Noted Illinois farmer and legislator who was instrumental in creating the State Board of Agriculture and the Illinois State Fair.
1806-1868 | Artist: Othmar J. Hoffler (1893-1954)
Impact & Accomplishments
A leader in Illinois agriculture, James N. Brown was born near Cynthiana, Kentucky, and educated at Transylvania University. When he was twenty-eight, he moved with his father and siblings to Sangamon County, Illinois, in protest of Kentucky’s continued support of the institution of slavery.
The family took Kentucky bluegrass seed and foundational livestock with them, including animals descended from the first livestock imported to Kentucky—a major boost to the new state of Illinois.
Carrying a title he earned while serving in the militia, Captain Brown was first elected to the Illinois State Legislature in 1840. He served there with Abraham Lincoln and was a close friend of the future president, later acting as a pallbearer at the President’s funeral. While a legislator, Brown introduced the bill to establish a State Board of Agriculture, and he initiated the Illinois State Fair, serving as the first president of both.
In 1857, Captain Brown helped organize the Illinois Importing Company to import cattle, Southdown and Cotswold sheep, Berkshire pigs, and horses. Three years later, he led a convention to promote the passage of the Morrill Bill. In 1911, Brown was honored by the Illinois Farmers’ Hall of Fame, and soon thereafter, inducted into the Saddle & Sirloin Club.
Did You Know?
Brown was very involved in the first Illinois State Fair held in 1853. In 2019, the Illinois State Fair was held from August 13–23 and set new revenue records along with 509,000 fairgoers in attendance. Photo credit: Illinois State Fair