John Ross Browne

From A Compendium of Irish Biography, 1878

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Browne, John Ross, traveller and author, was born in Ireland about the year 1822. Of his early years little is on record, beyond the fact that he was taken to America in childhood, and that he passed his youth in the State of Kentucky. When eighteen, he qualified himself as a shorthand reporter, and went to Washington with the view of earning money with which to travel. After a few months, not being successful, he shipped before the mast on a whaler bound for the Indian Ocean, and was absent eighteen months. On his return, he published his first work, Etchings of a Whaling Cruise.

In 1849 he went to California, and was employed in reporting the proceedings of the convention which drafted the State Constitution. He then made the tour of the south of Europe, and the East. Returning, he settled in California — travelling from time to time in various parts of Europe and America, and recording his experiences in sundry books of travels, and in numerous articles in Harper's Magazine, written in a graphic and humorous style, and illustrated with clever sketches from his own pencil. In 1866, and again in 1868, having been commissioned for the purpose by the Government, he drew up valuable reports on the mineral resources of the States and Territories west of the Rocky Mountains. In 1868 he was sent as United States' minister to China, where he remained two years. On his return, he built a residence near Oakland, California, and devoted himself to the care of a numerous family, and to the promotion of various industrial schemes for the development of the resources of the country.

He died rather suddenly, at Oakland, 7th December 1875, aged 53. He is described as singularly versatile and keen-witted, a delightful companion, genial in manners, possessing a graceful, fluent, and often brilliant style, good powers of observation, and a fund of quiet humour.

Sources

233. Manuscript and Special Information, and Current Periodicals.

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