Burke Library at Union Theological Seminary

John Crosby Brown papers, 1876 -- 1909

Summary Information


John Crosby Brown was a banker and a member of the Board of Directors of Union Theological Seminary in New York City. The collection contains correspondence, a program from the J. C. Brown memorial service, and a palm leaf Pali manuscript.

At a Glance

Bib ID 5635554 View CLIO record
Creator(s) Brown, John Crosby, 1838-1909
Title John Crosby Brown papers, 1876 -- 1909
Physical Description 1.25 linear feet (1.25 linear feet; 2 boxes)
Language(s) English .

This collection is open for research.

Onsite storage.



This collection is arranged in two series: Series 1: Correspondence; and Series 2: General.


Scope and Contents

This collection contains correspondence, a program from the J. C. Brown memorial service, and 8 palm leaves of Pali manuscript mailed to Miss Hudson, a "librarian of Union Seminary," by Brown's wife after the death of her husband.

Burke Library record group:

Union Theological Seminary Archives: UTS 1, papers of faculty and students

Using the Collection

Burke Library at Union Theological Seminary

Conditions Governing Access

This collection is open for research.

Onsite storage.

Conditions Governing Use

Some material in this collection may be protected by copyright and other rights. Information concerning copyright, fair use, and reproduction requests can be consulted at Columbia's Copyright Advisory Office.

Preferred Citation

Item description, UTS1: John Crosby Brown papers, box #, folder #, The Burke Library at Union Theological Seminary, Columbia University in the City of New York.

Related Materials

UTS 1: Charles Cuthbert Hall Papers, The Burke Library at Union Theological Seminary, Columbia University in the City of New York.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

The bulk of the correspondence was transferred from the C.C. Hall archival collection between 1986 and 1995. The Pali manuscript was donated circa 1911 by Brown's wife.

About the Finding Aid / Processing Information

Columbia University Libraries, Burke Library at Union Theological Seminary

Processing Information

Most of the John Crosby Brown collection was located among the papers of Charles Cuthbert Hall. To avoid compounding earlier confusion, UTS Archives decided to leave the correspondence between Brown and Hall within the Hall collection. The correspondence not related to C.C. Hall was moved into the John Crosby Brown collection. The Pali manuscript was added to Brown's archival collection in 2004 when the sealed postal packet was first opened. The finding aid was created by Daniel Sokolow in 1995, updated by Ruth Tonkiss Cameron in 2012, and edited by Leah Edelman in 2022.

Revision Description

2022-11-01 PDF converted to EAD and description updated by Leah Edelman.

Subject Headings

The subject headings listed below are found in this collection. Links below allow searches at Columbia University through the Archival Collections Portal and through CLIO, the catalog for Columbia University Libraries, as well as ArchiveGRID, a catalog that allows users to search the holdings of multiple research libraries and archives.

All links open new windows.


Heading "CUL Archives:"
"CUL Collections:"
"Nat'l / Int'l Archives:"
Brown, John Crosby, 1838-1909 -- : Archives Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID

History / Biographical Note

Biographical / Historical

John Crosby Brown was born in New York City on May 22, 1838, the son of James Brown and Eliza Maria Coe. James Brown was a well known banker, founder of the family company Brown Brothers and Co., and a great supporter of Union Theological Seminary. His interest in Union grew following the death of several of his children when the steamship Arctic sank in 1854. James Brown's generosity was most obvious in an 1873 donation of $300,000, which helped establish several professorships. John Crosby Brown was educated privately as a child, and graduated from Columbia University in 1859. He had intended to enter the ministry, but the loss of the family on the Arctic obliged him to join the family business instead. He traveled following graduation, and then began his work at different branches of the family business. He became a partner at the main office in New York in 1864. In the financial world, Brown drew the admiration of men like J.P. Morgan for his honesty. In addition to his work at Brown Brothers, he was also involved with the boards of several other corporations, including several railroads. Brown married Mary Elizabeth Adams in the early 1860's. This brought Brown closer to Union Theological Seminary, as his father-in-law William Adams was also connected to the Seminary and became its president in 1873. The Browns made their home in New York on East 37 street, and had six children; William Adams (1865), Eliza Coe (1868), Mary Magoun (1869), James Crosby (1872), Thatcher Magoun (1876), and Amy Brighthurst (1899). William Adams Brown was to continue the family's involvement with Union Theological Seminary; he became aprofessor and taught for over thirty years. The Browns also established a summer home in Brighthurst, New Jersey, where they built a sprawling forty acre estate on Orange Mountain. Their social circle in New Jersey included civil war general and governor of New Jersey George McClellan, and Theodore Roosevelt's sister and brother-in-law. In his personal life, Brown had many interests. He served on the Board of education of New York City, and was a trustee of Columbia University. Brown also participated in numerous other organizations, including the Presbyterian Hospital and the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The association with the Museum began when his wife donated a large and well-kept collection of musical instruments, a collection that still bears her name. He went on to become the treasurer of the museum. Brown's direct involvement with Union began in 1866 when he joined the Board of Directors. He became vice-president of the Board in 1883, and president in 1897. During his tenure Brown was involved in the great controversies affecting Union, including the heresy cases against Charles A. Briggs and Arthur C. McGiffert. He was also instrumental in many of the great advances made by Union over the forty years that he served. He donated a good deal of money to the Seminary, and he successfully encouraged others to give as well. The Board, under Brown's leadership and with the help of faculty president C. C. Hall, convinced board vice-president D. Willis James to make the major donation in what would become the Morningside campus of UTS. J. C. Brown, like President Hall, would not live long enough to see the development of their dream for the Seminary. While he was able to attend the laying of the cornerstone of the new campus in November 1908, he died the following June. His legacy at UTS continued, however, in two important ways. One of his six children, William Adams Brown, was to carry on a long and distinguished career as a professor at Union for more than thirty years. In addition, the tower built in 1928 that dominates the skyline over the Seminary was named the Brown Tower in his honor.