Location: Bowdoin / Library / Special Collections & Archives / Manuscript Collections / Ralph Owen Brewster Papers

Ralph Owen Brewster Papers, 1909-1962, n.d.


157.0 linear feet.

Catalog Number: M200

Series List:



Agency History / Biographical Note:
Ralph Owen Brewster was born in Dexter, Maine, in 1888. He was graduated from Bowdoin College in 1909 (summa cum laude; Phi Beta Kappa Society). He worked briefly (1909-1910) as the principal of Castine High School, then went on to earn an L.L.B. from Harvard University in 1913. From 1914 to 1925 he was a partner in the Portland, Maine, law firm of Chapman and Brewster. He entered politics and won election to the lower house of the Maine legislature in 1916. In 1917 he resigned from the House and entered the U.S. Army, rising to the rank of Captain by 1918. After the signing of the armistice Brewster returned to Maine, was reelected to the Maine House of Representatives, and in 1922 was elected to the state Senate. He was elected governor in 1924 and reelected in 1926, but was defeated in the primary for a third term. He was twice defeated for the Republican nomination as candidate for the U.S. Senate and subsequently moved from Portland to Dexter in order to run for the Congressional seat from the Third District. He lost the election in 1932, but won in 1934, serving three terms in the House of Representatives. He worked on legislation to provide old-age pensions; he also opposed President Roosevelt's New Deal. In 1940 he won a U.S. Senate seat, serving from 1941-1952. Brewster sat on several Senate committees, notably the Special Senate Committee to Investigate the National Defense Program (the Truman Committee), and the Joint Committee to Investigate the Pearl Harbor Attack. He lost his Senate seat in the 1952 primary and retired, maintaining an active interest in many conservative organizations. Brewster married the former Dorothy Foss in 1913, and they had two sons. Ralph Owen Brewster died unexpectedly of cancer in 1961.

Scope and Content:
Records are largely office files concerning contemporary issues, events and local and national political and legislative initiatives; and general office correspondence spanning the years 1923-1961. Other categories of material include published and unpublished reports and records of legislative initiatives; nomination papers and campaign files from numerous primary and election campaigns; newspaper clippings from all phases of his career; and recordings of some speeches. Included also is a collection of photographs: most are official, and concern his Senatorial career.

While governor of Maine, Brewster promoted Maine's industry, products and resources; and was chairman of the United States Governors' Conference from 1925-1927. Brewster corresponded with many well-known state and national figures of the time, including Harry Truman, Percival Baxter, Robert A. Taft, Henry Cabot Lodge, Jr., James M. Mead; and was contemporary with Margaret Chase Smith, Richard Nixon and Joseph McCarthy. He served on several important congressional committees. Many of his activities involved investigation of the U.S. armed forces as a part of the Truman Committee, and on his own committee. Other significant issues that held Brewster's interest were interstate commerce, foreign oil reserves, Pearl Harbor, Republican Party issues, the Maine potato industry, the Port of Portland, and old-age pensions. In 1943 Brewster and Senators Russell of Georgia, Chandler of Kentucky, Lodge of Massachusetts, and Mead of New York travelled to the war areas to gather information on numerous wartime subjects including: international transportation, foreign landing facilities, distribution of supplies, state of machinery received from the U.S., and the function of the Office of War.

See the Brewster Family Collection for more material on Ralph Owen Brewster and the Brewster Family.
Cite as: Ralph Owen Brewster Papers, George J. Mitchell Department of Special Collections & Archives, Bowdoin College Library.
Access Restrictions: Material unrestricted except as noted.

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