John Ross Browne
(1821 - 1875)
John Ross Browne was active/lived in California, District Of Columbia. John Browne is known for travel book illustration, frontier painting.
John Ross Browne
Biography from the Archives of askART
A peripatetic illustrator for the United States government, John Ross
Browne also illustrated and wrote his own travel books. Combining
personal and official travel experiences during the 1840s, 50s and 60s,
Browne recorded adventures in gold-mining California, Apache country in
Arizona, sailing around Cape Horn in South America, writing reports in
Texas and New Orleans, sightseeing in the Middle East and Europe and
serving his government in China. Many of his writings with
sketches were published in Harper's Magazine.
Biography from the Archives of askART
Browne was born in Dublin, Ireland, and immigrated with his parents to
Louisville, Kentucky in 1832. He studied shorthand, and then
worked in Washington DC for the United States Senate as a reporter from
1841 to 1842.
In 1849, he went to San Francisco as an agent
for the United States Treasury Department to deal with problems of mass
desertions of sailors to the gold mines. On this trip, he sailed
from New York aboard the "Pacific", and headed to Cape Horn where the
ship was boarded by an American Consul who deposed the captain and
replaced him with another who had lost his ship near Buenos
Aires. Weary of the turmoil and the long detention at the island
of Juan Fernandez, Browne and ten other passengers got into a small
boat and sailed 70 miles to shore. His writings of these
adventures, Crusoe's Island, created much interest in exotic South American travel.
on August 5, 1849, in California from that adventuresome trip around
Cape Horn Ross Browne wrote: "I have reached the promised land at
last." (Browne 120). However, he was unimpressed with the success of
gold mining and wrote: "A young man having no family ties may do well
to come here, but it is the greatest folly for any person in good
business at home, or who has any prosepect of doing well, to sarcrifice
his property and separate himself from his family on the uncertainl
contingency of making money in California." (Browne 125).
was based in Monterey where he also earned money from the U.S.
government for recording and translating from Spanish to English state
convention proceedings to prepare for statehood and elect state
representatives to Washington. His lengthy written report was
much in demand when California applied for statehood admission. The
U.S. Senate purchased 2000 copies and additional orders came from the
In October 1849, he returned to the East
Coast via Cape Horn, and in the 1850s traveled in Europe, the Near
East, Egypt, New Orleans and back to Latin America where he was in
Mexico and then Panama on his return to California in July of 1854.
There his commission was again from the U.S. government. He had
the title of Inspector General of Public Depositories, meaning he was
to review the character of public employees and the condition of the
revenue service and then suggest methods for preventing fraud and
smuggling and other ways of cheating the U.S. government. He also
performed the same services at Indian agencies on the West Coast, and
these duties kept him in California until April, 1860. Four years
later, his book, Adventures in California and Washoe, that he authored and illustrated about his California experiences was published.
1860 to 1862, he traveled in Europe, then lectured on the East Coast
for a year, basing himself in New York City. However, that
lecture tour was not financially successful, and he and his family
returned to California in 1863. From that time, lecturing about
his many adventures proved remunerative. But he did not stay long
in one place, as he was in Arizona in 1863 and 1864 accompanying his
friend, Charles D. Poston on a trip through Apache country. His
accounts of this period were published serially in Harper's Monthly
and later published in books. From 1864 to 1865, he was in Nevada
and there made much profit from doing illustrations and reports of
mining sites for potential eastern investors.
briefly to Washington DC and to California in 1866 and then from 1868
to 1869, was in Peking, China briefly as United States Minister to
China. The assignment did not last long, as his views were not in
accord with those of his superiors in Washington DC.
In 1870, John Ross Browne moved to Oakland, California where he remained until his death on December 9, 1875.
Lina Fergusson Browne, J. Ross Browne
Edan Hughes, Artists in California, 1786-1940
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Born near Dublin, Ireland on Feb. 11, 1821. Browne arrived in Louisville, KY in 1833. He later studied shorthand and worked as a reporter for the U.S. Senate. He came to San Francisco in 1849 as an agent of the U.S. Treasury Department to deal with the problem of mass desertions of sailors to the gold fields. In 1864 Harper's magazine ran his serial featuring 78 illustrations entitled, "Adventures in the Apache Country." He authored and illustrated, Adventures in California & Washoe in 1864. In 1870 Browne settled in Oakland and remained there until his death on Dec. 9, 1875. In: CHS.
Edan Hughes, "Artists in California, 1786-1940"Artists and Illustrators of the Old West
(Robert Taft); Artists of the American West
(Doris Dawdy); Artists of the American West
(Samuels); American West, Spring 1965.Nearly 20,000 biographies can be found in Artists in California 1786-1940 by Edan Hughes and is available for sale ($150). For a full book description and order information please click here
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