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F. C. Brown Papers,
1902-1964

Extent and Forms of Material: 4.5 cubic feet (17 boxes and 3 oversize folders)
Creator: F. C. Brown
Abstract: Brown was a physicist and inventor who created and supervised the development of education exhibits, most notably as organizing director of the New York Museum of Science and Industry (part of the Museums of the Peaceful Arts), 1926-1931. He was also curator of physics exhibits at Chicago's Museum of Science and Industry, 1932-1937. Much of Brown's scientific research focused on the element selenium. He invented the phonopticon, an improvement on the optophone (invented by Fournier d'Albe, 1912). Material focuses on Dr. Brown's professional life: correspondence, photographs, photo albums, scrapbooks, and ephemera from the positions he held and research he conducted. Very little personal information is included.
Repository: Archives Center, National Museum of American History, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C. archivescenter@si.edu 202-633-3270
www.americanhistory.si.edu/archives
Collection Number: AC0693
Processing Note: Processed by Jennifer Hecker, intern, August 2000; supervised by Alison Oswald, archivist.
© 2007 by the Smithsonian Institution. All rights reserved.

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Information for users of the collection

Conditions Governing Access: The collection is open for research use.
Physical Access: Researchers must handle unprotected photographs with gloves.
Conditions Governing Reproduction and Use: Copyright held by the Smithsonian Institution. Collection items available for reproduction, but the Archives Center makes no guarantees concerning copyright restrictions. Reproduction permission from Archives Center: fees for commercial use.
Preferred Citation: [Title and date of item], F.C. Brown Papers, Archives Center, National Museum of American History, box number X, folder number XX, digital file number XXXXXXXX

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In-depth information about the collection

Administrative/biographical history
Scope and content
System of arrangement
Languages
Acquisition information
Access points
Container listing

Administrative/biographical history

Fay Cluff (F.C.) Brown (1881-1968) was a physicist and inventor who created and supervised the development of educational exhibits, most notably in the Museum of Science and Industry at New York City’s Museums of the Peaceful Arts. Much of his scientific research focused on the element selenium. Early in his career, Brown invented a device using selenium, which translated printed text into sound.

Brown graduated from Lyons High School in Lyons, Indiana, in 1899. He received an AB degree from Indiana University in 1904 and an AM degree from the University of Illinois in 1906. He taught high school in Illinois from 1903 to 1904 and then taught physics at the University of Illinois from 1904 to 1907. From 1907 to 1908, he was a Princeton fellow and in 1908, he obtained a PhD in physics there. Brown married Dora Davidson in 1908 and subsequently had four children: Herman, Barbara, Robert, and Annabel. Dr. Brown was a Jacobus fellow at Princeton from 1908 to 1909, and then taught at the University of Iowa from 1909 to 1918. From 1918 to 1919, Brown served as a Major in the U. S. Army Ordnance Department. He was assistant director at the U. S. Bureau of Standards from 1919 to 1926, serving as the acting director in 1923. He then became organizing director of the New York Museum of Science and Industry, which was a part of the Museums of the Peaceful Arts. He remained in that position from 1926 to 1931. From 1931 to 1932, Dr. Brown served as chief reviewing officer for the U. S. Personnel Classification Board. From 1932 to 1937, Dr. Brown served as the director of exhibits for the annual science exhibitions of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. In 1937, he became the curator of physics exhibits at Chicago’s Museum of Science and Industry where he remained until 1940. Dr. Brown worked in the radiation lab at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology until he retired in 1947.

His scientific research focused primarily on the photoconductivity of selenium and later on bomb ballistics. He published numerous scientific articles and papers and also wrote many popular science essays. In the years preceding the First World War, Dr. Brown invented a device known as the phonopticon, which was an improvement on the optophone invented by Fournier d’Albe in 1912. The phonopticon translated text into sounds which one could learn to decipher with some practice. This generated great interest, especially among the blind, but when the war broke out, its development was stalled. There is no evidence that it was ever developed for the market. Dr. Brown held four patents.


Scope and content

The material in the F. C. Brown Papers focuses primarily on Dr. Brown’s professional life and includes correspondence, photographs, photo albums, scrapbooks and ephemera. Very little personal information is included. The collection is arranged into ten series.

Series 1, Biographical/General, 1905-1940, contains material which relates to Dr. Brown’s personal life and research. Scientific publications, which do not relate directly to the professional positions he held, can be found here. Also included are some personal financial records and two photographic portraits of Dr. Brown.

Series 2, Correspondence, 1902-1964, undated, is arranged chronologically and pertains directly to Dr. Brown’s career.

Series 3, Inventions, 1904-1942, documents Dr. Brown’s inventions and include invention notebooks, loose notes, patent documents, correspondence, and an article announcing the invention of the phonopticon.

