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Benjamin Franklin Brown

    Benjamin Franklin Brown (1828-1908) was born in Boston, MA on April 29, 1828. He and Augusta Ball Hughes (1832-1914), the younger daughter of Robert and Eliza Ball Hughes, were married in Dorchester, MA on Augusta’s birthday on Feb. 16, 1852.  She was 20 years old and he was 24. They had two sons, Frederick Walter Brown (1855-1935) and George Edward Brown (1857-1933). 

    B. F. Brown was a successful Boston merchant. The Brown's lived in Cambridge, MA, not far from Dorchester where her Augusta's parents lived in Sunnyside on School St. See New Hampshire Studio for a photograph that is believed to include Augusta and her husband, B. F. Brown, with her parents, Mr. & Mrs. Ball Hughes.

    Ball Hughes made several pokerisms expressly to the order of B. F. Brown Esq. including Falstaff Examining his Recruits. I believe that most of the pokerisms listed on the Pokerisms Index as being owned by the Brown family were passed down from B. F. Brown to his son Frederick Walter Brown and his two sons, Henry Abbot Brown (1884-1935), my grandfather, and his brother Frederick Rudolf Brown (?-1952).

    Ball Hughes wife, Eliza, writes about the Ball Hughes "Pokerisms" owned by B. F. Brown in the Sketch of the Life of Robert Ball Hughes, p. 37:

B. F. Brown who in 1852 married Mr. Hughes youngest daughter – has some of the finest Mr. Hughes ever burned. Falstaff and followers_ The Monk a wonderfully fine Pokerism_ the three witches of Macbeth from Fuseli’s picture_ The choosing the wedding drefs [dress] from Goodall’s and several smaller ones.


According to Eliza, the model for the Equestrian Statue of Washington was owned by B. F. Brown and a cast of the bust of General Warren.

William Dana Orcutt records in Good Old Dorchester Cambridge: John Wilson & Son, UP, 1893, p. 383, regarding Ball Hughes’ poker sketches:

"... Among the works of this kind, many of which are now in the possession of Mr. Hughes' son-in-law, Mr. Benjamin F. Brown, may be mentioned "The Trumpeter," "The Monk," "Falstaff Examining his Recruits," — embracing a dozen or more figures, —"Rembrandt," "Don Quixote," "Shakespeare," "Rubens," and "The Scotch Terrier.""

According to the Sketch of the Life of Robert Ball Hughes, by Mrs. E. Ball Hughes, p. 47, the beautiful monument in Cedar Grove Cemetery in Boston was erected to Ball Hughes memory by his son-in-law, B. F. Brown. He was apparently very close to his father-in-law.

Obituary for Benjamin F. Brown

Benjamin F. Brown of Cambridge Was 
Long Identified with Local Interests

    Benjamin F. Brown, an old-time Boston merchant, died at his home in Cambridge on Saturday [June 13, 1908] at the age of eighty years, after an illness on only two days. Mr. Brown was born in Boston on April 29, 1828, and was a graduate of the Boston public schools. Upon leaving school he entered the employ of James Baker & Co. on Water street, where Shawmut Bank building now stands. A few years later, with E. W. Burr, he formed the firm of Burr, Brown & Co., manufacturers of upholstery trimmings, and continued in that business for forty-seven years, until the death of his partner, when the firm went out of business. Since that time Mr. Brown had devoted himself exclusively to the management of the several estates of which he was trustee.

    In 1852 Mr. Brown married the youngest daughter of the late Robert Ball Hughes, the eminent sculptor and artist, and in 1902 he and his wife celebrated their golden wedding anniversary. Mr. Brown was an honorary member of Winslow Lewis Lodge of Masons, of which organization up to the tine of his death he had been treasurer for more than thirty years. He was director of the former Third National Bank from soon after its organization until its absorption by the national Shawmut Bank a few years ago. He was also the oldest director, in point of age and service, of the American Waltham Watch company. Since 1901 Mr. Brown had resided in Cambridge. Mr. Brown is survived by his wife and two of his four children, Frederick W. and George E. Brown.

1. The estates that B. F. Brown managed may have included the Ball Hughes estate.

2. I think that the Brown's probably resided in Cambridge since their marriage in 1852.

3. This is the first time that I have heard that he had two other children besides Frederick Walter and George Edward. They are not shown on my genealogy that was prepared by their son, George Edward Brown.

4. Burr, Brown & Co. was formed in 1855 after J. Baker & Son was dissolved. B. F. Brown was only 27 years old at the time.

5. David Brown has a Waltham pocket watch that was passed down to him from his father. A serial number lookup at www.nawcc-info.org shows that it's a model 1857 Broadway, manufactured in December 1877 or January 1878. This could have been about the same time that B. F. Brown was a Director of the Waltham Watch Company. It's not known if this watch was his or not.

Burr, Brown & Co. 

Leading Pursuits and Leading Men, edited by Edwin T. Freedley, Philadelphia: Edward Young, 1856, pp. 117-118, describes the business that employed 100-200 workers:

    Among manufacturers of Carriage Trimmings, Messrs. Burr, Brown & Co., successors to J. Baker & Son, whose warehouse is at 8 Water street, Boston, and factories at Hingham, Mass., take rank among the oldest and most extensive in the United States. The establishment was founded in 1835, by Mr. John Baker, and has been growing in size and increasing in business until the factories now form a prominent feature of the town in which they ore located, and the goods manufactured are found in all parts of the country.

    The factories of Messrs. Burr, Brown & Co. comprise two main buildings, each 100 by 25 feet, with dye-house and outbuildings attached. They employ from one to two hundred hands, and make all kinds of fringes, cords, tassels for draperies and for windows, drapery and furniture gimps, and a vast variety of goods used by upholsterers and carriage-builders. Hand-looms are mainly used in the manufacture of this class of goods, and the materials consumed are principally worsted, cotton, tram, and organzine silk. Richness in styles and superior colors are points of essential importance; and in these, the goods made by this firm receive a preference to which they are justly entitled. Their principal dyer has been remarkably successful in turning out the finest colors, and any one sending them an order can have it executed in any style or color required.

    The firm of Burr, Brown & Co. is now composed of James L. Baker, E. W. Burr, B. F. Brown, and E. Fearing. It affords us pleasure to chronicle the success of a house which has contributed a point in the progress of our country by manufacturing articles for which, heretofore, we were mainly dependent upon foreign markets.

Burr, Brown & Co. advertisement from 1866


Burr, Brown & Co. advertisement from New England Freemason, Vol. II, edited by Sereno D. Nickerson, Boston: Printed by Frank Wood, 1875  

last update 5/31/2012
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