Four of James' sons;
Moses became known as
The Four Brothers
and further established the family's mercantile wealth and power,
Brown & Company). The firm was later joined by George Benson
(Brown and Benson). The Brown family
was one of the most successful merchant families in the history of Rhode Island
and certainly one of the wealthiest.
Although the Brown family fortunes began with
their shipping empire, by the 1830's the family's shipping interests were
minimal and most of their enterprises were centered around the booming Rhode
Island and New England textile industry. The Brown family owned textile mills
throughout Rhode Island and New England and in addition were owners and
operators of several machine and tool companies.
Jr. was born on April 4, 1769 in Providence, Rhode island. He
was a graduate of Brown University. Nicholas and
Poynton Ives, (his sister's husband) founded the firm of
and Ives. For over forty years the firm of Brown
and Ives was one of the leading mercantile firms in the country
and it's name was known throughout the world. Nicholas died on September 27,
1841 and at the time this letter was sent the firm was being run by his son,
Brown remained in the slave trade into the early 1800s. In 1797
the Providence Abolition Society, of which both Moses and Obadiah Brown were
members, brought suit against brother John under the new 1794 Federal
anti-slavery law, which prohibited any ships that transported slaves from
outfitting in American ports. The vessel in question was condemned, however
John escaped unscathed and even received compensation for his loss. He later
stated that, "The people in general are
against this wicked and abominable combination,"
(referring to the Abolition Society).
became a Quaker and denounced anything to do with the slave trade. He also was
instrumental in the early success of the textile industry, having supplied the
funding for Samuel Slater's first Water
Powered Textile Mill in Pawtucket in 1793.
Jr. also refused to have anything to do with, or become involved
in the slave trade.
In 1796 Nicholas and Thomas began
construction of a second large ship to use in the Far Eastern Trade, (their
first was the John Jay). The ship was
named Ann & Hope after the
partner's two wives and was one of the fastest vessels of her time. The
original Ann & Hope wrecked off
Montauk Point in 1806 and the partners built a second ship of the same name
launched in 1807. The second Ann & Hope
was engaged in the Far Eastern Trade until at least 1838.
In 1886 the largest textile mill of it's time
was built in Lonsdale, Rhode Island and was also named after the wives of the
original Brown & Ives partners. The Ann & Hope Mills
was in operation until 1930.
In 1953 the first discount department store
in the country, Ann & Hope of
Rhode Island opened for business.