Robert Brown was a radical writer who gathered materials for a history of cooperative movements. In 1934, he circulated questionnaires to over 300 organizations in 20 different countries. His book, Can We Cooperate? (1940), is partly autobiographical.
The collection contains files including a questionnaire, correspondence, printed materials, and clippings relating to over 142 cooperative organizations. The questionnaires reveal the principles, objectives, land and financial holdings, membership, and practices of the different organizations. In addition, there are approximately 200 questionnaires from other organizations which contain only minimal information such as name and location.
Beyond the general information provided in the questionnaires, the collection includes further information on Commonwealth College, in Mena, Ark., and the Newllano Colony, Vernon County, La. The extra information on Commonwealth College includes several issues of the Commonwealth College Fortnightly, 1928-38, and three copies of The Commoner (June, Nov.-Dec., 1939, and Apr. 1940). The additional material on Newllano includes clippings from the Llano Colonist and manuscripts written by George Pickett, general manager of the colony.
The collection also contains Brown's general correspondence, 1918-42, along with newspaper clippings, photographs, bibliographies, and notes, mostly relating to his book. There are also several manuscript drafts of Can We Cooperate? and a copy of Ernest S. Wooster's Communities of the Past and Present (Newllano, La: Llano Colonist, 1924) included in the collection.
Robert Brown sold the collection to the Library in 1951.