources: Dealer Catalog (Swann Auction Galleries, 2016); Atomic Energy Foundation Online (2017)].


1.25 Cubic Feet (4 boxes and 1 oversized folder)

Language of Materials


Metadata Rights Declarations

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Purchased from Swann Auction Galleries, 2016.

Processing Information

The collection has been rehoused in acid-free boxes and folders.

Hartley Rowe Papers
Scott S. Taylor
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Revision Statements

  • 2023-10: Edited for DACS compliance by John Zarrillo
  • 2023-10: Oversized item moved to flat box

Repository Details

Part of the Georgetown University Manuscripts Repository

Lauinger Library, 5th Floor
37th and O Streets, N.W.
Washington DC 20057