Gershon Bowmar (1866-1937)

Having discovered much about his parents that I documented in another blog, it lead nicely into the very intriguing research of one of their sons, an inventor, who lived in four different countries. He would be my double cousin – second cousin 3 times removed, due to his parents being first cousins via the Hill ancestry line and also a first cousin 3 times removed, due to Challoner ancestry line.

Gershon Bowmar was born in the Mornington district of Dunedin, New Zealand on 16th September 1866. His parents were Elizabeth and Charles, who had emigrated from England. He would have spent his childhood in Dunedin, before moving over to the Gore area in the Southland, namely a place called Charlton. His father bought a farm there in 1881 and named it “Nottingham Meadows”. Gershon along with his brother Ernest ran the farm for a couple of years before their father took over.

The newspapers from all over the world have been extremely useful in showing what he did during his lifetime. Clearly from an early stage, Gershon had an inventor/engineering mind set. The first attempt at patenting was in 1887, when he entered an Improvement in Bagging Apparatus connected to a chaff-cutter (See New Zealand Gazette 1887). The next idea was for improving gears on traction engines (See the article from Mataura Ensign 19 May 1893).

New Zealand Gazette 1860-1894
19 May 1893 Mataura Ensign

I am not sure at what point he started the Threshing mills business with Thomas Bowmar but it clearly didn’t go very well. As by 1890, he and Thomas had filed to dissolve the partnership of Bowmar Bros, but Gershon did carry on with the business for a while but ended up going bankrupt. In order to apply for a patent would have cost him money, so the combination of this and disputes with customers probably would have contributed to filing for insolvency in 1894 (See Articles from Mataura Ensign 22 June 1894 and July 1895).

22 Jun 1894 Mataura Ensign
1895 Bankruptcy notice

Gershon must have then decided to start a fresh somewhere else, so he embarked on the ship Jonic at Wellington and arrived in the port of London on the 19th November 1894. Below is the passenger list taken from UK and Ireland, Incoming Passenger Lists, 1878-1960 from Ancestry

Ship Jonic Passenger list

He spent a number of years in London and certainly made a name for himself. Almost a year in he married Alice Connor in the Fulham area. I will be ordering the certificate shortly. He had set up a business called Messrs Bowmar & Co in London. In no time at all, he had patented another farming related design – a mechanically driven shears to shear the sheep, who he partnered with Harry William Charles Cox. Another invention which was particularly successful was the Automated Curtain pull. I was surprised to find that even though he had patented the ideas in London, the listings for some of them ended up in several government gazettes locally and around the world, see below. The curtain pull was advertised in unexpected places too, Scottish Post Office Directory in 1899, Trade directory in New Zealand and the Fulham Chronicle, Feb 23 1900. After contacting the Wandsworth Heritage, they confirmed that between 1897 and 1900, he was based at 355 Earlsfield Road (the 1898-1898 Wandsworth, Putney and Barnes directory being one resource) and then in 1901 had moved to 371 Earlsfield Road.

Shipping Gazette and Lloyd’s list Thurs 9th Jun 1898
Glasgow Post Office Directroy
Gore Trades directory
NSW Australia Government Gazette
Victoria Government Gazette 1895
Fulham Chronicle 1900

I knew from researching his parents that he had moved across the pond, but at what point in time is not clear and do wonder why he moved. Tried to locate him in the 1901 census in London but couldn’t find anything and had trouble finding him in ship passenger lists, but can narrow the time frame as, using the Toronto City Directories on FindmyPast and 1822 – 1995 US City Directories on Ancestry was able to locate where he lived for the next few years.

It would have been cheaper to enter into Canada first before entering the United States. So found him initially in 1902 an Engineer living at King Street East in Toronto, Canada. Then he had moved to Buffalo by 1904 where he was at Westgate 742 7th Street until 1905. 1906 found him living on Auburn Ave until 1909.  By 1914/15 he had moved back across the border to Toronto. Buffalo is situated very close to Niagara Falls and is one of the entry/exit points for border crossings. Back in 2003 I went on my travels and crossed the border from Buffalo to Niagara Falls by foot along the Rainbow Bridge, and at that point didn’t know I would have travelled in the footsteps of a cousin.

During this time, he worked as an engineer for a motor company when he carried on patented improvements, so of course found one idea in the Official Gazette of the United States of 1924. This time, it was improvements to a piston within the engine. The Toronto city directories were particularly useful as they specified either the job title, company he worked at or both along with the following streets, apart from 1922 to 1923.

  • 1915 – 1917 Mechanical engineer 1789 Dundas Street West
  • 1922 – 1923 158 Westmount Ave
  • 1932 – 1934 Plant engineer at Willy’s-Overland 100 St Johns Road
  • 1937 Engineer with Canadian Acme Screw & Gear – 469 Northcliffe Blvd

Whilst I was searching the internet, I came across a site that listed all of his applications for each patents in all four countries – a grand total of 14. Some of the items include some good details and with the drawings too. Click the following for the list of his patent applications –

Official Gazette of US 1924

Gershon was clearly a very intelligent man and quite the entrepreneurial. He sadly passed away on the 16th Feb 1937 at Northcliffe Blvd on the corner with Genessee Ave in York district of Toronto, Canada. His wife Alice had passed away in 1934. Unfortunately haven’t been able to establish if he had any children.

Death registration from FamilySearch

Gershon certainly lived an interesting life, with plenty of variety, with lots and up and downs with farming to the beginnings of the motor car industry. There is probably a lot more information to be found on him.


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