One of the visiting bankers who attended the sessions of the American Bankers’ Association at New Orleans last week was a man who was a prominent figure in the cypress industry ten or more years ago. The old-timer will recognize the likeness, which shows no changes except in the cut of the beard. Those who saw Capt. George M. Bowie while he was in the city and recalled with him the memories of the early days of cypress manufacture in Louisiana, say that he appears to have grown younger since he got out of the manufacturing business and adopted a life of ease.
Capt. Bowie makes his home in Weatherford, Tex., but spends considerable time in travel. Just to keep from being inactive in a business way, he is vice-president of the First National Bank of Weatherford.
His meeting with those of his old friends and former competitors was most pleasant to all of them, for Capt. Bowie had always been popular and had any friends. He was one of the first to realize the importance of the value acquaintance with each other to the cypress manufacturers. He acted upon is belief, so is responsible for the first organization of cypress manufacturers Louisiana. He says he wrote a letter to all of the manufacturers whose output was sufficient, asking them to meet at the St. Charles hotel, about fifteen years ago, when the situation with respect to cypress manufacture was discussed. Then was organized the first association of cypress manufacturers, under the administration of Capt. Bowie, as president, much good was accomplished.
There were not many present, but everyone who had received an invitation attended the meeting. Capt. Bowie told them that they were not acting like business men because they had not taken account of the vast possibilities of the development of the market for their lumber, that by cooperating they could make their product better known and would be greatly benefited.
There have been other associations since the first one, but there has always been an organization. The list of the members of the Southern Cypress Manufacturing Association contains only a few names of those who were members of the first organization, which shows the growth of the cypress industry within last few years. The early meetings of the association were noted for the plain talk that occurred, after the sessions were over it was the custom meet in some restaurant for luncheon or dinner, someone was sure to direct the waiter to put the ticket on him, and then someone else would order something for the crowd, the ticket to be put on himself and if anyone came in late an order was sure to be given to be put on the late-comer.
Capt. Bowie told of one incident when something was brought up about shingles, which caused a hot discussion, and before the member who made the proposition had an opportunity to explain, the chairman of the meeting made a long talk against it, but the day was won for the proposition by the statement of its sponsor that any matter which affected the whole industry in the state could not be set aside because it might not suit local conditions at one manufacturing point. This principle of give and take has always characterized the cypress fraternity.
It has long been a mystery how Capt. Bowie in the old days could drink such large quantities of whiskey and not show it. He cleared up this mystery on his recent visit by stating that he had arranged with the keeper of a popular cafe to keep a whiskey bottle filled with tea for his use; whenever he entered the saloon with a party, he always waited until the last to be served, giving the signal to Mr. Ramos, who brought out the special bottle from which the libation was poured. Capt. Bowie said that for many years he was accustomed to paying fifteen cents for a sip of cold tea.
The years 1894 to 1897 were times that caused much worry to the manufacturers of cypress on account of the difficulty in getting money on account of the panic of 1893. Capt. Bowie was operating at White Castle at that time. In order to relieve the situation he said that he made his own money and had printed the obligations of the company to the amount of $50,000, which were received by the creditors and went into circulation. He said that when the paper was outstanding, it was the hope of the company that some of it would be lost and never presented for redemption, but this hope was in vain as every piece of paper was presented for payment when notice was given the company would redeem its obligation and every dollar paid. Capt. Bowie said that at the time he did not think that he was violating any federal law, but since he has become a banker and gained a more intimate acquaintance with financial affairs, he has had some doubts as to whether or not he did not run a great risk at that time.
Bowie, La., is known wherever cypress is marketed. Capt. Bowie told how the name happened to be chosen. He said that William Cameron, one of the first men to manufacture cypress on a large scale, and who built the big mill at Bowie, told him that he would like to call the place Bowie. Capt. Bowie objected. He said that he had seen the place and did not care to have the town named after him, suggesting that Mr. Cameron name the place after his wife, because she had never seen it and might feel complimented. Mr. Cameron insisted that the place be called Bowie, while Capt. Bowie was as insistent that it should not. It was finally decided to settle it by drawing of straws, so each one picked a straw from a broom and Mr. Cameron chose the longest straw, so had his way. Since that time the town of Bowie has been greatly improved.
Capt. Bowie, who is now sixty-five years old, is hale and hearty and jovial as ever.