Browne, J. Ross (John Ross), 1821-1875

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American author, journalist, and government official.

From the description of J. Ross Browne papers, circa 1840-1875. (University of California, Berkeley). WorldCat record id: 81540733

Irish-American traveler and author.

From the description of Letter to Harper & Brothers, 1853 March 29. (University of Virginia). WorldCat record id: 52128935

John Ross Browne was born in Beggar's Bush, Ireland, on February 11, 1821. After moving to the United States he, in 1840, became a reporter for the U.S. Senate, and first came to California in the early 1840s during a whaling cruise. Browne served as a reporter for the California Constitutional Convention of 1849. Other government jobs Browne held included U.S. Investigator of Custom Houses and Indian Agencies from 1855-59, U.S. Commissioner of Mineral Resources from 1866-68, and U.S. Minister to China during 1868-69. He died in Oakland, California on December 8, 1875. Browne wrote extensively on his travels and experiences.

From the description of J. Ross Browne gold rush letter, 1858 Oct. 14. (California State Library). WorldCat record id: 156915775

Diplomat and author.

From the description of J. Ross Browne papers, 1844-1863. (Unknown). WorldCat record id: 79452023

American author and diplomat, onetime minister to China. Browne is considered an eminent authority on the American West.

From the description of Letter, 1868. (Unknown). WorldCat record id: 122367767

Biographical Sketch

J. Ross Browne - author, journalist, traveller, government servant - was born near Dublin, Ireland on February 11, 1821. His father, Thomas Egerton Browne, a crusading Irish editor and publisher, emigrated to America with his family in 1833, after his prison sentence for sedition had been commuted by the British Crown to banishment. The family settled eventually near Louisville, Kentucky, where the elder Browne became editor and proprietor of the Louisville Daily Reporter.

Young Browne's travels began early and he never ceased travelling until his death. Starting as a flat boat deck hand on the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers, he then studied medicine briefly, and eventually embarked on a career as a writer and journalist. He became a police reporter and newspaper correspondent and tried his hand at creative writing with Confessions of a Quack, or the Auto-Biography of a Modern Aesculapian, based on his medical school experiences, which was published in 1841.

The family moved in that year, also, to Washington, D.C., where Ross assisted his father in reporting the proceedings of the Congress in the Globe, the forerunner of the Congressional Record. A year later he signed on as a seaman on a whaler, an experience which resulted in the publication, in 1846, of Etchings of a Whaling Cruise, with Notes of a Sojourn on the Isle of Zanzibar, in which he exposed the abuses suffered by the crew members. After his return in 1844, he married Lucy Anna Mitchell, daughter of a Washington, D.C. physician, and settled in the city, taking up a career in government service, where he became private secretary to the Secretary of the Treasury. Accepting a minor revenue service assignment which would take him to California, he sailed around the Horn on the Pacific in 1849, and, while in California, became the official reporter for the convention which drew up the state's constitution in 1849.

Returning to Washington, he published the Report of the Debates in the Convention of California on the Formation of the State Constitution in September and October 1849, and in 1851, set off on his travels again, to Europe with his family, as a correspondent for the National Intelligencer.

In the autumn of 1852 the Browne family returned home to Washington and he entered government service again, as a secret agent investigating federal activities connected with the collection of revenue and disbursement of public monies, involving custom houses, Indian agencies and U.S. land offices. In 1868 President Johnson named him minister to China, but he was recalled from Peking in 1869 because of his disagreement with the prevailing government views on “opening” China.

Browne's literary career kept pace with his other activities, and the observations made in the course of his travels were published either as books ( Yusef, 1853; Crusoe's Island, 1864; An American Family in Germany, 1866; Adventures in the Apache Country, 1869), or as articles appearing in journals such as Harper's, Graham's Magazine and Overland Monthly. His several published reports, written while in government service, include Reports upon the Mineral Resources of the United States (1867), Resources of the Pacific Slope (1869), and Report of J. Ross Browne on the Mineral Resources of the States and Territories West of the Rocky Mountains (1868).

