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Brown, Franklin Q.

Papers. A collection of fifteen handwritten letters, totalling sixty-six pages, April - July, 1898.

Franklin Quimby Brown, born in Chicago in 1862, was educated in the public schools of Melrose, Massachusetts. At the age of sixteen, Brown began his business career with Candler & Company of Boston, a firm engaged in the East India trade. In 1886, he went to Palatka, Florida, to look after matters connected with the Florida Southern Railway, and in 1892 he became president of that railroad. At the age of twenty-nine, Brown became the youngest railroad president in the country. Brown was very active in the early development of the State of Florida, and worked with Henry Plant and Henry Flagler. Brown took an active role in Florida's interests in the Spanish American War in 1898. He traveled extensively between New York, Washington, and Tampa in April and May, 1898, and wrote the letters contained in this collection. Brown was commissioned a colonel in the Florida State Militia in 1898 and aided in selection of campsites and in the supplying of troops to Cuba.

Officials for Tampa, Florida actively sought selection of their city as a supply depot for the United States War Department. Serving as a base for military operations would both stimulate the economic condition of the city and provide defense against a possible Spanish naval attack. During March and April 1898, other southern cities also campaigned for selection as an official supply depot. The final four candidates were Tampa, New Orleans, Savannah, and Mobile. The War Department chose Tampa and many credit Brown for this honor. A contemporary Tampa Times newspaper article, dated April 24, 1898 reads: "Hon. F. Q. Brown, third vice president of the Plant System, is again in the city after having spent two weeks in Washington. Mr. Brown went to the capital and worked hard for the movement of troops this way, and it was largely through his efforts that the Government officials finally made Tampa the distribution point for the supplies. He met all the heads of the different departments who were seeking information, which he furnished. . Mr. Brown was in a position to give the information desired, and he presented it in a manner that was very effective."

Brown's letters are addressed to his wife Ida, then residing in Boston. The initial documents are dated in mid-April, and are written from Washington, DC. These letters discuss meetings with various government officials. At this time the United States was on the brink of declaring war with Spain and public opinion strongly favored this action. The sinking of the Maine in Havana harbor and the many casualties caused by riots in Cuba greatly inflamed public sympathy for the Cuban rebels. Brown wrote: "If our Government acts promptly now it will terminate the whole matter. The Spaniards played a big "bluff" game at the last. All we need do now is to go there and push them off the Island: they will go." Brown then traveled from Washington, DC to Tampa and set up residence with other officers in the recently renovated Tampa Bay Hotel. He described the great excitement of the daily arrivals of troops and supplies and related his important role in the organization of the camps and supply depots. "This is now a wonderful meeting place with troops from California, Texas, Vermont, New York, Kansas, Washington, Georgia, Tennessee and all over the country and makes one realize the wonderful extent of the country."

After the Spanish American War the United States emerged as a world power with a new stake in international politics. The first military interaction in this nine-month war was the U.S. Naval Squadron's destruction of the Spanish fleet anchored in the Manila Bay harbor in the Philippines. Brown wrote of the affair in a lighthearted tone: "My impression is this brilliant victory in Manilla may have the effect of quieting the belligerent feelings of the Spaniards a trifle. The only danger for us to fear is the possible appearance of the Spanish fleet off some of our large cities. In case they appear off Boston you be sure and take to the woods with the "Bow-wos [sic]."

The fifteen letters and several handwritten telegrams in the collection comprise communication home by Brown during the months of April through July 1898. The letters contain Brown's heartfelt affection for his family and his great longings to see his loved ones once more. In this more personal vein, Brown cautions his wife and two young daughters to be mindful of their health and to remember always how much he misses them. Brown also discusses at length the search for a new house, a task that occupies much of his wife's time during his travels. The family relocated from Boston to Dobbs Ferry, New York, during the year 1898. From this one-sided correspondence, one can also determine that the birth of the Brown's third child took place. The conclusion to one letter summarizes Brown's frequent longings for home: "I miss my darlings very much and if the war were over would enjoy being with them peacefully, but with it on I am restless I fear."