Nicholas Brown, Sr.

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Nicholas Brown, Sr.
Born (1729-07-26)July 26, 1729
Providence, Rhode Island
Died May 29, 1791(1791-05-29) (aged 61)
Providence, Rhode Island
Nationality American
Occupation Merchant
Slave trader
Children Nicholas Brown II

Nicholas Brown, Sr. (July 26, 1729 – May 29, 1791) was a Providence, Rhode Island merchant and slavetrader[1] who co-founded the College in the English Colony of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations, which was renamed Brown University after Brown's son Nicholas Brown, Jr. in 1804. He was born in 1729 to James Brown II and Hope Power Brown.

According to Sotheby's a desk-and-bookcase crafted by John Goddard of the Newport tradition and originally owned by Nicholas Brown, Sr. sold in June 1989 for $12,100,000, the highest price ever paid for a piece of American furniture at that date.[2]

Foundation of Brown University[edit]

In 1764, Nicholas Brown, Sr. joined his brothers John Brown and Moses Brown, and several others as an original fellow or trustee for the chartering of the College in the English Colony of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations (the original name for Brown University).[3] Brown was an active supporter of the College and of the First Baptist Church in America throughout his life. Upon his death in 1791, Rev. Dr. Stillman, of Boston gave a eulogy on Nicholas Brown:

He was the affectionate husband, the tender father, the compassionate master, the dutiful son, the loving brother, and the steady, faithful friend. He took much pains, by reading and by conversation, to inform his mind, and had acquired much general knowledge. But religion was his favorite subject. To Christianity in general, as founded on a fulness of evidence, and to its peculiar doctrines, he was firmly attached. * * * He was a Baptist from principle, and a lover of good men of all denominations. Blessed with opulence, he was ready to distribute to public and private uses. In his death the college in this place, this church and society, the town of Providence, and the general interests of religion, learning, and liberality have lost a friend indeed.[4][5]


Nicholas Brown, Sr. was also a known slavetrader. Brown's involvement in the Triangular Trade in African slaves and financial contribution to the early years of Brown University's development are addressed in the official Response of Brown University to the Report of the Steering Committee on Slavery and Justice.


Brown was a descendant of an early Rhode Island founder and Baptist minister, Chad Brown. Nicholas Brown and his three brothers (John, Moses, and Joseph) were known in Rhode Island annals as the "Four Brothers." He also had a sister, Mary.[6]

Brown's son, Nicholas Brown, Jr. (1769–1841), was a Providence, Rhode Island businessman and philanthropist. He graduated from the College of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations in 1786, and became such a great benefactor to the school that it was renamed Brown University for him in 1804.


  1. ^
  2. ^ [1] Property of the Goddard Family
  3. ^ [2] The Charter of Brown University
  4. ^
  5. ^ The History of the State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations: Biographical, Volume 6, by the American Historical Society, Inc., 1920. Pages 188 - 191
  6. ^ Wikisource-logo.svg One or more of the preceding sentences incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainWilson, James Grant; Fiske, John, eds. (1900). "Brown, Chad". Appletons' Cyclopædia of American Biography. New York: D. Appleton. 


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