Henry B. Brown was probably born in Cambridge, Massachusetts, in January 1816. In the 1840s, he worked as a portrait artist and engraver, and in 1851 he traveled to San Francisco with his friend Jacob Bailey Moore. Brown worked for Moore for the next several months, gathering specimens and making drawings in the California countryside. In March of 1852, he was commissioned by John Russell Bartlett, head of the U.S.-Mexico Boundary Commission and a friend of Moore, to draw views of landscapes and Indians in Northern California, assist with collecting Indian vocabularies, and make maps of the area, with a view towards contributing to Bartlett's book Personal Narrative of Explorations and Incidents in Texas, New Mexico, California, Sonora, and Chihuahua (1854). Brown traveled to New York in the late summer of 1852, and presumably drew his coastal scenes of Mexico and Central America during the trip. From 1856 to 1859, he served as US Consul for Bermuda. Little is known of his life after that date his health was poor at the time of his resignation in 1859, and he may have died in late 1860 or soon after. He should not be confused with the Maine artist Harrison Bird Brown (1831-1915) or with the escaped slave Henry Box Brown (b. 1816).
Scope and Content
The forty-two drawings are arranged according to their five general subjects: California Native Americans (7), California landscapes (24), Mexico (4), Central America (6), and Other (1). Although the exact Indian tribes in Brown's drawings are not known, it is believed that they are the Maidu, Nomlaki, Patwin, Wintun, and /or the Shasta. The California landscape drawings include views of San Francisco, Mount Shasta, Marysville, Grass Valley, mining camps, the Sacramento River, and Nevada City. The scenes of Mexico and Central America include Acapulco, the Gulf of California, Nicaragua, Guatemala, and El Salvador. The drawings are dated 1851 and 1852. There is one undated drawing of the Susquehanna River in Port Deposit, Maryland.