Augustus F. Unger papers  1849-1851
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Collection Scope and Content Note

The Benjamin Brown collection is made up of correspondence, documents, and artifacts related to the showman's career as a circus owner in the early 1800s.

Letters, documents, and printed materials concern Brown's early ventures as a show owner, including correspondence and financial records pertaining to his travels in the Caribbean and to the northeast coast of South America in the early 1830s. These materials document the difficulties of transporting exotic animals by sea, the type of equipment necessary to run a circus, and other logistical issues.

A later group of letters and documents reflects Brown's experiences in Egypt, where he traveled as an agent of the June, Titus, Angevine & Company, attempting to purchase giraffes. Many of these letters are from Stebbins B. June, who was also in Egypt at the time, and several items relate to George R. Gliddon, United States consul in Cairo. Brown's friend Gerard Crane wrote about Brown's business affairs in New York, and frequently reported the increasingly frail health of Brown's father. Benjamin Brown received a letter from P. T. Barnum, who asked him to find a pair of fortune tellers for Barnum's museum. He also inquired about locating a pony small enough to accommodate his performer Tom Thumb (June 29, 1843). While in London, Brown frequently received letters from his sister, Eudocia Brown Noyes, who wrote of the Brown family farm and provided other news from Somers, New York.

The collection includes playbills and broadsides advertising Brown's circus; Brown's marriage license (March 20, 1841); a pencil sketch of Brown; two passports; and three fragments of an Arabic-language scroll, offering protection to the bearer. Later material includes newspaper clippings from 1879, 1880, and 1931, on Brown's life and career, as well as an audio tape of an interview with his grandson, Benjamin Brown.

Benjamin Brown acquired clothing and artifacts, including the following:

  • Two shoes, [1800s]
  • Burnoose, [1800s]
  • Black circus jacket, [1800s]
  • Pipe stem and bowl
  • Two rocks
  • Fragments from an ostrich eggshell
  • Canopic jar lid
  • Two small boxes
  • Ushabti figure
  • Harpocrates figure

The Egyptian figures may date to around 600 BCE.

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