Series 4, U. S. Army Ordnance Department, 1918-1919, contains materials from Dr. Brown’s tenure at the U. S. Army Ordnance Department. It includes a panoramic photograph and various official reports.

Series 5, U. S. Bureau of Standards, 1917-1926, contains assorted papers from the U. S. Bureau of Standards which date from 1917 to 1922, and also a few photographs, including a panoramic portrait of Bureau personnel in 1920.

Series 6, Museum Work, 1927-1940, consists of materials primarily dealing with Dr. Brown’s work in the New York Museum of Science and Industry (part of the Museums of the Peaceful Arts) and the Chicago Museum of Science and Industry. Of note is material relating to the dedication ceremony at which the airplane Bremen was given to the Museums of the Peaceful Arts and two scrapbooks which contain clippings, brochures, and photos showcasing developments and events in science, industry and the Museums of the Peaceful Arts.

Series 7, Photographs: Museums of the Peaceful Arts, Museum of Science and Industry, New York City, undated, is comprised of photographs from the Museums of the Peaceful Arts including such subjects as events, exhibits, displays, models, objects, machines, devices, and people. The majority of the photographs are undated.

Series 8, American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), 1932-1937, includes two photo albums and a scrapbook which deal with the planning of the AAAS annual science exhibitions.

Series 9, Photographs: Other Subjects, 1907-1939, is comprised of photographs covering subjects such as exhibits, displays, objects, and people.

Series 10, Miscellaneous, 1910-circa 1945, includes invitations, programs, brochures, miscellaneous publications and other writings, notes and calculations, and papers from a series of radio broadcasts on science. There is also a 1939 textbook, Experimental Heat, Sound and Light, with accompanying notes and annotations.


System of arrangement

Series 1: Biographical/General, 1905-1940
Series 2: Correspondence, 1902-1964, undated
Series 3: Inventions, 1904-1942
Subseries 1, Notebook, 1904
Subseries 2, Invention Notebooks, 1910-1942
Series 4: U. S. Army Ordnance Department, 1918-1921
Series 5: U. S. Bureau of Standards, 1917-1926
Subseries 1, Papers, 1917-1922
Subseries 2, Photographs, 1920, 1924, 1926, undated
Series 6: Museum Work, 1927-1941
Series 7: Photographs: Museums of the Peaceful Arts, Museum of Science and Industry, New York City, undated
Subseries 1, Events, Exhibits and Displays, undated
Subseries 2, Models, Objects, Machines and Devices, undated
Subseries 3, People with Objects, undated
Subseries 4: People, undated
Subseries 5: Photos of Other Materials, undated
Series 8: American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), 1932-1937
Series 9, Photographs: Other Subjects, 1907-1939
Subseries 1, Exhibits, Displays and Objects, 1931-1939, undated
Subseries 2, People, 1907-1928, undated
Subseries 3, Miscellaneous, circa 1918-1920, undated
Series 10, Miscellaneous, 1910-circa 1945


Languages

Some materials in German.


Acquisition information

This collection was donated to the Archives Center, National Museum of American History by Dr. Brown’s son-in-law, Richard D. Olson, August 1999.


Access points

Subjects/Topical:
Inventions
Inventors
Museums
Phonopticon
Physics
Physicists
Selenium

Subjects/Names:
Museums of the Peaceful Arts
Museum of Science and Industry
Museum of Science and Industry (New York, N.Y.)
Museum of Science and Industry (Chicago, Ill.)
United States Army. Ordnance Department
United States. Bureau of Standards
American Association for the Advancement of Science

Form/Genre:
Photographs—1900-2000
Scrapbooks—20th century
Correspondence—20th century
Clippings—20th century


