University of Delaware Library

Special Collections Department

Harry Fletcher Brown

1881 - 1960

(bulk dates 1910 - 1952)

Manuscript Collection Number: 436
Accessioned: {Accessioned}
Extent: .3 linear ft.
Content: Correspondence, newspaper clippings, speeches, business cards, legal documents,
printed material, a photograph, ephemera, military medal, scrapbook, and programs
Access: The collection is open for research.
Processed: Sally W. Donatello, February 2002

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Special Collections, University of Delaware Library
Newark, Delaware 19717-5267
(302) 831-2229

Table of Contents

Biographical Note

Harry Fletcher Brown (1867-1944) left an enormous legacy to the state of Delaware. As a chemist and industrialist, most of his career was with the E.I. du Pont de Nemours & Company where he began as a technical director and rose to the position of vice president. After his retirement in 1930 he dedicated his personal fortune and time to public service and philanthropy. At his death in 1944, Harry Fletcher Brown left $4,500, 000, in eleven bequests, all benefiting public institutions.

He received an A.B. (1890) in chemistry and an A.M. (1892) in physics from Harvard College. Within a year of graduation he was appointed chief chemist at the United States Naval Torpedo Station in Newport, Rhode Island. It was in this position that he helped to develop a new formula for smokeless powder, which would forever secure him a place in the history of the chemical industry. By 1904 he began work at E.I. du Pont de Nemours & Company, where he stayed for the rest of his career.

Brown’s accomplishments were extensive. His initial career at the E.I. du Pont de Nemours & Company was centered on his work in smokeless powder, and then his managerial skills catapulted him into a high decision-making position in the company. Brown amassed enough money to become one of the great benefactors of education and social services in the state of Delaware in the first half of the twentieth century.

The highlights of Brown’s philanthropy included gifts to the University of Delaware for a chemistry building, a dormitory, and completion of other facilities; to the State of Delaware for a new vocational high school, which was named in Brown’s honor; to the YMCA and YWCA for a shared community building; and to the Delaware Hospital and School of Nursing (in Wilmington).

Brown was a trustee for the University of Delaware, and received an honorary degree of Doctor of Science from the University in June 1930. Among his community service were his roles as a board member for the Wilmington Institute Free Library, a director for the Historical Society of Delaware, a director for Children’s Bureau of Delaware, the chairman of the advisory committee of the YWCA, a trustee and chairman of the finance committee of the Delaware Hospital, and a life member of the National Education Association. In addition, Brown was a president and member of the Delaware State Board of Education.

Brown was born on July 10, 1867, at Natick, Massachusetts. His parents were William H. and Maria F. (Osgood) Brown. On October 26, 1897 Brown married Florence Matilda Hammett (d. 1952) of Newport, Rhode Island. He died on February 28, 1944.


Perkins, John A. and Robeson Bailey. Harry Fletcher Brown, An Essay in Appreciation. Newark, Del.: University of Delaware Press, 1960.

Note: Historical and biographical information obtained from this collection.

Scope and Content Note

The Harry Fletcher Brown Collection, spanning the years 1881-1960 (bulk dates 1910- 1952), contains correspondence, newspaper clippings, speeches, business cards, legal documents, printed material, ephemera, a photograph, World War I medal, and programs. The collection is small—ten folders and a scrapbook, yet the material gives an overview of his life from high school days in 1880s to his adulthood to his death in 1944. Much of the content focuses on Brown’s career at the E.I. du Pont de Nemours & Company, his philanthropy, and the outpouring of response after his death.

The collection is housed in one box, which contains ten folders and a scrapbook. The folders contain biographical material (F1), which seems to be part of the research used by John A. Perkins (president of the University of Delaware from 1950-1967) and Robeson Bailey to write Harry Fletcher Brown, An Essay in Appreciation. According to Library records, the scrapbook was compiled by Mrs. Harry Fletcher Brown.

There are eight letters dated from 1910- 1930. Seven letters are to Brown from executives with the E.I. du Pont de Nemours & Company including Irénée du Pont and Pierre S. du Pont. One of the letters is handwritten by Brown to Pierre S. du Pont (F5).

The collection contains originals and copies of documents that Brown used in the application process for smokeless powder. His patent was an improvement on an existing smokeless powder (F6).

The scrapbook contains a range of items that highlight Brown’s career in the chemical industry and his years as a philanthropist. It includes announcements of gifts made during his life, obituaries and news clippings about the public bequests of Brown’s estate, and numerous tributes and resolutions in memory of Brown.

