Dana Brown Collection

Dana Brown with coffee trays

Dana Brown with coffee trays

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 finding work as a Fuller Brush salesman. By 1946 he 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.

His need to travel didn’t diminish with time, and he went on a series of journeys and safaris during this time. He began documenting these trips with film and audio recordings. From 1954 to 1990, he went on over 35 trips and his destinations included the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Nepal, Sumatra, India, Angola, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Zambia, Vietnam, and many other places. As time went on, he incorporated this footage into commercials and nature films that gave viewers a glimpse of amazing landscape 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 and 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, and the trust he established continues to pursue charitable works.

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 twentieth century as well as an environmental record of natural areas throughout Africa and Vietnam.