Peter Bent Brigham

Peter Bent Brigham (1807–1877) was a self-made American millionaire businessman, restaurateur, real estate trader, and director of the Fitchburg Railroad. He is best known as a philanthropist for his initial endowment of Peter Bent Brigham Hospital and the Brigham Academy in Bakersfield, Vermont.

Peter Bent Brigham
Peter Bent Brigham ca1875
Born(1807-02-04)February 4, 1807
DiedMay 24, 1877(1877-05-24) (aged 69)
Boston, Massachusetts, United States
ResidenceBoston, Massachusetts
Known forinitial endowment of Peter Bent Brigham Hospital
Spouse(s)never married
Parent(s)Uriah Brigham (1757-1820)
Elizabeth (Fay) Brigham (1767-1837)

Early life and family

Peter Bent Brigham was born 4 February 1807 in Bakersfield, Vermont as the seventh of nine children born to Uriah Brigham (1757-1820) and Elizabeth (Fay) Brigham (1767-1837). Brigham was a direct descendant of Thomas Brigham (1603-1653), an early immigrant to Cambridge, Massachusetts,[1] as well as John Bent (1596-1672) a founder of Sudbury, Massachusetts.[2] Brigham had little formal schooling and went to find work in Boston his early teens, when his father died. He began his career working on Middlesex Canal boats, selling fish and oysters in Boston.[1] He never married.

Career in Boston

Brigham owned a restaurant on the corner of Hanover and Court Streets in Boston, Massachusetts, which he operated until it was sold in 1869 due to a street widening project. He was an astute and financially successful real estate investor. He chose not to run for any public office in Boston. Brigham was one of the founding directors of the Fitchburg Railroad and continued his work with the railroad until his death.[1]

Peter Bent Brigham died at his home at the northeast corner of Bulfinch and Allston Streets on Beacon Hill in Boston on 24 May 1877. He is buried at Mount Auburn Cemetery in Cambridge, Massachusetts.[1]

Legacy and endowments

Brigham never married, and had no children. He regretted his lack of education, which motivated his bequests to improve the educational opportunities in his hometown of Bakersfield, resulting in the founding of Brigham Academy. The terms of his will also specified that $1,300,000 was to be spent 25 years after his death, for a hospital "for the care of sick persons in indigent circumstances".[3] The money appreciated to $2,000,000 by 1902. It was used to establish the Peter Bent Brigham Hospital,[4] a world-known medical research hospital affiliated with Harvard Medical School, and opened in 1913.[3]

Brigham's nephew, Robert Breck Brigham (1826-1900), was also a restaurateur and successful businessman. He followed his uncle's example by endowing the Robert Breck Brigham Hospital to serve patients with arthritis and other debilitating joint diseases.[1] It opened a year later, in 1914.[3] The two Brigham hospitals became formally affiliated with Boston's Women's Hospital and today are known as the Brigham and Women's Hospital.[3]


  1. Brigham, W.I.T., E.E. Brigham, and W.E. Brigham (1907). The history of the Brigham family; a record of several thousand descendants of Thomas Brigham the emigrant, 1603-1653. The Grafton Press, New York. 810pp. pdf
  2. Powell, Sumner Chilton. (1963). Puritan Village. The Formation of a New England Town. Middletown CT: Wesleyan University Press. 215pp. ISBN 0-8195-6014-6
  3. "Archives of Brigham and Women's Hospital". Boston Medical Library and Harvard Medical School. Retrieved 22 July 2011.
  4. Howard, H. B. (13 June 1912). "The Peter Bent Brigham Hospital". The Boston Medical and Surgical Journal. New England Journal of Medicine. 166 (24): 876–878. doi:10.1056/NEJM191206131662402. PMC 5230909.
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