Contents List

Folder -- Contents

 F1    Biographical Materials
       Includes a Tentative Biographical and
       Family History Sketch about Harry
       Fletcher Brown; a compilation of
       quotes by the Britannica Library
       Research Service; a 3- page
       biographical sketch, which is marked
       “material from Crane” (two copies); a
       two-page biographical sketch dated
       February 28, 1944; a biographical and
       family sketch, which is dated May 1935
       (three pages); a biographical and
       family history (four pages); a brief
       résumé (two pages); and a sketch of
       the Hammett Family along with a letter
       (probably) to Brown’s cousin Marion
       Brown from J. Allen.
 F2    Photograph of Harry Fletcher Brown,
       ca. 1920s

 F3    Compositions, 1881-1902
       Contains six handwritten compositions
       by Brown during his high school days.
       Included is an envelope dated 1902,
       and mailed to Brown when he lived and
       worked for the Du Pont Company in
       Parlin, New Jersey.
 F4    Announcement, 30 October 1897
       Contains a handwritten announcement
       from the Newport Mercury about the
       marriage of Brown to Florence Hammett
       of Newport, Rhode Island
 F5    Correspondence, E.I. Du Pont de
       Nemours Powder
       Co., 1910-1930
       Contains eight letters from Irénée du
       Pont, Pierre
       S. Du Pont, and a vice president of
       E.I. Du Pont de Nemours Powder Co.

 F6    Documents about Smokeless Powder, 1900
       Contains copies of documents used by
       Brown to apply for a patent on a new
       smokeless powder; a seventeen-page
       history of smokeless powder; an
       article from the Patent Office on a
       smokeless powder patented in 1897; and
       an 1895 article on Smokeless Powder
       from Pyrocollodion by M. Mendelcoff.
 F7    Correspondence to Mrs. H. Fletcher
       Brown, 1944-1952
       Contains three letters of sympathy
       written after Brown’s death; letters
       are from Pierre S. Du Pont, A. Felix
       du Pont, and Willis F. Harrington.
       Also includes letters of appreciation
       and thank you from Child Welfare
       League of America, Inc.; George P.
       Bissell; The Boy’s Club of Wilmington,
       Inc.; and the YWCA and YMCA.
       Additionally, there is a letter from
       A.P. Colburn; he invited Mrs. Brown to
       attend the dedication of the addition
       to the H. Fletcher Brown Laboratory on
       October 18, 1952.
 F8    Documents about the H. Fletcher Brown
       Vocational High School,1938-1952
       Includes printed material and speeches;
       handwritten and typewritten copies of
       a speech by Brown for the re-opening
       of the school building; two copies of
       the school brochure; the program for
       the dedication exercises on November
       2, 1938; Bulletin from the school; and
       Trade Winds, a copy of the school
       paper, dated October 1952.
 F9    Documents about the Dedication of the
       Addition to the H. Fletcher Brown Laboratory,
       October 18, 1952 
       Contains program;speech by Henry B. du Pont,    
       vice president, E.I. Du Pont de Nemours &
       Company; a letter to Mrs. Brown from
       Dr. John A. Perkins, president of the
       University of Delaware; and speech by
       Judge Hugh M. Morris.
F10    Correspondence Used for Harry Fletcher
       Brown, An Essay in Appreciation
       Letters from Irénée du Pont, Harvard
       College Library, Newport Historical
       Society, Judge Hugh M. Morris, and
       Brown’s niece Miss Marion K. Brown.    
       Letters from Irénée du Pont, Harvard
       College Library, Newport Historical
       Society, Judge Hugh M. Morris, and
       Brown’s niece Miss Marion K. Brown.

F11    Scrapbook, 1915-1952
       Contains a variety of memorabilia that
       highlights Brown’s career and years of
       philanthropy as well as the response
       to his death.  Includes newspaper
       clippings, business cards, printed
       material, obituaries, correspondence,
       ephemera, and a military medal.  The
       medal was given to Brown by the French
       government during or after World War I
       for powder production.  The medal was
       called “La Palme, Medaille
       Militaire,” which was “brevetted before
       the whole army.”  Library records
       state that Brown’s wife Florence made
       the scrapbook. There is a typewritten
       speech by Brown that was given in
       1915 at his 25th reunion at Harvard
       College; and there is a leather cover
       from the reunion’s 25th anniversary
       dinner, dated June 23, 1915.



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