Thomas Brown Funeral Home ledger and photograph Thomas Brown Funeral Home ledger and photograph MSS.16474

Thomas Brown Funeral Home ledger and photograph MSS.16474


Albert and Shirley Small Special Collections Library

Albert and Shirley Small Special Collections Library
P.O. Box 400110
University of Virginia
Charlottesville, Virginia 22904-4110

Initial record created by Rose Oliveira. Resource completed by Sharon Defibaugh.

Albert and Shirley Small Special Collections Library
Thomas H. Brown Funeral Home ledger and photograph 1935-1941
.25 Cubic Feet, 1 half legal document box.
English .

Administrative Information

Conditions Governing Use

This collection has no use restrictions.

Conditions Governing Access

This collection open for research.

Preferred Citation

Thomas H. Brown Funeral Home ledger and photograph, MSS 16474, Albert and Shirley Small Special Collections Library, University of Virginia, Charlottesville, Virginia.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

The Thomas H. Brown Funeral Home ledger and photograph were purchased from the William Reese Company by the Special Collections Library on December 11, 2020.

Biographical / Historical

Thomas Henry Brown (1864-1952) was a longtime funeral director and civic leader among the African Americans of Petersburg and Hopewell Virginia . Petersburg was a city with a well-established free black community dating back to the late 18th century. Brown lived and worked during Jim Crow segregation which extended to the funeral industry.

In 1893, he organized the People's Memorial Cemetery Association to save Petersburg's African American cemetery from deteriorating conditions and a possible foreclosure. Brown opened a funeral home in Hopewell about 1916 and remained involved with the locality during its World War I boom years. He was a civic leader in Petersburg and across the state for the rest of his life, continuing his involvement with the cemetery. Brown died of pneumonia in McGuire Veterans Hospital in Richmond on February 8, 1952, and was buried at People's Memorial Cemetery in Petersburg.

Content Description

This collection contains the manuscript ledger book, "Record of Deaths" kept by Thomas H. Brown's Funeral Home, 301 Gill Street, Petersburg, Virginia. This book detailed the funerals of approximately 500 African Americans during the last years of the Great Depression. The volume opens with a twenty-four page alphabetical index, listing the names of the deceased persons with the number of the page for further information about their funerals. Entries for each funeral appear in chronological order.

In addition to the names of the deceased, most entries also record the dates, persons paying for the funerals and their addresses, services commissioned, the vehicles needed, and the fees for all aspects of the funeral services. Some entries are more detailed, adding the birth and death dates and places of residence of the deceased, names of parents, final resting places, and other details. The volume is rich in genealogical information for the Petersburg, Virginia, area.

Also included is one black and white photograph, undated, 5 x 7 inches, depicting pallbearers bringing a casket out of Brown's Funeral Home. The casket is covered with an American flag, accompanied by an officer, and the pallbearers appear to be soldiers, so the deceased is probably either a serviceman or a veteran.

Subjects and Indexing Terms

  • African American business enterprises
  • African American families
  • African Americans -- Photographs
  • African Americans -- Virginia
  • African Americans--History--1877-1964
  • Funeral homes
  • Genealogy
  • Petersburg (Va.)

Significant Places Associated With the Collection

  • Funeral homes
  • Hopewell
  • Petersburg
  • Petersburg (Va.)
  • Virginia