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Papers of Otto Bowles (1904-1998)

Collection Number: LA 4
Volume: 0.5 linear feet
Dates: 1934-1983 (Bulk: 1966-1981)

This collection has been digitized in its entirety and is available online in our Digital Collections.


The papers of Otto Bowles were transferred from Mr. Bowles to Neal Moore for deposit in the Ozarks Labor Union Archives (OLUA) in 1983. The collection was processed in 2000 by Jenni Boone.


This collection may be protected from unauthorized copying by the Copyright Law of the United States (Title 17, United States Code).


The collection is unrestricted. Single photocopies may be made for research purposes. Permission to publish material from the collection must be obtained from the Ozarks Labor Union Archives. Citations should be as follows: Identification of the item, box and folder number, Otto Bowles Collection, Ozarks Labor Union Archives, Missouri State University.

Biographical History

Otto Bowles was born October 19, 1904 to Lon and Cora Bowles in Lawrence County, Missouri. He served in the Navy from 1923 to 1929. He then moved to Springfield, Missouri, where he started working in construction as a laborer. He joined Laborer’s Union local 676 in 1938, serving as a steward on such jobs as the construction of the U. S. Medical Center and O’Reilly Hospital. In 1941 he was asked to serve as the secretary treasurer of the local, and accepted the job. Shortly afterward, the local’s business agent was drafted into the Army, and Bowles held both offices until 1943. He also served as business manager of the Building and Construction Trades Council in Springfield. In 1947, he quit both union posts in Springfield to become business manager of the Greater Kansas City District Laborers’ Council.

His job as business manager for the district was to organize and assist local unions in over 50 counties in western Missouri. When he took the job, there were only three local contractors that had agreements with the union in his territory, but by the end of 1949 there were 90 to 100 contractors signed.

In the early 1960’s, the council expanded to include all of Kansas and in 1966 was renamed the Western Missouri and Kansas District Laborers’ Council. Kansas was a right to work state, so organizing efforts intensified in the district.

Between 1962 and 1966, Bowles assisted in a huge organizing effort near Sedalia, Missouri, where 150 missile silos and 15 control centers were built by union labor as part of the Minuteman missile project.

In 1975, Bowles retired. He died on May 7, 1998.


Kelley, Mike. "Labor Leader Retires." Springfield News-Leader, 1975.

Obituary, "Otto Bowles." Springfield News Leader, May 9, 1998.

Scope and Content

This small collection contains minutes of the district council and memorabilia of Mr. Bowles. It is arranged in rough chronological order. Of note is a partial transcript of an oral history done with Mr. Bowles in 1983, which is located in folder 8.

Related Materials in OLUA

Photographs in the collection were removed to the Photograph Collection.

Newspapers in the collection were removed to the Newspaper Collection.

Bowles, Otto. Interview with Neal Moore. (Audiocassette) Dec. 4, 1983.

Records of the Springfield Building and Construction Trades Council in Bricklayers and Allied Crafts Local 10, LA 10

Records of the Springfield (Missouri) Central Labor Council, LA 14

Records of Laborers' Local 676, an unprocessed collection.

Container List

Box 1 Folder
1 International Constitution 1941
2 Greater K.C. Laborers' District Council Minutes 1966
3 Greater K.C. Laborers' District Council Executive Board Minutes 1966
4 Greater K.C. Laborers' District Council Miscellaneous 1966
5 Western MO and KS Laborers' District Council Minutes 1973-1978
6 Western MO and KS Laborers' District Council Executive Board Minutes 1972-1975
7 Western MO and KS Laborers' District Council - Miscellaneous 1934-1983
8 Miscellaneous 1934-1983