The Browne family finally settled in Oakland, California, and in 1870 he began construction of the home that became known as "Pagoda Hill." The closing years of his life - many of them still spent away from his home - were occupied by his real estate and mining ventures. He died on December 9, 1875.

From the guide to the J. Ross (John Ross) Browne Papers, [ca. 1840-1875], (The Bancroft Library)

Archival Resources
Role Title Holding Repository
referencedIn Williams, S. Wells (Samuel Wells), 1812-1884. Samuel Wells Williams family papers, 1809-1983 (inclusive), 1809-1941 (bulk). Yale University Library
referencedIn Powell, Lawrence Clark, 1906-2001. Southwest classics reread / compiled by Lawrence Clark Powell. Point Loma Nazarene University Library, Ryan Library
referencedIn Williams, S. Wells (Samuel Wells), 1812-1884. Samuel Wells Williams family papers, 1824-1936 (inclusive). Yale University Library
creatorOf Browne, J. Ross (John Ross), 1821-1875. J. Ross Browne papers, 1844-1863. Library of Congress
referencedIn California Cornerstones: Selected Images from The Bancroft Library Pictorial Collection Bancroft Library
creatorOf Browne, J. Ross (John Ross), 1821-1875. J. Ross Browne papers, circa 1840-1875. UC Berkeley Libraries
creatorOf Taylor, Alexander Smith, 1817-1876. Notes on the Indianology of Alaska ... : Santa Barbara, California : ms. S, 1867. UC Berkeley Libraries
creatorOf Browne, J. Ross (John Ross), 1821-1875. Report in relation to the official transactions of Willis A. Gorman..., 1855 April 6. Minnesota Historical Society Library
referencedIn Shumate, Albert C. J. Ross Browne collection, 1851-1965. University of the Pacific, William Knox Holt Memorial Library
referencedIn Hyde, William Birelie, 1842-1882. William Birelie Hyde papers, 1861-1896. Stanford University. Department of Special Collections and University Archives
creatorOf Crosby, Elisha Oscar, 1818-1895. Elisha Oscar Crosby papers, 1849-1886. UC Berkeley Libraries
referencedIn Autograph File, B, ca.1500-1976. Houghton Library, , Harvard College Library, Harvard University
referencedIn William Sharswood papers, 1865-1867, 1865-1867 American Philosophical Society
referencedIn Craven, Nina Florence Browne. Reminiscences of city & country life in China, ca. 1900 / [Nina Florence Browne Craven] Smith College, Neilson Library
referencedIn William Sharswood papers, 1865-1867, 1865-1867 American Philosophical Society
creatorOf J. Ross (John Ross) Browne Papers, [ca. 1840-1875] Bancroft Library
creatorOf Murray, William Pitt, 1827-1910. William Pitt Murray and family papers, 1836-1944. Minnesota Historical Society Library
creatorOf Browne, J. Ross (John Ross), 1821-1875. John Ross Browne documents microfilmed from various Bancroft Library collections [microform]. UC Berkeley Libraries
creatorOf Roberts, George D. George D. Roberts correspondence, 1871-1877. UC Berkeley Libraries
creatorOf Browne, J. Ross (John Ross), 1821-1875. J. Ross Browne letters, 1849-1859. UC Berkeley Libraries
referencedIn Sharswood, William, 1836-1905. Papers, 1865-1867. American Philosophical Society Library
referencedIn Samuel Wells Williams family papers, 1809-1983, 1809-1941 Yale University. Department of Manuscripts and Archives
creatorOf Browne, J. Ross (John Ross), 1821-1875. J. Ross Browne family photographs, ca. 1850-ca. 1900. Smith College, Neilson Library
referencedIn Browne, J. Ross, 1821-1875 : [miscellaneous ephemeral material]. Metropolitan Museum of Art, Thomas J. Watson Library
creatorOf Pauly, Thomas H. J. Ross Browne: An Opportunity and a Bottle of Wine : ms., 1967 Dec. 10. UC Berkeley Libraries
