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Orlando Brown Papers, 1819-1866

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Orlando Brown Papers




Kentucky Historical Society. Special Collections & Archives. Frankfort, Kentucky 40601-1931

Conditions Governing Access note

Access at KHS only. Use microfilm, transcriptions or images when available.

For microfilmed copies see Clift number(s): 0057, 0063, 0115, 0119-23, 0132, 0156, 0173, 0203, 0211, 0213, 0215, 0217, 0253, 0255, 0274, 0375, 0403, 0416, 0427, 0436, 0491, 0497, 0533-34, 0564, 0595, 0611, 0674-75, 0689, 0747, 0821, 0840, 0875, 0887, 0909, 0961, 0983, 1049, 1054.

Preferred Citation Note

[Identification of item], Orlando Brown Papers, 84M04,Library Special Collections and Archives, Kentucky Historical Society, Frankfort.


1 box,.5 c.f.


Brown was the son of John Brown, Kentucky's first representative to Congress, and Margaretta Mason Brown, the founder of the first Sunday school in Kentucky. Orlando Brown received an A.B. degree from Princeton University in 1820 and graduated from Transylvania University's law department in 1823. After practicing law for a short time in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, Brown returned to his hometown.

He made an unsuccessful race for the position of reporter for the Kentucky Court of Appeals, then became editor of the Commonwealth in 1833, at the time of the newspaper's establishment. Brown, who married his first cousin, Mary Watts Brown, in 1830, moved his family into the Greek Revival style house that now bears his name. It was designed for the Browns by Gideon Shryock and built in 1835. A year later, Brown became the first Corresponding Secretary of the newly organized Kentucky Historical Society. Brown became increasingly active as a Whig partisan in state and national politics. In addition to his work at the Commonwealth, he edited The Campaign, a short-lived newspaper that supported the Whig party. Brown retired to private life after his wife's death, until he became secretary of state in the administration of Governor John J. Crittenden.

After actively campaigning for Zachary Taylor's successful bid for the presidency in 1848, Brown became Commissioner of Indian Affairs in the new administration. But his appointment was primarily secured to give Crittenden a link to the President, as his main function as Commissioner turned out to be his serivce as Taylor's friend and confidant. Dissatisfied with the position, Brown resigned only a few days before Taylor's death.

Brown married Mary Cordelia Upshaw Price Brodhead in 1852. With the coming of the Civil War, Brown, an ardent Unionist, reassumed the editorial control of the Commonwealth for seven months in 1862. He was also Commissioner of the Board of Enrollment for the Seventh District of Kentucky. He wrote on many historical topics over the years and began a history of the governors of the state from 1792 to 1824. His death in 1867 prevented its completion.

Scope and Content

These are the papers of Orlando Brown, a prominent Frankfort newspaper editor, historian, politician, and government official of the nineteenth century.

The papers primarily consist of Brown's political correspondence, including many letters from Robert P. Letcher, a Kentucky governor and Minister to Mexico in Taylor's administration. Most of the letters are dated 1849 and 1850, reflecting Brown's tenure as Commissioner of Indian Affairs and concern patronage appointments. Letcher's letters as well as those of John J. Crittenden

Crittenden, Thomas L. Crittenden, Richard Hawes, Thomas B. Stevenson, and Taylor concern politics of the day. There are also family letters, receipts, and two manuscript pages of Brown's book on governors. Included are photostats of four letters held at Princeton University Libraries.

Occupation: Newspaper editor, politician, historian

County: Franklin

Arrangement: Correspondence is arranged chronologically.


  • Brown, Orlando, 1801-1867--Correspondence.
  • Taylor, Zachary, 1784-1850--Correspondence
  • Crittenden, John J. (John Jordan), 1787-1863--Correspondence
  • Letcher, Robert Perkins, 1788-1861--Correspondence
  • Crittenden, Thomas Leonidas, 1819-1893--Correspondence
  • Hawes, R. (Richard), 1797-1877--Correspondence
  • Stevenson, Thomas B.--Correspondence
  • Whig Party (U.S.)
  • United States. Bureau of Indian Affairs
  • Frankfort Commonwealth
  • Governors--Kentucky
  • Politicians
  • Politics and government--Kentucky--19th century
  • Politics, Practical
  • Presidents--United States

User Restrictions

Permission for commercial use must be requested from the Kentucky Historical Society. Special Collections.

Collection Inventory

Correspondence, 1819-1847
[box: 1, folder: 1]
Correspondence, 1848-June, 1849
[box: 1, folder: 2]
Correspondence, July 1849
[box: 1, folder: 3]
Correspondence, Aug.-Dec. 1849
[box: 1, folder: 4]
Correspondence, Jan.-May 1850
[box: 1, folder: 5]
Correspondence, June 1850-1866 and n.d
[box: 1, folder: 6]
Correspondence and other papers, lock of hair, 1858-1957
[box: 1, folder: 7]
Transcriptions / Images
[box: 1, folder: 7]

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