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John A. Brown Company

As a Daily Oklahoman newspaper article once declared, “John A. Brown Co.—like Delia D. Brown herself—was the grande dame of central Oklahoma merchandising.” In fact, the fabled department store’s reach stretched across Oklahoma. Its roots extended before statehood to a chain of downtown Oklahoma City dry goods stores beginning at least as early as 1901.


Doug Loudenback’s blog article at www.dougdawg.blogspot.com provides a colorful and informative chronicle of Brown’s history. It features a 1904 Oklahoman article announcing “Brock’s Elegant New Store.” The story described the opening of Brown’s forerunner Sidney Brock’s Dry Goods store, which itself inhabited space previously operated by Mitscher-Mitchell Dry Goods Company:


“The infant’s wear department is one of the most complete as well as the sweetest in the store…The corset department is a special feature, and will be given great attention by the store management…notions, handkerchiefs and neckwear and such like trifles dear to women’s hearts are there in abundance.”


As shared by Loudenback, the article also described how a “full orchestra played all during the day” and detailed a garment display room which “has in connection a rest room, which will doubtless be a welcome convenience to ladies shopping. It gives the true metropolitan touch to the store.”


Kansas native A. O. Rorabaugh and his younger cousin John A. Brown bought the OKC entity in 1915. For seventeen years, they grew Rorabaugh-Brown Dry Goods until Brown and his wife Delia’s brother John Dunkin bought out Rorabaugh in 1932. Majority partner Brown changed the store name to his own.


Growth and Challenge


From the 1920s through the 1950s, Brown’s flagship downtown store expanded across the pulsating heart of downtown OKC from Robinson to Harvey and Main Street to Park Avenue. Delia personally selected innumerable items that the company offered for sale. Brown’s presence mushroomed outside of downtown OKC as well, into the suburbs and Tulsa.


All the while, challenges