The Robert Bowne Foundation supported the development of quality programs offering literacy education to children and youth of New York City, in the out-of-school hours, especially for those living in economically disadvantaged neighborhoods. The Foundation was established in 1968 by Edmund A. Stanley, Jr. and named in honor of Robert Bowne (1744-1818), founder of Bowne & Company. The Foundation’s goal was to increase access to youth-centered, quality out-of-school programs for all young people.
Robert Bowne, the namesake of the Robert Bowne Foundation, was a pioneer in his efforts on behalf of the disadvantaged. He founded the Manumission Society, through which he sought to "exert all lawful means to ameliorate the sufferings" of the American slave and "ultimately to free him from bondage." He was a founder, as well, of the Society for Establishing a Free school in the City of New York, where scholars would be chosen on the basis of need, irrespective of "sect, creed, nationality, or name." He also played an active role in New York's first hospital, its first public health organization, and its first fire insurance company. When he died, one of his many good friends said of Robert Bowne, "His active mind, open purse, expanded heart, and willing feet knew no bounds." Through the Robert Bowne Foundation's legacy this tradition continues.