Container listing

Box Folder  
    SERIES 1: BIOGRAPHICAL/GENERAL, 1905-1940
1 1 Biographical Information, undated
  2 Miscellaneous-Personal, 1924-1934
  3 Personal Financial Records, 1936-1939
15 4 Investment Portfolio Statements and Receipts, 1931-1937
1 4 Miscellaneous: Professional, circa 1934-1941
  5 Papers and Publications by F. C. Brown, 1905-1940
    Scrapbooks, 1907-1911
  6 Scrapbooks-Selenium Articles, 1907-1908
    Scrapbooks-Heat Articles, 1908-1909
  7 Scrapbooks-Selenium Articles, 1911
    Scrapbooks-Selenium Articles, 1911 (some in German)
17 1 Photographic Portraits of F. CIRCA Brown
    SERIES 2: CORRESPONDENCE, 1902-1964, UNDATED
2 1 1902-1911
  2 1914-1917
  3 1918
  4 1919
  5 1920-1924
  6 1925-1929
3 1 1930
  2 1931
  3 1932-1933
  4 1934-1935
  5 January 1937-November 1937
  6 December 1937
  7 1938
4 1 1939
  2 1940
  3 1941
  4 1946-1964, undated
    SERIES 3: INVENTIONS, 1904-1942
12 2 Subseries 1: Notebook, 1904
    Subseries 2: Invention Notebooks, 1910-1942
5 1 Invention Notebook-Selenium Book II, Fall 1910
  2 Selenium Book III, 1911
5 1 Invention Notebook-Selenium Book IV, May 1911
  3 Invention Notebook-Selenium Sensitivity, 1912-1914
    Invention Notebook-Selenium, January 1914-May 1915
  4 Phonopticon Articles, undated
  5 Phonopticon Correspondence, 1914-1917, undated  
  6 Ground Speed Meter, circa 1941
  7 Bomb Sight, 1941-1942
  8 Patent Documents, 1917, 1920, 1923
    SERIES 4: U. S. ARMY ORDNANCE DEPARTMENT, 1918-1921
  O/S Folder 1 Photograph: Aircraft Armament Section, Engineering Division, Ordnance Department, Washington, D. C., January 20, 1919
6 1 Research Information Committee, Italian Bomb Tests, 1918
  2 Assorted Ballistics Reports, 1918-1919
  3-4 Report on Ballistics of American Bombs, May 7, 1919
  5 Report on the Determination of the Damping Coefficients of Aircraft Bombs, September 3, 1919
  6 The Application of Motion Picture Photography to Ballistics and Airplane Performances, undated
  7 The Application of Motion Picture Photography to Ballistics and Airplane Performance: Report No. II, November 20, 1919
  8 Bomb Sights, undated
  9 Reports, undated
  10 Figures and Tables, undated
  O/S Folder 2 Fort Monroe and Vicinity Map, 1914
    Blueprints, 1917-1921
6 11 Miscellaneous, undated
    SERIES 5: U. S. BUREAU OF STANDARDS, 1917-1926
  12 Subseries 1: Papers, 1917-1922
    Subseries 2: Photographs, 1920, 1924, 1926, undated
  O/S Folder 1 Personnel, Bureau of Standards, Washington, D.C. November 1920
6 13 U. S. Department of Commerce, Sesqui Centennial Exposition, Bureau of Standards Booth, Philadelphia, 1926
  14 Unidentified Buildings, undated
Safer-Cabinet Laboratory, Marietta, Ohio, 1924
  15 Man in Airplane, undated
  16 Bomb Models, undated
    SERIES 6: MUSEUM WORK, 1927-1941
    Subseries 1: Museums of the Peaceful Arts, Museum of Science and Industry-NYC, 1927-1932
7 1 Aviation Exhibits, circa 1929-1932
  2 Dedication of the Bremen Airplane, 1929
17 2 Machine Age Exhibit Articles, 1930
    Water Basin Exhibit Blueprint, circa 1930
13-14   Scrapbook, 1928-1931
16   Scrapbook, 1929-1931
17 5 Scrapbook, 1929-1931 (Researcher Copy)
7 3 Miscellaneous, circa 1927-1931
    Subseries 2: Museum of Science and Industry-Chicago, 1937-1941, undated
7 4 Papers, 1938-1940
  5 Publications, 1937-1940
17 3 Newspaper Clippings, 1940-1941
  O/S Folder 3 Floor plans, 1938, undated
7 6 Other Museum Exhibits, undated
    SERIES 7: PHOTOGRAPHS: MUSEUMS OF THE PEACEFUL ARTS, MUSEUM OF SCIENCE AND INDUSTRY, NEW YORK CITY, UNDATED
    Subseries 1: Events, Exhibits and Displays, undated
10 1 Bremen Airplane Acceptance and Display, undated
  2 Industrial Museum, undated
  3 Science Forum
  4 Color Exhibit, U. S. Department of Agriculture, undated
  5 Aviation Displays, undated
  6 Toward Civilization Window Display (Brentano's), undated
    Various Exhibits, undated
    Subseries 2: Models, Objects, Machines and Devices, undated
  8 Daniel Webster Plow, undated
  9 Hudson River Bridge Model, undated
  10 Eli Whitney's Milling Machine and Others, undated
  11 Parsons Steam Turbine and Others, undated
  12 Locomotive Model, Salamanca, undated
  13 Milling Machine, undated
  14 Tesla Coil, undated
  15 Corliss Engine, undated
  16 Early Singer Sewing Machine, undated
