The Dana Brown Collection contains original film and audio material, scripts, and correspondence, including Dana Brown’s letters to editors of various publications. Researchers will find a rich source of material in this collection about the cultural history of the mid-to-late-20th century as well as an environmental record of natural areas throughout Africa and Vietnam.
Dana Brown was born in West Virginia in 1905. The eleventh of twelve children, Brown left home as a teenager and traveled across America finding work in a variety of manual labor jobs, including on the railroad and as a ranch hand, before settling as a Fuller Brush salesman. By 1946 Brown was living in St. Louis and working for the General Grocer Co. In 1950, Manhattan Coffee was established as a division of General Grocer, and Dana Brown became linked with the product that would help earn his fortune.
Brown’s need to travel did not diminish with time and he went on a series of journeys and safaris, trips he documented with film and audio recordings. From 1954 to 1990, Brown went on over 35 trips to destinations such as the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Nepal, Sumatra, India, Angola, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Zambia, Vietnam, and many other places.
As time went on, Brown incorporated footage from his journeys into commercials and nature films that gave viewers a glimpse of amazing landscapes and animals and included a mention of Safari coffee. Brown eventually left Manhattan Coffee, which had been bought by Nestle, to start his own coffee company where he continued to sell Safari coffee.
Brown’s entrepreneurial success enabled his philanthropy and he gave a $10,000 gift to Children’s Hospital in St. Louis in 1985. The Dana Brown Charitable Trust, established October 21, 1994, at Brown’s passing, continues to pursue charitable works.