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Brown, Ralph Minthorne, 1878-1958


Biographical Note

Ralph Minthorne Brown, head librarian of Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University (Virginia Tech) from 1926 to 1947, was born at Fort Shaw, Montana, in 1878. He graduated from Cornell University in 1901 and served as a librarian in Chicago and Buffalo, New York before becoming chief of the U. S. Coast and Geodetic Survey's Division of Library and Archives in 1906. He remained in that position until serving as an ambulance driver in World War I. After the war, Brown worked as an editor for Rand McNally, then for Popular Mechanics, and finally as a librarian at North Dakota State College before arriving at Virginia Tech in 1926.

When not working, Brown indulged in his many personal interests, including poetry and genealogy; he was also an avid book collector, amateur historian and naturalist. During his time in Blacksburg, Brown actively collected and recorded the history of both Virginia Tech and the New River Valley, his chief accomplishment here perhaps being the compilation of V.P.I. Historical Index, 1872-1942. Other projects included legislative histories of both the school and Blacksburg as well as a bibliography of Matthew Fontaine Maury. Brown's interest in nature led him to keep and compile notes on local ornithological and weather observations. He frequently presented talks on these and other subjects to campus and community groups.

Brown retired from Virginia Tech in 1947 and died in Tulsa, Oklahoma on November 30, 1958, survived by one daughter.

Found in 6 Collections and/or Records:

Ralph Minthorne Brown Papers

Identifier: Ms-1970-002

This collection contains the papers of Ralph Minthorne Brown, Virginia Tech head librarian (1926-1947), amateur historian, and naturalist. It includes materials on Virginia Tech and local history, including typed transcripts of sources gathered for an intended history of Virginia Tech. Also included are Brown's Blacksburg ornithological and weather observations, a bibliography of Matthew Fontaine Maury, and other writings.

Dates: 1872 - 1947

Garland D. Kite Correspondence

Identifier: Ms-1987-038

This collection contains letters from Garland D. Kite to Ralph Brown. The letters detail Kite's experiences as a soldier in Europe during the last two years of World War II.

Dates: 1944 - 1945

J. Preston Newman Papers

Identifier: Ms-1982-016

The J. Preston Newman Papers includes four poems (1935-1938, n.d.), as well as papers relating to Ralph Minthorne Brown, university librarian at Virginia Tech.

Dates: 1910-1975, n.d.

Passenger Pigeon Correspondence

Identifier: Ms-2011-082

The collection consists of Virginia Tech librarian Ralph Brown's 1945 compilation of correspondence on passenger pigeons.

Dates: 1945

John P. Sawyer Letters

Identifier: Ms-1987-047

The collection consists of letters to Ralph M. Brown, librarian at Virginia Polytechnic Institute (VPI), from John P. Sawyer, who graduated from VPI in 1940.

Dates: 1943 - 1945

Records of the Virginia Tech University Libraries

 Record Group — Multiple Containers
Identifier: RG-23

This collection includes minutes, correspondence, meeting notes, and more from departments, committees, and individuals in the Virginia Tech University Libraries.

Dates: 1925 - 2006