Rhode Island Archival and Manuscript Collections Online

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John Nicholas Brown (1861-1900) papers

Brown University Library

Box A
Brown University
Providence, RI 02912
Tel: 401-863-2146

Scope & content

The John Nicholas Brown (1861-1900) papers were donated to the John Nicholas Brown Center by the heirs of John Nicholas Brown in 1992. The papers were transferred to the Brown University Library by the John Nicholas Brown Center in 2006. The collection spans approximately twenty-nine years, from 1871 to the death of John Nicholas Brown in 1900. The bulk of the material falls between the years 1881-1900. This collection consists of manuscripts, typescripts, bound manuscript volumes, diaries, travel diaries, books, pamphlets, clippings, photographs, bills and checks, ephemera and a scrapbook. The bulk of the collection is comprised of manuscripts. Several letters are written in French and Italian.

The collection contains a wide variety of correspondence received and sent. Throughout his life, John Nicholas Brown corresponded with family members, friends, acquaintances, vendors, merchants, artists and assorted club members. He was a staunch Episcopalian, and corresponded with church and missionary leaders. John Nicholas Brown donated his time and money to various charitable and civic organizations. He delved into politics on a local and national level, and was an elector for Benjamin Harrison in 1888 and concomitantly served as president of the Rhode Island Republican League.

John Nicholas Brown was an avid traveler and kept detailed diaries. These fourteen volumes provide insight into the whereabouts, itinerary, interests and the thoughts and feelings of John Nicholas Brown. The earliest travel diaries, 1874-1876, chronicle Brown's trip to Europe following the death of John Carter Brown in 1874. The first diaries appear to be a scholarly exercise and reveal little. Over time, the developing maturity of young John Nicholas Brown is revealed, and his reactions to people and places are recorded in greater detail and length. He was very interested in all things nautical; in the travel diaries, Brown frequently mentions statistics regarding ships, the Atlantic crossing, weather conditions, and the condition of those on-board. Correspondence and logs from his steam yacht, Ballymena, provide information concerning ship personnel, repairs, refurbishing, social activities, navigation, and the Herreshoff family.

The financial records of John Nicholas Brown provide a detailed account of the intricacies of the trust of John Carter Brown. The trust, under the direction of George W.R. Matteson, lent money to individuals, held mortgages, managed property, and constructed buildings. The estate held stock in various manufacturing companies. The cashbook of John Nicholas Brown provides an itemized inventory of all trust activities from 1888 to 1900. The financial records also include the bills and check registers of John Nicholas Brown, including a complete run of check registers beginning in 1895. Bills for the period 1896-1900 are numerous. Bills prior to 1896 have not been located.

The ephemera of this collection are varied, containing bookplates, insignias, calling cards and calling card holders, and a wallet. Most significant is a quill pen used by John Nicholas Brown as an elector to cast a vote for Benjamin Harrison. It is in poor physical condition.