Traded in partnership with his uncle Obadiah Brown and, after 1762, with his brothers Joseph, John, and Moses, under the name Nicholas Brown & Company. The firm was a leader in the West Indian trade and encouraged Rhode Island’s spermaceti candle industry to move from household to factory production. Also interested in iron-working, distilling, and privateering. Instrumental in bringing Rhode Island College (later Brown University) to Providence (1767). Imported clothing and munitions and cast cannon for Continental army. Federalist.
Son of James and Hope (Power) Brown. Married (1) Rhoda Jenckes (1762); ten children, most of whom died in childhood. Married (2) Avis Binney (1785).