In 1941, H. Fletcher Brown purchased and donated to the Delaware Historical Society two major manuscript collections. One consisted on 700 Rodney family documents, covering several generations of the family. The other was a large group of Read family papers. In addition to these gifts, Brown donated many other documents that form the core of the Research Library’s early manuscript holdings.
But H. Fletcher Brown did much more for the Society. He served on the board for many years and provided generous financial support. He paid for repairs and new lights for Old Town Hall, contributed to the cost of the vault added to the building in 1938, covered operating deficits for a number of years, and bequeathed a trust that still supports the Society.
Brown’s service and generosity to the Delaware Historical Society were only one of his contributions to his adopted state. Harry Fletcher Brown (1867-1944) was born in modest circumstances in Massachusetts. A chemist by training, he made his career in developing black powder. This led him to the DuPont Company and Delaware in 1903. His scientific knowledge combined with his leadership and management skills to lead him to the highest levels of the company.
After his retirement in 1930, Brown devoted himself to public service. In addition to the Delaware Historical Society, he served on the boards of the Delaware Hospital, Wilmington Free Library, and the Children’s Bureau of Delaware. He donated the Walnut Street YMCA to the African American community and H. Fletcher Brown High School to the Wilmington public schools. But his greatest interest was the University of Delaware, whose board he joined in 1930. Brown’s vision led the university to improve its faculty, students, and facilities, setting it on the path that has led to its current statue as a major research institution.
Like Willard Hall, an earlier migrant from Massachusetts, H. Fletcher Brown contributed much to Delaware.