• IdentificationPUBLIC "-//The Art Institute of Chicago::Ryerson and Burnham Archives//TEXT(US::ICA::2009.1::A.J. BROWN PAPERS, 1929-1963, (BULK 1930-1956)//EN)" "ica200901.xml"
  • TitleBrown, A.J., Papers, 1929-1963 (bulk 1930-1956)
  • PublisherRyerson and Burnham Archives, Ryerson and Burnham Libraries, The Art Institute of Chicago,
  • Language
    • English
    • English.
  • Date
    • 1929-1963
    • (bulk 1930-1956)
  • Physical Description
    • .5 linear feet, (1 box), 3 oversize portfolios and flatfile materials.
    • Correspondence, printed papers, black and white photograph, photocopies and realia.
  • RepositoryRyerson and Burnham Archives, Ryerson and Burnham Libraries, The Art Institute of Chicago 111 S. Michigan Ave. Chicago, IL 60603-6110 (312) 443-7292 rbarchives@artic.edu http://www.artic.edu/aic/libraries/rbarchives/rbarchives.html
  • AbstractCorrespondence, photograph, printed materials, design drawings and cut stencils relating to Chicago designer Adolph Jacob (A.J.) Brown's career.
  • OriginationBrown, A. J. (Adolph Jacob), 1889-1984.
  • LocationThis collection is housed in off-site storage and is so designated by the abbreviation (OS) in the location column of the finding aid's item listing. Collections maintained in off-site storage will be retrieved with advance notification; please consult the Archivist for the current retrieval schedule. For further information, consult http://www.artic.edu/aic/libraries/rbarchives/rbarchaccess.html

Adolph Jacob Brown (A.J. Brown) is something of an enigma. Though insisting in an August 1980 interview with Robert J. Furhoff, that he was American-born, his 1942 Selective Service documents indicate, in fact, that he was born in the former Czechoslovakia on May 25, 1889 of a Hungarian father and Austrian mother. It's unknown when Brown emigrated to the United States, though he claimed to have attended Michigan State University and the University of Michigan after settling in Detroit. By the late 1920s he had established an art stencil business in Detroit, Michigan; Brown first appears in Detroit's city directory in 1928 as a "designer" working at 653 Michigan Ave. and residing at 633 Abbott St. Census records of 1930 confirm the same address, though his occupation is listed there as a laborer in an automobile factory. The 1930 census gives even further contradictory information, indicating that both Brown and his parents were born in Illinois. By 1931, Brown had relocated to 232 (or 282) Lafayette Boulevard, advertising himself as a "stencil mfr." and vendor for Henry Roessing's line of Excelsior Fresco Stencils.

At some point after 1932--possibly to obtain work for the 1933 Century of Progress International Exposition, or perhaps to compete more effectively with Roessing--Brown permanently relocated his business to Chicago. Brown's new Chicago-based company made and wholesaled cut stencils to retail establishments such as paint and hardware stores. The stencils were described in his promotional literature as "suitable designs for painting of parlor drapes, table covers, scarfs, bedspreads, glass and metal etching, for embroidering, for furniture painting....walls and ceiling decorations". His target customers were likely professional decorators and painters as well as industrious do-it-yourself homeowners. Business order forms later described him thusly: "A.J. Brown, Art and Ornamental Designer, Manufacturer of Stencilpaper and Stencils for all kinds of Decorations for Private and Public Buildings, Theatres, Churches, Lodges, Etc. 107 West Van Buren St., Chicago 5, Illinois". At one point, Brown was even successful enough to hire several employees to assist with stencil production, some of whose names appear on stencil designs in this collection (e.g. Sadie Siegel, Wanda and Perkins). As such, he exemplifies the American success myth of the self-made man, having referred to his business as "self-invented work".

Little is known of Brown's later life or career, though he continued to live and work in Chicago for many decades (143 N. Kedzie Ave., 1948 directory; 107 W. Van Buren St., 1962 and 1971 directories). A.J. Brown died on April 27, 1984.

The A.J. Brown Papers consist of decorative stencils cut and sold by Adolph J. Brown and documents relating to his business including correspondence, promotional materials, catalogs and design drawings. Also included are personal papers.

SERIES I: BUSINESS PAPERS. One subseries, Brown, A.J. Company, which includes catalog, price lists, printed papers and promotional materials.

SERIES II: BUSINESS CORRESPONDENCE. One subseries, Correspondence, filed alphabetically by correspondent name.

SERIES III: BROWN, A.J., STENCIL SAMPLES.

SERIES IV: BROWN, A.J., STENCIL DESIGNS & CUT STENCILS. This series is partially restricted. Please consult the Archivist for further information. Divided into two subseries:

Drawings & Stencil Designs - filed chronologically when the date of origination is known. If undated, they are filed by size;

and Cut Stencils - Cut Stencils are restricted from patron use due to the fragility of the materials. Please consult the Archivist for further information.

SERIES V: PERSONAL PAPERS. Divided into two subseries:

Correspondence, filed alphabetically by correspondent name;

and Miscellaneous.

SERIES VI: OTHER STENCIL COMPANIES. One subseries, Catalogs and Samples, filed alphabetically by business name.

  • NamesBrown, A. J. (Adolph Jacob), 1889-1984.
  • Subject
    • Decoration and ornament, Architectural -- United States.
    • Stencil work -- United States.

BOX.FF

c.

Flatf.

n.d.

AL

ALS

(OS)

TC

TLS

TN

This collection is housed in off-site storage and is so designated by the abbreviation (OS) in the location column of the finding aid's item listing. Collections maintained in off-site storage will be retrieved with advance notification; please consult the Archivist for the current retrieval schedule. For further information, consult http://www.artic.edu/aic/l This collection may be used by qualified readers in the Reading Room of the Ryerson and Burnham Libraries at The Art Institute of Chicago. ibraries/rbarchives/rbarchaccess.html

The Art Institute of Chicago is providing access to the materials in the Libraries' collections solely for noncommercial educational and research purposes. The unauthorized use, including, but not limited to, publication of the materials without the prior written permission of the Art Institute is strictly prohibited. All inquiries regarding permission to publish should be submitted in writing to the Archivist, Ryerson and Burnham Archives, The Art Institute of Chicago. In addition to permission from the Art Institute, permission of the copyright owner (if not the Art Institute) and/or any holder of other rights (such as publicity and/or privacy rights) may also be required for reproduction, publication, distribution, and other uses. Responsibility for making an independent legal assessment of any item and securing any necessary permissions rests with the persons desiring to publish the item. The Art Institute makes no warranties as to the accuracy of the materials or their fitness for a particular purpose.

A.J. Brown Papers, Ryerson and Burnham Archives, The Art Institute of Chicago.

This collection was a gift from Robert J. Furhoff to the Ryerson and Burnham Archives on September 16, 2009.

This collection was processed by Kim Krueger in 2014. The finding aid was written by Kim Krueger.