Archives of Maryland
(Biographical Series)

Mary Ridgely Preston Brown (1857-1895)
MSA SC 3520-2282
First Lady of Maryland, 1892-1895

Mary Ridgely Brown was born February 23, 1857, to David and Mary R. Ridgely of Baltimore. 1 David Ridgely was a successful dry goods merchant, first joining his father at his store at 15 Baltimore Street, and then, in 1842, opening his own shop down the street. 2 At his death in 1896, after the resolution of his debts and funeral expenses, the estate of David Ridgely was appraised at $32,396.29. 3 Mary was educated at private schools in Baltimore, and finished her education abroad in Wiesbaden. 4 Since her father was such a successful businessman, as she grew up on Cathedral St., she moved in the finest circles of society in Baltimore. It was in the midst of this society that she met Horatio Wyman Preston, whom she married June 12, 1877. 5 Mr. Preston was a wealthy man in his own right. When he died on October 13, 1878, in Davos, Switzerland, Mary inherited an estate that, at her death in 1895, was appraised at $394,198.10. 6

After the passing of her first husband, Mary was able to marry a childhood friend of hers, Frank Brown. They were married December 22, 1879, and lived for most of their married life split between 900 and 902 N. Charles St. in Baltimore, and "Springfield" in Carroll County. 7 They had two children, Mary "May" Ridgely Brown and Frank Snowden Ridgely Brown, before Frank Brown was elected governor of the state. In Baltimore, Carroll County, and Annapolis, Mary Brown was known as an accomplished hostess. The executive mansion during Frank Brown's tenure as governor was reportedly a place "where parties and receptions went on without end". 8 The Browns enjoyed their proximity to the Naval Academy, and would decorate their carriage for the Navy football games. Mrs. Clarence Marbury White, whose father was the custodian of the executive mansion during the Brown administration, remembers that "one time when the Army-Navy game was to be played at the Academy, Mrs. Brown with her guests visited the dry goods store and bought every bolt of blue and gold ribbon". 9

In 1893, she began to fall ill, and the family moved to the Rennert Hotel in Baltimore. 10 Frank Brown was still in office, so his daughter May began assuming more responsibility for the duties of Official Hostess. Mary died in 1895, suffering from ailments of the liver and kidneys. 11 It is possible that the illness resulted from Bright's Disease, for which she may have inherited a disposition from her father.12 She was buried in Greenmount Cemetery, to be joined later by her husband, children, and granddaughter. 13

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