Letter from Nicholas Brown to his brothers, John, Joseph, and Moses, September 12, 1764, discussing various trading ventures, including the voyage of the Sally, which had sailed from Newport a day or two before. In the letter, Nicholas proposed planting a story in the local press about the depressed "state of the Rum Trade upon the Coast of Ginea" in hopes of discouraging other Rhode Island merchants from dispatching ships for Africa. If the ruse was tried, it did not work: more than two dozen Rhode Island ships cleared for West Africa in 1764.
The Brown family's enterprises included a chandlery, where spermaceti, oil harvested from the headmatter of whales, was manufactured into bright-burning, smokeless candles. Labor demands in the chandlery fluctuated with the season, and the Brown's often relied on slaves to supplement the workforce of free laborers. Moses Brown's decision to manumit his slaves in 1773 disrupted this arrangement. In this contract, dated August 4, 1776, the four Brown brother agreed not to employ slaves at the works, except during peak periods, when necessary to get the stock out. In such cases, the four brothers agreed, Moses could supply his quota of additional workers with free rather than enslaved laborers.