Register :: Login
Manufacturers Index - A. & F. Brown & Co.

A. & F. Brown & Co.
New York, NY, U.S.A.
Manufacturer Class: Wood Working Machinery & Steam and Gas Engines

Last Modified: Mar 18 2017 2:05PM by Jeff_Joslin
If you have information to add to this entry, please contact the Site Historian.

A. & F. Brown was established in 1854 by brothers Adolphus Brown and Felix Brown. Within a year their works were located in Elizabethport, NJ, although they maintained New York offices until about 1907. By 1865 the business was apparently operating as A. & F. Brown & Co. From the beginning their works were known as the Progress Machine Works and they sometimes advertised under that name.

Their primary specialty for most of their existence was power transmission equipment, but in their very early years they made a patent wood lathe. Beginning about 1865 they made a steam engine, and beginning in 1874 they began making a hot air engine. Also known as caloric engines, hot air engines are external combustion engines that use air rather than steam as the expansion medium. The engines are very large and heavy in relation to their output power, and are somewhat limited in how much power they can produce—the maximum practical size was about 6 HP, which required a cylinder 32 inches in diameter. But these engines are simple, reliable and energy efficient, and before the era of the internal combustion engine they found a use in certain applications such as powering lighthouses. In 1877, Felix Brown patented a much-improved caloric engine that pushed the practical size limit from 6 HP to 14 HP. These engines enjoyed some success until they were rendered obsolete by internal combustion engines.

Adolphus died in 1875 and Felix assumed control of the business. At some point various sons joined the business, and in about 1890 Auguste Brown (son of Adolphus) and Felix Brown, Jr. joined the partnership, which became A. & F. Brown Co.. Sometime before that, but by 1887, the name Brown Caloric Engine Co. started appearing in ads alongside the A. & F. Brown Co. name.

Advertisement from 1895

By 1900 it seems that the hot air engine business had died off, and over the next couple of decades as individual electric motors replaced line shafting in driving machinery, the business gradually died off. The company wound down and in 1937 the Elizabethport land and buildings were sold.

Information Sources

  • 1857 Transactions of the American Institute of the City of New York.
    A. & F. Brown 395 Fifth Street, New York City, NY., submitted a Machine for Turning and Boring Wood to the American Institute Fair of 1857. A silver medal was awarded.
  • The 1866-11-01 Evening Telegraph (Philadelphia) has an advertisement for a cotton press with testimonials from several firms, including one from "Progress Machine Works, New York", "A. & F. Brown & Co., proprietors".
  • 1879-03-29 Scientific American.
    SHAFTING PULLEYS, HANGERS, etc., a specialty. Send for Price List to A. & F. BROWN, 57-61 Lewis Street, New York.
  • 1881 post card: "Shafts, Hangers & Pulleys a Specialty. / A. & F. Brown, 57, 59 & 61 Lewis St."
  • 1882 catalog in the collection of the American Textile History Museum. "Shafting, &c. / 1882 / A. & F. Brown, / 57 Lewis Street / New York."
  • 1884 catalog in the collection of the American Textile History Museum. "Shafting, &c. / 1884 / A. & F. Brown, / 43 Park Place, New York."
  • 1887 (approx.) broadside.

    The Brown Caloric Engine
    Patented in the United States, Canada, England, France, Belgium, Germany and Austria.
    Manufactured by
    A. & F. Brown,
    Progress Machine Works,
    Nos. 57, 59 and 61 Lewis Street, New York.

    For the past fifty years experiments have been tried on hot air, which proved the possibility of the use of that power, but the non-perfection of construction of the various machines caused partly failures, partly limited results only.

    Mr. Felix Brown, after several years of experimenting and considerable expenditures, finally brought out an engine not only superior to any other manufacture, but perfect in every way.

    The Brown Caloric Engine offers practicable economy in every respect, and will therefore be the leading substitute for other motors; in comparison with the dimension of other hot-air engines, it performs more power with the same size cylinder—its construction being accordingly very strong: all bearing-parts, shafts, rods, etc., made of cast-steel or case-hardened.

