1842: Norman Brown to his wife

1833 Advertisement in Newburyport newspaper placed by N. Brown, Auctioneer

This letter was written by a merchant named Norman Brown of Newburyport, Essex County, Massachusetts. He wrote the letter to his wife while on a trip to Philadelphia for the purpose of buying stoves and coal to be transported back to Newburyport for retail sales. Unfortunately I can’t find any family information relative to Norman Brown which would assist in his identification. Near the end of the letter, he mentions delaying the sale of the Moody Estate which suggests he may have been the same “N. Brown” who worked as a real estate auctioneer in Newburyport in the 1830s.

Stampless Letter


Addressed to Norman Brown, Newburyport, Massachusetts

Philadelphia [Pennsylvania]
Tuesday Eve, April 19, 1842

Dear Wife & Susan,

I am now in Congress Hall, my old stopping place when here. I got here about 8 ½ o’clock this evening. It now rains a little. There has been quite a fire here this evening, but I have not been out. Understand it was one of the Publick Houses nearby. It lighted up very brilliantly.

I arrived here (that is) in the city about two o’clock this afternoon. Have stopped no where since I left home except in New York about 1 ½ hour. We had a beautiful afternoon & evening through Worcester & Norwich to the Steamer Cleopatra, ¹ & a delightful night over the [Long Island] Sound, & went to bed about 10 o’clock and slept till about 4 ½, [and] then got up. We got into New York about 7 ½ o’clock this morning — being part the home of the Amboy & Camden line, leaving. I, of course, had to take the Jersey City line and pay 4 dollars for 90 miles travel, which is a greater insult on the publick than ever was that famous Hampton causeway toll. I see by the paper today a petition is before the legislature to see if something cannot be done to abate this what may be called a nuisance to the travelling publick. But enough of this with a ___ pen into the bargain.

As I landed in the Steamer George Washington at 2 o’clock, the bell of the Richmond boat was ringing for Richmond where I wanted to go to see the stoves. So without seeing anyone in the city, I went after the stoves & before I went to my lodging, I found the stoves, bought 30 M. ___ bought 20 M. more. Found Capt. Moses Pike who arrived here yesterday and agreed with him to take them to Newburyport. Will, if weather is suitable, begin to load tomorrow. Probably I shall load the John Sterling, which will take all the stoves in the market — say about 50 M.

Tomorrow, if Providence permit, I shall see about coal & make arrangements to come home by Saturday noon. But if I find it necessary to stay here about loading the stoves & cannot reach home Saturday, I may try to get to South Hadley and stay there over the Sabbath instead of in Boston. But about this, I will inform you by Friday. If you want lard or sugar, or both, you can get Mr. Humpey to send you 50 cents worth of lard & ___ dollars worth of his best Havana Brown Sugar, and get some beef steak or roast of Moody. I must soon go to bed. It is by Newburyport time 20 minutes past eleven.

Your husband, Norman Brown

Wednesday morning. It rained all night last night and is rainy this morning. It will put me back in my work so that it looks more doubtful if I come home before Saturday or Monday. You must tell Mr. Stover to have the adjourned Parish Meeting notified by the Parish Committee if I do not come. It is adjourned to Friday Evening, April 28, at 7 ½ o’clock at the Vestry.

This letter will leave here at 9 o’clock this morning and you will receive it at 5 o’clock tomorrow afternoon. Tell Mr. Foster or Edmund Smith that the sale of the Moody Estate had better be altered from April 26 to May 4th if I do not get home by Saturday.


¹ The 22 April 1842 edition of the New-Bedford Mercury carried the following notice:

The new steamer Cleopatra on Saturday night last made her passage between Newport and New York in the unparalleled short time of ten hours and five minutes. The Cleopatra is said to be the most magnificent boat that has ever been run on the Sound. She is commanded by Capt. Dustan, formerly of the New Haven.


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