Revealing the rare military collectibles of Anne S K Brown

The Anne S. K. Brown Military Collection is commonly considered to be the finest American collection of material devoted to the history of the military.

Anne Seddon Kinsolving Brown was born in Baltimore in 1906. The daughter of an Episcopalian minister, she grew up fascinated by the holiday parades which passed the church rectory where she lived.

She was particularly impressed by the striking military uniforms. She was encouraged further on receiving a copy of The Wonder Book of Soldiers for Boys and Girls on her ninth birthday, but really entered the world of collecting following her marriage to John Brown.

Following a short career as a journalist on the Baltimore News, Anne Brown's marriage began with a honeymoon trip round the world in 1930, during which time she began acquiring toy soldiers and studying books to check the accuracy of the uniforms.

That year, she bought a number of lead soldiers made by Britains, Heyde and Mignot from toy shops in Germany, France and Britain with the intention of setting-up a display in one of the rooms of her new house on Benefit Street.

Anne Brown toy Bagpipers
Some of Anne Brown's toy soldiers (bagpipers)

These and others she later acquired are contained in an extraordinary 96 cases in date order (of those depicted) from Egyptian times, through Henry VIII to the present day.

Brown's interests spiralled out into collecting books and manuscripts, with a greater variety of military material with significance for historical campaigns, techniques and tactics. It eventually became a world-class collection with its main strengths lying between 1500 and 1945 and in Europe.

In total the collection now contains over 30,000 books, serials, and related items such as albums, sketchbooks, scrapbooks, manuscripts, print portfolios, and sheet music covers, over 6,000 miniature toy soldiers, and over 15,000 individual prints, drawings, paintings, watercolours and photographs.

The most famous manuscript in the Anne Brown Military Collection is the diary kept by Jean Bapiste Antoine de Verger, an officer in Rochambeau's army during the American campaigns of 1780-81.

Anne Brown collection Verger manuscript
Verger watercolour from the Anne Brown collection

In fact Anne Brown, who became much more of a scholar as the years went by, translated a total of three French military diaries together with Howard Rice, which resulted in the book The American Campaigns of Rochambeau's Army.

The Verger book however is most prized for its watercolours, which has notable depictions of soldiers in the Continental Army, Native Americans and African American soldiers.

In a somewhat different style, the entire personal collection of British naval prints and some original drawings formed by the late historian Commander Charles Napier Robinson was acquired by Brown in 1953.

The collection also includes beautifully detailed hand-coloured engravings by the French military artist Nicholas Hoffman (1740-1823), which illustrate the many uniforms of the French army during the latter years of the Ancien Régime and the Napoleonic period.

Following years of collection and later contributions to scholarly journals, Brown left the collection to Brown University of Providence in Rhode Island.  Much celebrated, it continues to fascinate and grow to this day.



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