    The heater or furnace is completely separated from the working-cylinder, so that the former may easily be re -lined with fire-bricks, should it become necessary.

    The packings are isolated from heat to the most possible extent.

    The Inlet and Outlet valves are operating independently of each other, so that any degree of expansion desired may be obtained.

    Noiseless motion, and the facility of replenishing the fire during operation, without causing any delay, are remarkable merits of our engine.

    A positive proof to our statement is the fact that our engines have been adopted to a great extent for lighthouse and lightship-service by the United States, England, Ireland; Scotland, and by the German Government, giving, wherever in use, the highest satisfaction.

    For the use of elevation or hoisting, for the production of electric lights, etc., a better motor cannot be had; it is actually the only well-paying substitute for steam power, practicable almost for every use in general.

    Engines of 3½, 4½, 7 and 14 horse-power can now be seen at our works; they combine the following advantages, which incline to their adoption in preference to any other motor:
    No engineer required. Simple in construction.
    No water-tax. Substantial and durable.
    No extra-insurance. No danger of explosion.
    Great saving in fuel. Cheapest running-expense.

    The Brown Caloric Engine Co.,
    Nos. 57, 59 and 61 Lewis Street, New York.

  • 1895 ad seen on eBay: "A. & F. Brown, engineers, founders & machinists. / Shafting, pulleys, hangers, etc. / Friction Clutch Couplings. / Steam sirens, [whistles]. / Send for Catalogue. / 17 Dey St., New York. / Estimates and Plans furnished for transmitting power by horizontal and vertical shafting. Also for Erecting same."
  • The 1890 Seeger and Guernsey's Cyclopædia of the Manufactures and Products of the United States, New York lists A. & F. Brown Co., 44 Park Place, New York, as a manufacturer of various power transmission specialties.
  • The 1892-02-10 The Electrical Engineer.
    A. & F. Brown & Co.—Purchasers of pulleys, hangers and shafting are reminded that Messrs. A. & F. Brown & Company, probably the largest manufacturers of these goods in the United States, will remove their office and salesrooms from 44 Park Place to 17 Dey street. New York, the quarters formerly occupied by the Edison Machine Works, in the same line.
  • The 1899 Seeger and Guernsey's Cyclopædia of the Manufactures and Products of the United States, New York lists A. & F. Brown Co., 25 Dey St., New York, as a manufacturer of various power transmission specialties, plus "power sirens".
  • A 1902 lawsuit heard by the New York Supreme Court, Weinstein v. Weber, involves a dispute over land that was sold by Weber to Weinstein, but the land was apparently purchased by Adolphus Brown and Felix Brown in 1873. Adolphus died on 1875-03-10, leaving a widow, Walli Brown and three minor children, Rosa, Auguste and Christina (the children were all from Adolphus first marriage and must have been teenaged at the time; Walli had two adult children from a previous marriage). One third of Adolphus' share of the property in question went to Walli and the remainder went to his children. Felix purchased Walli's share from her, and a few years later, in separate transactions, purchased the shares owned by each of Adolphus' three children. Walli died in 1897; one of Walli's children signed a quitclaim some years later but the other did not. The court found that when the land was sold the seller only had an 8/9 share of the title. One of Adolphus' executors, Herbert S. Clark, testified as follows.
    I am a consulting engineer and manager in the New York office of A. & F. Brown Company. I have been in the employ of the A. & F. Brown Company ever since it has been the A. & F. Brown Company. That was. I think, 1897. I had been in the employ of the predecessor of the A. & F. Brown Company. That was a partnership, I understood. That consisted of Felix Brown, Auguste Brown and Felix Brown, Junior. The firm name at that time was A. & F. Brown. And I had been in the employ of the firm of A. & F. Brown, constituted, as I have just said, I believe, from the time it was formed. The firm of A. & F. Brown constituted, as I have stated, was the successor, A. & F. Brown. But who formed the firm of A. & F. Brown prior to the firm of A. & F. Brown constituted as I have stated, I do not know. They were doing business at 57 Lewis street and also at 43 Park place. The store was at 43 Park place...
  • 1905 catalog in the collection of the American Textile History Museum. "Shafting, Pulleys, Hangers, Etc., for Transmission of Power. The A. & F. Brown Co. / Founders and Machinists, 25 Dey Street, New York. 1905."
  • 1908 postcard from "The A. & F. Brown Co. / Main Office and Works, Elizabethport, N. J."
  • September 1911 Dun's Review has an article on A. & F. Brown Company's power transmission specialties.
  • The 1921 edition of Sweet's Engineering Catalogue has a page on this firm. "Established 1854 / The A. & F. Brown Co. / Manufacturers of Power Transmission Equipment / Engineers, Founders, Machinists and Millwrights / 79 Barclay Street / New York, N. Y. / Works: Elizabethport, N. J."
  • The 2001 book Lost Sounds: The Story of Coast Fog Signals, by Alan Renton.

