BROWN-FORWARD, INC., a funeral service company, was established in 1825 and is one of the oldest, continually-operating funeral homes in Ohio. The company was originally founded by Daniel W. Duty, who sold furniture and cabinets in addition to his undertaker services. Duty operated from a small office on the corner of St. Clair Avenue and Water (W. 9th) Street.
In 1846, Duty moved his shop to a location on St. Clair almost directly across from his old building. In 1851, he added metallic coffins to his offerings. Duty’s undertaking services were so successful that he suspended his manufacture of furniture and cabinets and relocated to No. 88 Water Street in 1853. One year later, Duty acquired new ware rooms at No. 58 Erie (E. 9th) Street and removed his business to that location. In 1858, Duty introduced a new style of burial case of his own making, which included a single-plate glass lid for easy viewing.
Jacob H. Brown joined Daniel Duty’s undertaking business in 1878. Brown had formerly been involved with the firm Van Ness & Brown, which had acquired James Howland’s successful undertaking business in 1873. Howland was well connected at city hall and was often asked to perform his services on murder victims, unidentified bodies, and executed criminals. These connections continued through Brown and facilitated the success of the new firm Duty & Brown.
Daniel Duty died in 1887 and the company passed to Brown. In 1890, Brown escorted JAMES GARFIELD's remains to LAKE VIEW CEMETERY. At the turn of the century, Brown’s son joined the firm, now located at 201 Prospect Avenue, and it became known as J.H. Brown & Son.
In 1951, the business was acquired by G. Budd and Maxine Forward and operated under the name J.H. Brown-Son & Forward. Between 1952 and 1970, the company absorbed other Cleveland undertakers, including DeVand & Co., Bennet-Sharer, and Young-Koebler. In 2007, the company changed its name to Brown-Forward, Inc. In 2015, Brown-Forward was located at 17022 Chagrin Boulevard in SHAKER HEIGHTS, Ohio, and remained a family business. Robert L. Forward served as president.
Jennifer Graham, Western Reserve Historical Society
Cleveland Plain Dealer