Brown. J. Crosby (James Crosby)
Hagley Museum & Library
Manuscripts & Archives Department
P.O. Box 3630
Wilmington, DE 19807-0630
1.4 linear ft.
James Crosby Brown, Jr., was born in Hartford, Conn., in 1929 and spent most of his life in Philadelphia, where he pursued a career in business. After retiring in 1981, he turned full-time to his life-long avocation of maritime history. Starting around 1984 he began research on the early history of the Schuylkill Navigation Company. During that research he found that shortly after being faced with competition from the Philadelphia & Reading Railroad, the Schuylkill Navigation Company offered a prize to the first person to build a steamboat suitable to canal operations. Although many designs were tried on different canals, the wash from paddles or propellers generally eroded the banks of artificial waterways, and none were widely adopted. This episode piqued Brown's interest, and he also began to study the pioneers of steamboating on eastern canals and non-tidal rivers, a neglected part of the early history of steam-navigation. In 1989 he began to write a monograph on these two subjects, but he died in Blue Hill, Maine, in July 1990. The records consist of notes, copies, illustrations and drafts created or collected by J. Crosby Brown for use in preparing his monograph, with particular attention to the Schuylkill Navigation. The records include Brown's own notes and correspondence, as well as copies of books, pamphlets, articles and manuscripts relating to the subject of steam propulsion on eastern canals and non-tidal rivers. Brown planned to begin his study with John Fitch and also investigated the early steamboat work of Oliver Evans and Griffin Green. He also collected information on attempts to use steamboats on the non-tidal portions of the Merrimack, Connecticut, Delaware, Schuylkill, Susquehanna and Roanoke Rivers. The bulk of the notes, however, refer to the attempts to operate steamboats on canals, including a copy of William Fairbairn's 1831 British treatise. Although the emphasis is on the Schuylkill, there are files on the Erie and other New York canals, the Lehigh Canal, and the section-boats used on the Pennsylvania Canal. The notes cover the work of several early engineers, including John L. Sullivan, Thomas Blanchard, Stacy Costill and John M. Crosland. There is also a file on the UNION, originally a barge on H.M.S. SERAPIS, which was seized as a war prize and exhibited in Philadelphia before being used as a Schuylkill ferry. Brown covers the Schuylkill Navigation Company in some detail. The records include copies of the corporate minutes and other documents, including correspondence of Charles Ellet, Jr., Ellwood Morris, Solomon White Roberts and other engineers involved in the enlargement of the canal in the mid-1840s. There are also copies of canal steamboat patents, government enrollments for most of the steam vessels operated on canals, and newspaper advertisements and schedules for steamboat lines. Brown also prepared a card file on individual vessels and their operators.