Brown and Ives

Portraits of Nicholas Brown Jr. and Thomas P. Ives
Portraits of Nicholas Brown Jr. and Thomas P. Ives

Brown and Ives was founded by Nicholas Brown, Jr. and Thomas Poynton Ives. Ives was born in Beverly, Massachusetts in 1769. Ives was sent to Boston to live with relatives after his father died. At the age of thirteen, he began an apprenticeship with Nicholas Brown, Sr. of Providence. That is how he met Brown’s son, Nicholas Brown, Jr.

When Nicholas Sr. died the two young men started their own mercantile firm. Brown and Ives’ ships traveled the globe. They became important players in the China Trade and owned a large fleet of vessels that traveled the world. Some of these ships returned with cargos of silks, spices and tea worth hundreds of thousands of dollars in the early 1800s. The Napoleonic Wars along with the US Embargo Act of 1807, and the War of 1812 made it dangerous for American ships to continue trading around the world.

Kelly Mill circa 1920
Kelly Mill circa 1920

Brown and Ives decided to invest in the new textile industry. Their first mill was the Blackstone Manufacturing Company, built in 1809 in what is now Blackstone, MA. While most mills built during this period had a few hundred spindles to make thread, the Blackstone Mill had 5,000 spindles. This gives us an idea of how much money Brown and Ives had to invest in the new industry.

The success of the Blackstone Mill encouraged Brown and Ives to get out of the merchant trade and move into textiles. In 1825, Brown and Ives formed The Lonsdale Water Power Company, later known as the Lonsdale Company. Under this name they would build a new textile empire along the Blackstone River.

Captain Wilbur Kelly, a former employee of Brown and Ives, sold his small mill and village in modern Lincoln, Rhode Island to them. They hired Kelly to work as their head agent. The company began construction on a new mill village they named Lonsdale in 1831. Thomas Ives and Nicholas Brown, Jr., died in 1835 and 1841 respectively. Ownership of the company passed to their descendants.

Picture of the Ann & Hope Mill
Picture of the Ann & Hope Mill

In 1867 the Lonsdale Company built a new mill village at Ashton. Brown and Ives also owned other villages, including Berkeley (1871). They were known for their production of high-quality textile products. They also expanded Lonsdale, building the “new village” across the Blackstone in Cumberland. This included building the Ann & Hope Mill in 1886. This mill was named after Nicholas Brown and Thomas Ives’ wives, Ann Brown and Hope Brown Ives. It had earlier been the name of Captain Kelly’s ship as well.


People, Places and Stories

  • Pictures and Portraits of influential people of the Blackstone River Valley

    Learn more about the people who helped influence the industrialization of the Blackstone River Valley

  • Pictures of significant and influential places situated in the Blackstone River Valley

    Learn more about the significant places situated in the Blackstone River Valley that spearheaded the American Industrial Revolution

  • Pictures and portraits that represent important stories that happened in the Blackstone River Valley

    Learn about the stories that influenced the industrialization of the Blackstone River Valley

Last updated: December 14, 2021

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