  17 Blaew (Printing) Press, undated
  18 Gases Display, undated
  19 Earth Inductor Compass, undated
  20 Unidentified Devices, undated
    Subseries 3: People with Objects, undated
  21 Lilienthal, August 1, 1897, Hang Gliding
  22 F. C. Brown and Woman Electrified!
  23 Children and Exhibits, undated
  24 Woman and Switchboard, undated
  25 oman and "Father of Typewriters, 1930
  26 Woman, Microscope and Chesterfields, undated
  27 Woman and Camco Robot, undated
  28 Woman and Unidentified Device, undated
  29 Nathalia Crane and Potter's Wheel, undated
  30 Man Demonstrates Model for Women, undated
  31 Man and Model of Kill Van Kull Bridge, undated
  32 Man and Lathe, undated
  33 Man and Duryea Motor Wagon, undated
  34 Men and Devices, undated
  35 Man and Spencer Automatic Lathe, undated
    Subseries 4: People, undated
  36 Men and Corliss Engine (Stuart Chase, Ralph Borsodi, Ralph B. Flanders, and F. C. Brown), undated
  37 Ralph Borsodi, Ralph B. Flanders, Stuart Chase, undated
  38 Portrait, Unidentified Man, undated
  39 Portrait, Dr. Karl Compton, undated
  40 Portrait, Dr. Fred E. Wright, undated
  41 Portrait, Unidentified Man, undated
    Subseries 5: Photos of Other Materials, undated
  42 Photos of Correspondence, undated
  43 Photos of Press Clippings, undated
  44 Photos of Negative Strips, undated
    SERIES 8: AMERICAN ASSOCIATION FOR THE ADVANCEMENT OF SCIENCE (AAAS), 1932-1937
7 7 Annual Exhibition, 1932
9 1 Photo Album: Annual Exhibition, 1932
7 8 Annual Exhibition, 1933
15   Scrapbook: Annual Exhibition, 1934
9 2 Photo Album: Annual Exhibition, 1934
7 9 Annual Exhibitions, 1935-1937
11   SERIES 9: PHOTOGRAPHS: OTHER SUBJECTS, 1907-1939
    Subseries 1: Exhibits, Displays and Objects, 1931-1939, undated
  1 World's Fair Exhibit on Time, 1939
  2 Artist's Representation of Museum Exhibit on Time, 1931
  3 Cosmic Ray Exhibit and Unidentified Man, undated
  4 American Association for the Advancement of Science Exhibition, Indianapolis, 1937 (loose photos from album)
  5 People Listening on Headphones and Onlookers, undated
  6 Crowd of People and Statue, undated
  7 Electrified Man and Onlooker, undated
  8 Men and Machines (Unidentified), undated
  9 Children in Museum, undated
  10 Langley Aerodrome Airplane, 1903
  11 Professor Moler and First Dynamo Built in U. S., undated
  12 Edison Storage Battery Display, undated
  13 Man and Quartz Spirals, undated
  14 Old Hand Loom, Crompton and Knowles Loom Works, undated
  15 Unidentified Instruments, undated
    Subseries 2: People, 1907-1928, undated
  O/S Folder 1 American Physical Society, Washington, D. C., April 1920
11 16 Dr. Fox, Director of Brooklyn Museum and F.C. Brown, in Paris, August 1928
  17 Children, Washington, D.C., March 18, 1919
  18 General Electric, Edison and Steinmetz, undated
  19 Portrait S. W. Stratton, undated
  20 Portrait Unidentified Man, 1907
  21 Portrait and Obituary Lord Rutherford (1871-1937)
    Subseries 3: Miscellaneous, circa 1918-1920, undated
  22 Bomb Testing, circa 1918
  23 Aerial Photos of Town and Clouds, undated
  24 Photos of Science Paintings by Walter Russell, undated
  25 Projectile Camera Film, circa 1920
  26 Smokestack Demolition in South Philadelphia, PA, 1932
  27 Unidentified, undated
    SERIES 10: MISCELLANEOUS, 1910-CIRCA 1945, UNDATED
  O/S Folder 2 General Motors Graph, 1939
  O/S Folder 3 Electronics Supplements, 1930, 1934
7 10 Executive Orders, 1934 (National Recovery Administration)
  11 Invitations, Programs and Brochures, 1926-1931, undated
  12 Miscellaneous: Publications, 1919-circa 1945, undated
8 1 Miscellaneous: Writings, undated
  2 National Research Council Reports and Minutes, 1930-1932
  3 Notes and Calculations, undated
  4 Prints: Bureau of Engraving and Printing, undated
  5 Radio Broadcasts on Science, 1929-1930
  6 Radio Broadcasts on Science, 1931, undated
  O/S Folder 3 Science Service Articles, 1937
8 7 Scientific Papers and Publications, 1910-1940
  8 Sun God and Isostacy Papers and Notes, circa 1930s
12 1 Textbook: Experimental Heat, Sound and Light: An Analytical College Text, 1939
17 4 "When Wind and Water Strike At Man" Article, 1937

 

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Last Update: 11 May 2007

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