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Sydney V. James and Gail Fowler Mohanty

Brown, Moses (12 September 1738–06 September 1836), merchant and philanthropist, was born in Providence, Rhode Island, the son of James Brown, merchant, and Hope Power. The father died the next year, leaving a variety of properties and businesses, which indicates that his family was far from poor. Moses Brown had a few years of formal schooling before being apprenticed to his merchant uncle, Obadiah, to learn the intricacies of eighteenth-century commerce and to be adopted as a son and partner. After Obadiah died in 1762, Moses managed the business, and in 1774 married Obadiah’s daughter Anna, who bore three children, two of whom lived to maturity. Moses joined his three surviving brothers in the firm of Nicholas Brown & Co. to operate the family businesses. The profits of trade were diversified by manufacturing and money-lending. The Brown brothers inherited profitable candle and chocolate works and started a plant to smelt and work iron. They also tried at least one ill-fated slaving voyage....


Brown, Obadiah (15 July 1771–15 October 1822), merchant and manufacturer, was born in Providence, Rhode Island, the son of Moses Brown, a merchant, and Anna Brown. He sometimes used the name Obadiah M. Brown to distinguish himself from other Browns with the same first name. Sickly as a child, he initially was educated at home and then attended the Friends New England Yearly Meeting School in Portsmouth, Rhode Island, between 1784 and 1788. This was followed by an informal apprenticeship with Almy and Brown, a Providence cotton textile manufactory established by his father, one of four brothers who were successful Providence merchants and manufacturers. The manufactory was initially managed by Obadiah’s brother-in-law, William Almy, and a cousin, Smith Brown, although under the watchful eye of Moses Brown....