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Edward Eagle Brown family papers

Identifier: Midwest-MS-Brown

Scope and Content of the Collection

The bulk of the materials pertain to William Brown's shipping career, including invoices, receipts, bills of lading, and ships' manifests. Other materials include correspondence between members of the Brown and Baker families and other family members, personal and school writings, and financial and legal documents, photographs, memorabilia, and several bound volumes of addresses given by Edward Osgood Brown.

Correspondence of special interest includes: letters written to William Brown by first wife Dorcas and second wife Ann which document family and community developments and reflect their lives as wives left to tend to home and finance while merchant marine husbands were away at sea; letters to stepmother Ann Baker Brown from Edward Brown that detail Brown's life at Amherst College, and career as a merchant sailor, including a trip up the Mississippi through Kentucky and Pennsylvania and into Alton, Illinois where Brown vividly describes the fledgling town; a letter from William H. Brown to an uncle which details dramatically the days leading up to William Brown's death at sea in 1833; and letters (photostat copies) from Abraham Lincoln and Stephen A. Douglas possibly kept as souvenirs by Edward Osgood Brown.

Personal materials of interest include: diaries of Lucy Putnam Osgood which document the dates of births, deaths, illnesses and marriages, and other notable life events of the Osgood and Brown families; documents pertaining to an incident on the Ship Putnam in which William Brown defends the ship against Malay pirates in 1805; a memoir written by Edward Osgood Brown containing genealogical information on Brown family ancestors including the Newhall, Choate, Dalton, and Babson families, reminiscences of his childhood in Salem, and a description of Chicago immediately after the fire of 1871.

The Photographs and Bound Volumes series include two albums of carte de visites of the Brown, Baker and other family members; photographs of Edward Eagle Brown at business events; two picture postcard albums; several bound volumes of addresses given by Edward Osgood Brown.


  • Creation: 1749-1955
  • Creation: Majority of material found within 1810 - 1900



Materials are in English.

Conditions Governing Access

The Edward Eagle Brown family papers are open for research in the Special Collections Reading Room; 1 box at a time (Priority III).

Ownership and Literary Rights

The Edward Eagle Brown family papers are the physical property of the Newberry Library. Copyright may belong to the authors or their legal heirs or assigns. For permission to publish or reproduce any materials from this collection, contact the Roger and Julie Baskes Department of Special Collections at

Biography of Edward Eagle Brown and family

Chicago banker, son of Chicago lawyer and judge Edward Osgood Brown.

Edward Eagle Brown was born in Chicago on June 4, 1885, the son of noted Chicago lawyer and judge Edward Osgood Brown and Helen Gertrude Eagle. He graduated from Harvard Law School in 1908 and was admitted to the Illinois bar in the same year. He joined the legal department of the First National Bank in 1910, became president of the bank in 1934, and was named chairman of the board in 1945. He served on many city boards and committees including the park district, the Association of Commerce, and was a trustee of the Newberry Library. He married Phyllis Wyatt, a columnist for the Chicago Evening Post, in 1913. He died of a coronary thrombosis in 1959.

Edward Osgood Brown was born on August 5, 1847 in Salem, Massachusetts, son of Edward Brown and Eliza Osgood Dalton. Brown attended Brown University and graduated from Harvard law school. He came to Chicago in 1872 in hopes of capitalizing on potential legal business in the aftermath of the Chicago fire. He and partner Orville Peckham established a successful practice as the city rebuilt, and Brown was involved in several notable Chicago developments including the Haymarket incident of 1886, and the reclamation of Lincoln Park for public use. He was a supporter of a "single tax," and wrote and spoke frequently on the topic. In 1903 he was elected judge of the Superior Court of Cook County and later served the Appellate Division Court and the Circuit Court. Brown converted to Catholicism in 1869 and was an active, liberal member of the Church. In this capacity, he supported labor causes, was anti-war, and was at one time president of the Chicago branch of the NAACP. Brown married Helen Gertrude Eagle in 1884 and they had five children, Edward Eagle, Helen Dalton, Walter Elliott, Robert, and Mary Wilmarth Brown. He died on December 8, 1923.

Edward Osgood Brown's father was Edward Brown, born in Ipswich, Massachusetts in 1815, son of William Brown and Dorcas Baker. Though his family hoped that he would enter the ministry, he chose to follow in the family business as a merchant sailor. He was a master mariner, referred to as was the custom as "Captain" though he was never in the military. He was a sailor for nearly twenty years until the death of his first wife, Eliza Osgood Dalton in 1852. He then became part owner of several shipping concerns, but lost his businesses in the advent of the Civil War. He married Jennie Taylor in 1859 and through her family's connections secured a clerical position in the comptrollers office of Chicago. He eventually returned to Massachusetts where he spent the last years of his life.

William Brown (birth date unknown) was born in Ipswich to Nehemiah Brown and Mary Choate. He was a ships' carpenter and later became master sailor, also referred to as "Captain" Brown. He spent his life at sea, sailing out of the ports of Salem, Ipswich, and Boston to Asia and the West Indies on trading ships such as the Putnam, the Janus, and the Minerva. He was married to Dorcas Baker, and upon her death married her sister Ann Baker. Brown had three children with Dorcas, Edward, William Henry, and Dorcas. Both his sons followed him into the sea faring life. His son William Henry was with him on a voyage when he fell ill with a fever and ran off the deck to his death in 1833.


8.3 Linear Feet (18 boxes and 1 scrapbook)


Materials pertaining to the family of Chicago banker Edward Eagle Brown, primarily of Brown's father Edward Osgood Brown, great grandfather William Brown, and descendants in the Ipswich and Salem Massachusetts areas.


Papers are organized in the following series:

Series 1: Family Papers, 1749-1955
Boxes 1-12
Series 2: Photographs & Bound Volumes, approximately 1800s-1944
Boxes 13-17

Collection Stack Location

1 7 6


Gift, Mary Wilmarth Brown, 1966.

Processed by

Lisa Janssen, 2009.


This inventory was created with the generous support of the National Endowment for the Humanities. Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this inventory do not necessarily represent those of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Inventory of the Edward Eagle Brown family papers, 1749-1955, bulk 1810-1900
Lisa Janssen
Language of description
Script of description

Revision Statements

  • 2011-08-17: Revisions, additions, and updates were made.

Repository Details

Part of the The Newberry Library - Modern Manuscripts and Archives Repository

60 West Walton Street
Chicago Illinois 60610 United States