Skip to main content

Brown Family Papers, 1789-1914

Identifier: MSS 195

Scope and Content Note

The Brown Family Papers consist primarily of family and personal correspondence of Francis (b. 1815), Ellen (Appleton), Annie B. (b. 1847), and Sarah H. Brown (b. 1845) of Salem, Massachusetts. Also included are papers of Francis' parents, Ammi (1776-1827) and Hannah (Baker) Brown (b. 1788), and his grandmother Hannah (Newhall) Baker. This collection contains very few shipping papers of Francis Brown, who was a noted Salem shipmaster.

Francis and Ellen Brown's correspondence documents their 1874 excursion to London, Pairs, Brussels, Interlaken, Vevey, and Liverpool. The correspondence includes letters to and from their children, Ellen, Frank, Susan, and Annie. Sarah Brown travelled with her parents (see Sarah's 1874 correspondence in B2 F1). Francis' business and personal correspondence contains travel arrangements and letters of introduction for the European trip, personal correspondence from Edward Brown of Chicago, and business correspondence from the Salem Lead Company (of which Francis was treasurer).

Receipts and an account book document Francis' shipping career. The account book includes accounts of four vessels which Francis mastered between 1840 and 1848: bark Brazil, ships Caroline and Ann Maria, and brig Rattler.

Annie B. Brown's personal correspondence contains letters from friends, her cousins Joseph and Edward O. Brown, and her sisters Susan and Nell (Ellen). Nell's letters include news from St. Louis and Chicago (1865-1866). Sarah's correspondence contains letters to her siblings, written during the 1874 excursion, and correspondence received from friends and relations. Of interest are descriptive letters from Sarah's friend Lois Harrison in California during the 1890s. Ammi Brown was the keeper of the Ipswich jail and possibly a court clerk. His account book includes household and court entries. The 1821 letter, written by convict Moses Read, mentions his jailer, Ammi. Hannah (Baker) Brown's receipts contain household receipts and accounts for Ammi's estate and Francis' education. Hannah (Newhall) Baker's personal correspondence was written to her cousin, Catherine Sargent.

The miscellaneous papers include a deed for land in the estate of Col. Abraham How Jr. of Ipswich (1803), a court document regarding the murder of Thomas Branagan (1822), essays, poetry, and word games.


  • Creation: 1789-1914

Restrictions on Access

This collection is open for research use.

Biographical Sketches

Francis Brown was born in Salem, Massachusetts, on August 5, 1815 to Ammi (1776-1827) and Hannah (Baker) (1788-1870) Brown. His early education took place at the private school of Samuel Archer. Presumably, his first major employer was the firm of William Dean and Company; Brown was later employed with Ebenezer Seccomb.

He first went to sea on the 290-ton brig Neptune, most likely on a Sumatra voyage which was registered at Salem on September 29, 1831, under Captain William Osgood. Brown also served aboard the John Bertram-owned brig Cherokee under Captain Bensen, on a voyage to Batavia and Europe, from which he returned from Rotterdam on the bark Brazil. This voyage was most likely the one registered at Salem on March 6, 1837. After serving for a time as a business partner in the firm Seccomb and Brown, he landed his first major position on board a ship as the supercargo on board the bark Star, which he was part owner of, on a voyage to Zanzibar. Afterward, Brown worked as captain and/or supercargo on the brig Rattler, the ship Carolina to Rio de Janeiro and Canton, the bark Brazil to Sumatra, and the Ann Maria, to the East Indies.

After retiring from sea duty, he served as an agent in California for David Pingree. Upon his return to Salem, he became treasurer of the Salem Gas Light Company, treasurer of the Salem Lead Company, trustee of the Salem Five Cent Savings Bank, and a director of the Salem National Bank. Brown was elected alderman in Salem in 1861. He died on November 14, 1880 after a long illness, leaving behind a widow, Ellen, and several children.

Ammi Brown was born in Ipswich in 1776, the son of Nehemiah and Mary (Choate) Brown. He was the keeper of the Ipswich jail. In 1814 he married Hannah Baker (1788-1870). They had one son, Francis. Ammi died in Salem on October 4, 1827.


1 linear foot (2 boxes)

Language of Materials



The Brown Family Papers consist primarily of family and personal correspondence of Francis (b. 1815), Ellen (Appleton), Annie B. (b. 1847), and Sarah H. Brown (b. 1845) of Salem, Massachusetts.

Physical Location

Phillips Library Stacks


Francis Brown's shipping account book was donated by Mrs. Francis Brown in 1935. The remainder of the collection is from an unknown source.

Bibliography and Related Collections

Putnam, George Granville. Salem Vessels and Their Voyages. Salem: Essex Institute, 1922.

Ship Registers of the District of Salem and Beverly Massachusetts, 1789-1900. Salem: Essex Institute, 1906.

Vital Records of Salem Massachusetts to the End of the Year 1849. Salem: Essex Institute, 1916.

Francis Brown Papers, 1802-1890, MH 26

Processing Information

Collection processed by Sylvia B. Kennick, September 1985. Updated by Tamara Gaydos, February 2016.

Processed by: Sylvia B. Kennick; Updated by: Tamara Gaydos; machine-readable finding aid created by: Rajkumar Natarajan.
Language of description
Script of description
Processing and conservation of this collection were funded by a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Repository Details

Part of the Phillips Library Repository

Peabody Essex Museum
306 Newburyport Turnpike
Rowley MA 01969 USA