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Francis Fisher Browne papers

Identifier: Midwest-MS-Browne

Scope and Content of the Collection

The collection consists of mostly incoming correspondence relating to various publications and numerous letters of condolence at Francis Fisher Browne's death in 1913, plus a small group of copies of outgoing letters written by editors of The Dial after that date; manuscripts of works by Browne, including a novel, a play and numerous poems, plus a few works by other people; material concerning The Dial; and a miscellaneous group of materials such as many clippings and articles by and about Browne and/or The Dial, notes for literary projects, poetical memorabilia and photographs.


  • Creation: approximately 1860-1949
  • Creation: Majority of material found within 1873 - 1915



Materials are in English.

Conditions Governing Access

The Francis Fisher Browne papers are open for research in the Special Collections Reading Room; 5 folders at a time maximum (Priority II).

Ownership and Literary Rights

The Francis Fisher Browne 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 Francis Fischer Browne

Chicago writer for and editor of literary periodicals, most notably The Dial.

In 1867, at the age of twenty-four, Francis Fisher Browne left New England with his new wife, determined to make Chicago the home of a serious and influential literary journal. Despite Chicago being a discouraging venue for a significant intellectual magazine, through hard work, high standards and some financial self-sacrifice, in 1880 Browne eventually achieved his goal with the emergence of The Dial, a modest magazine he described as "An intelligent guide and agreeable companion to the book-lover."

Browne had begun his apprenticeship as a magazine editor with The Western Monthly in 1869, which he subsequently renamed to The Lakeside Monthly in hope of attracting eastern readers. However, the latter publication folded in 1874, and for the next few years, Browne wrote for various Chicago newspapers, worked on publicity for several railroads, edited The Chicago Alliance, a weekly religious paper, and then became the literary advisor for Jansen, McClurg & Co., local publishers. In 1880, Browne persuaded this publishing company to sponsor his ideal critical literary journal to be named The Dial (after Margaret Fuller's short-lived Transcendental periodical), for which he would serve not only as editor and writer, but as business manager and typographer.

In 1892, Browne bought out Jansen, McClurg's share of the magazine and as independent owner and editor, introduced a "new" Dial, one he stated would "assume a distinct voice upon questions of general intellectual concern." Now the magazine not only reviewed books, it carried editorials, essays on a range of topics, general articles and even letters from its readers. However, the range of subject matter was not inclusive. Through all its thirty-three years The Dial remained consistently apolitical and conservative, revering established English and New England writers, maintaining a courteous and pleasant tone, and ignoring or opposing works that showed the worst of human nature -- the ugly or indelicate side of life. Nevertheless, when Browne died in 1913 The Dial was still at its peak of financial and intellectual success, firmly established as a national rather than a regional publication.

Francis Fisher Browne loved literature, particularly poetry, and he edited three collections entitled Golden Poems by British and American Authors (1881), The Golden Treasury of Poetry and Prose (1883), and Bugle-Echoes, poems of the Civil War in 1886. Although he churned out numerous sentimental verses of his own, his most note-worthy work was The Everyday Life of Abraham Lincoln, published in 1886. Among his friends were John Burroughs, John Muir and Charles F. Lummis.

One of the few disappointments of Browne's literary life was the failure of a special project - the establishment of an elegant bookstore that would appeal to Chicago's wealthy and cultured readers. Existing only from 1907 to 1912, Browne's Bookstore, designed by Frank Lloyd Wright and located in the Fine Arts Building, struggled unsuccessfully to make a profit.

Elderly and ill, Browne died in California during the next year and The Dial, which continued to be published by his two sons, Waldo and Herbert, was sold in 1916 to Henry O. Shepard Co. and relocated in New York City.


5 Linear Feet (9 boxes)


Correspondence, literary manuscripts, memorabilia, clippings, photos and material relating to Francis Fisher Browne and the publication of several Chicago literary periodicals, primarily The Dial, of which Francis Fisher Browne was the founder and editor, 1880-1913.


The papers are organized in the following series:

Series 1: Correspondence, 1872-1949, bulk 1880-1915
Boxes 1-3
Series 2: Works, approximately 1873-1911
Boxes 4-5
Series 3: The Dial, 1880-1949, bulk 1880-1913
Box 6
Series 4: Miscellaneous, approximately 1860-1928
Boxes 7-9

Collection Stack Location

1 8 5


Gift of sons of Francis Fisher Browne, Herbert S. Browne and Waldo R. Browne, 1945 and 1969; and grandson Francis Browne Woodworth, 1977.

Processed by

Amy Nyholm, 1945; Virginia H. Smith, 2001.


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 Francis Fisher Browne Papers, approximately 1860-1949, bulk 1873-1915
Language of description
Script of description

Revision Statements

  • 2011-08-18: 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