Alexander Trowbridge was born on December 12, 1929 in Englewood, New Jersey. As a young man he attended Phillips Academy in Andover, Massachusetts, in 1947, graduating from Princeton University in 1951.
After World War II he worked with various reconstruction efforts. After working with the International Intern Program of the United Nations in Lake Success, New York he attended university and served in the Korean War in the Marine Corps.
Between 1954 and 1965 he served as an oil businessman. In 1965 President Lyndon Johnson made him Assistant Secretary of Commerce. On 19 January, 1967 he became acting Secretary of Commerce. He became Secretary of Commerce on 14 June, 1967 and served until 1 March, 1968. He resigned to return to business, and later served as head of the National Association of Manufacturers (from 1981 to 1989). In the early 1990s, he served as a member of the Competitiveness Policy Council.
He was son the of American University Professor of Russian History Alexander Buel Trowbridge, Jr., and the grandson of Alexander Buel Trowbridge, former dean of the Cornell University College of Architecture (1897-1902); his grandmother Gertrude Mary Sherman was the great-great-granddaughter of American founding father Roger Sherman.