    The Swedish inventor John Ericsson first demonstrated his hot air or 'caloric' engine in England in 1833, but he continued to develop the engine in America into the 1860s. One of his engines was demonstrated at the Great Exhibition of 1851... Ericsson's engines were quite widely used in America and were manufactured after 1874 by A. & F. Brown of New York. (Ericsson's patent expired in 1870 and his design became widely used. A. & F. Brown produced Ericsson's engines in various sizes from ½ to 6 hp. The smallest engine had a 9-inch cylinder and cost $250. The 6 hp engine has a 32-inch cylinder and drove a flywheel at 35 rpm. This engine cost $2,250 in 1875. Ericsson engines, like the Stirling and Buckett engines, heated air in contact with the iron retort's sides. The engine developed by Browns passed the air under pressure through the furnace itself.

    ...A. & F. Brown also supplied hot air engines to the South Foreland trials and the simplicity and economic operation of these engines impressed Trinity House. James Douglass, the Engineer in Chief, was not enthusiastic about steam engines. hot air engines were less powerful than high pressure steam engines, but they were practical and economical... Three 10-horse power caloric engines were subsequently ordered from A. & F. Brown of New York and installed in the new engine house.

    ...A. & F. Brown went on to produce a range of sirens of different sizes, operated by steam and air. In later years their sirens mostly used the automatic self-driven principle, rather than being motor-driven like the early instruments.

  • American Steam Engine Builders: 1800-1900 by Kenneth L. Cope, 2006 page 41
  • The 2015 second edition of Elizabeth, New Jersey Then and Now, by Robert J. Baptista.

    A. & F. Brown Co. on Third St.
    One of Elizabeth's earliest foundries was the A. & F. Brown Co., established in 1855 on Third St. by Adolph and Felix Brown. The company had three buildings and employed 30 men at that time. Iron castings were machined into power transmission equipment including shaft drives, friction clutches, pulleys, gears and fly wheels. The factory had both rail and ship service, needed to transport parts as large as a fly wheel 20 foot in diameter and weighing 59,000 lbs. The Cogswell Mill, for grinding grain, was sold in the U.S. and abroad.

    In 1915 fifty laborers, earning an average $1.70 per day, struck for higher wages. They demanded wages for machinists at $2.50, helpers at $2.25 and laborers at $2.00. They returned to work with no gains. Strikes in nearby plants took place at the same time, attributed to "Socialist agitation" as reported in the New York Times.

    By 1897 the business was flourishing and employed 250 skilled mechanics. The firm eventually closed and the site was sold in 1937. Charles Brown, former president, died in 1940.

  • The State of New York corporate database only shows that A. & F. Brown Co. is still in existence (as a "Foreign Business Corporation") and it changed its name on 1903-12-18 to A. & F. Brown Co. Presumably the "foreign" part is because they moved to New Jersey. The contact address for the company is 79 Barclay Street, New York, which is now an office building but once was the location of their factory and head office