creatorOf Browne, J. Ross (John Ross), 1821-1875. Letter, 1868. American Primers
creatorOf Thomas Gilcrease Institute of American History and Art. Sketches from the collection of the Thomas Gilcrease Institute, [undated] and 1841-1918. Smithsonian Archives of American Art
creatorOf Browne, J. Ross (John Ross), 1821-1875. J. Ross Browne gold rush letter, 1858 Oct. 14. California State Library
creatorOf Lincoln, Abraham, 1809-1865. DS, 1861 April 8 : Washington, D.C. Copley Press, J S Copley Library
creatorOf Browne, J. Ross (John Ross), 1821-1875. Letter to Harper & Brothers, 1853 March 29. University of Virginia. Library
creatorOf Browne, J. Ross (John Ross), 1821-1875. Letter : to [William Gwin?] / by John Ross Browne, 1857 Nov. 4. Yale University, Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library
referencedIn Charles Sumner correspondence, 1829-1874. Houghton Library, , Harvard College Library, Harvard University
creatorOf Harte, Bret, 1836-1902. Bret Harte correspondence on microfilm. UC Berkeley Libraries
creatorOf Cleveland, Daniel. Manuscripts of Daniel Cleveland, 1868-1929. Huntington Library, Art Collections & Botanical Gardens
Role Title Holding Repository
Direct Relationships
Relation Name
associatedWith Borup and Oakes (Saint Paul, Minn.). corporateBody
associatedWith Browne, Lina Fergusson. person
associatedWith Browne, Lucy Croghan, 1849?-1934. person
associatedWith Browne, Lucy Mitchell, 1826-1898. person
associatedWith Browne, Spencer Cochrane, 1845-1896. person
associatedWith California. Constitutional Convention (1849) corporateBody
associatedWith Cleveland, Daniel. person
associatedWith Craven, Nina Florence Browne. person
associatedWith Crosby, Elisha Oscar, 1818-1895. person
associatedWith Denver, James William, 1817-1892. person
associatedWith Garfield, James A. (James Abram), 1831-1881. person
associatedWith Gorman, Willis Arnold, 1816-1876. person
associatedWith Gwin, William McKendree, 1805-1885. person
associatedWith Harper & Brothers, corporateBody
associatedWith Harte, Bret, 1836-1902. person
associatedWith Hyde, William Birelie, 1842-1882. person
associatedWith Lincoln, Abraham, 1809-1865. person
associatedWith McClelland, Robert, 1807-1880. person
associatedWith Murray, William Pitt, 1827-1910. person
associatedWith Norris, Thomas W. (Thomas Wayne). person
associatedWith North West Company. corporateBody
associatedWith North-Western Railroad Company. corporateBody
associatedWith Online Archive of California. corporateBody
associatedWith Pauly, Thomas H. person
associatedWith Pierce, Franklin, 1804-1869. person
associatedWith Rice, Henry M. (Henry Mower), 1816-1894. person
associatedWith Roberts, George D. person
associatedWith Sharswood, William, 1836-1905. person
associatedWith Shumate, Albert C. person
associatedWith Sibley, Henry Hastings, 1811-1891. person
correspondedWith Sumner, Charles, 1811-1874 person
associatedWith Taylor, Alexander Smith, 1817-1876. person
associatedWith Thomas Gilcrease Institute of American History and Art. corporateBody
associatedWith Williams, S. Wells (Samuel Wells), 1812-1884. person
Place Name Admin Code Country
Oakland (Calif.)
Minnesota
California
California
California
United States
California
China
United States
Subject
Indians, treatment of
Ambassadors
Women authors, American
Land tenure
Voyages to the Pacific coast
Journalists
Diplomats--Biography--Sources
Authors, American--Biography--Sources
Whaling
Dakota Indians--Government relations
Indians of North America
Authors, American
Occupation
Authors
Diplomats
Function

Person

Birth 1821-02-11

Death 1875-12-08

English

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