Looking over a collection of drawings and water colors of a World War II German POW camp are (L to R) Military Researcher Robert W. Kenny, Jr. '55, the artist, William M. Capece of Lincoln, RI, and Peter Harrington, Curator of the Anne S. K. Brown Military Collection. Capece, a flyer who was shot down over Munich, has donated his drawings to the Military Collection. See related story


The Anne S. K. Brown Military Collection, already the largest collection of its kind in the world, is well on its way to building the largest collection of World War II art outside the armed forces art collections.

Some of the most outstanding examples of this new collection are included in the current exhibition, American Artists in Uniform: the World War II Experience, at the newly restored Annmary Brown Memorial. The exhibition commemorates the 50th anniversary of the end of the war.

Peter Harrington, curator of the Military Collection, made contact with the first World War II artist in the summer of 1993. That resulted in a gift of 11 original drawings of the D-Day landings on Omaha Beach.

Since then, Harrington has contacted more than 60 artists and has amassed hundreds of drawings, watercolors, and oil paintings of World War II plus related materials such as photographs, letters, diaries, documents and clippings. One artist donated a photo of himself with Picasso, taken in Paris in 1945.

Some of the donated works of art were done by official wartime artists, others were done by artists who were in uniform and just sketching at their leisure.

Brown's World War II collection includes, for example, drawings and watercolors, by official Army artists, of D- Day invasion troops and watercolors of the flotilla heading toward and converging on the beaches of Normandy. There are dozens of sketches and watercolors of the battle of Iwo Jima by an official Marine Corps artist and drawings of a German POW camp, sketched by a flier who had been shot down over Munich.

The World War II art program provides a modern component to the unique collection of military images and books donated to the Library by Anne S. K. Brown in 1981.


The Anne S. K. Brown Military Collection was formed over a period of 40 years by the late Mrs. John Nicholas Brown (1906-1985). It contains approximately 12,000 printed books, 18,000 albums, sketchbooks, scrapbooks and portfolios containing thousands of prints and drawings. There are also more than 12,000 individual prints, drawings and watercolors as well as a collection of 5,000 miniature lead soldiers.

The Collection began with the toy soldiers, now on permanent display in the John Hay Library. Most of the toy soldiers were bought by Mrs. Brown during her honeymoon in Europe in the 1930's and are from England, France and Germany.

A trio of Scots bagpipers are among the 5,000 toy soldiers kept on permanent display in the John Hay Library's Anne S. K. Brown Military Collection

The miniature soldiers led to an interest in uniforms and Mrs. Brown began buying reference books. Eventually she de-emphasized the miniatures and concentrated on books and prints.

"The result is the largest collection of its kind in the world," Harrington said. "She wanted to be regarded as the authority on uniforms, and she was."

A weary U. S. Marine on Iwo Jima in 1945, by Marine Corps artist 1st Sgt. Harry Reeks



The Collection contains complete British Army lists from 1690 to 1939 and regimental histories for every British regiment. The shelves in the stacks are lined with titles such as: The Ninth Queen's Royal Lancers 1715-1936; The Duke of Cornwall's Light Infantry 1914-1919 and The 7th (Queen's Own) Hussars.

In the French section, there is an album of watercolors done by a French soldier on the retreat from Moscow in 1812. The Swiss section contains detailed watercolors of Swiss uniforms in 1764. In the Russian section are original watercolors of the Russian Revolution, one depicting the burning of a portrait of the Czar. There are children's games, one with a complex series of folding cardboard strips, in which the Emperor of Austria turns into the Emperor of Russia.

] There are also the Army and Navy Birthday Book for Children, a chessboard, patented September 2, 1862 with portraits of U. S. Union generals printed on the black squares and the memoirs of Robert E. Lee. De Militari, printed in Verona in 1472 is the oldest book in the collection.

A French family flashes the "V" for victory sign in a drawing by Robert Morton, an American soldier who sketched in his spare time


The Collection is overseen by a 22-member Committee of Management, headed by Presiding Trustee Captain Howard Browne M.D., USN (Retd.).

One of Mrs. Brown's three children, Captain Nicholas Brown, USN (Retd.) also serves on the committee.

The committee takes an active interest in the Collection. One of the members has recently issued a $10,000 challenge grant to the other members of the committee to raise funds for supporting the Collection and its activities. As of May 1, the challenge has almost been met -- in just six months.

Another member, Vice-Presiding Trustee Herbert C. Caldwell was instrumental in having an appraisal made of the toy soldiers. He is also involved in conservation of the soldiers, painstakingly removing white blotches of "lead rot" and giving them a protective coating to prevent further deterioration.


The Anne S. K. Brown Military Collection Exhibition, Americlan Artists in Uniform: The World War II Experience, will be at the Annmary Brown Memorial, 21 Brown Street, from May 1 to June 30, 1995.

[Back to the Library Home Page][Library Publications][Among Friends Home Page]