Edward (Major) Bowes
Edward Bowes was an American radio personality of the 1930s and 40s whose Major Bowes’ Amateur Hour was the best-known amateur talent show in radio during its eighteen-year run on NBC and CBS.
Bowes made his first business success in real estate, until the cataclysmic San Francisco earthquake of 1906 wiped out his fortune. He then went to New York City, in search of other opportunities. He soon realized that the theatrical world was lucrative, and he worked busily in New York as a musical conductor, composer, and arranger. He also produced Broadway shows, such as Kindling in 1911-12 and The Bridal Path in 1913. He was married to Kindling star, from 1910 until her death in 1934; her portrait by Adolfo Müller-Ury had been painted in 1906 for her first husband, the theatre manager, Daniel Frohman.
He became managing director of New York’s imposing Capitol Theatre, which he ran with military efficiency and bearing. He insisted on being addressed as “Major Bowes”; his nickname sprang from his earlier military rank, though historians are divided on whether he was an active-duty officer in World War I or held the rank as a member of the Officer Reserve Corps.
In 1934 Bowes brought his best-known creation to New York station WHN in 1934. He had actually hosted scattered amateur nights on smaller stations while manager of the Capitol. Within a year of its WHN premiere, The Original Amateur Hour, began earning its creator and host as much as $1 million a year, according to Variety.