Where you can you find the world’s largest rosary collection? At a small museum just northeast of Portland, housing nearly 4,000 rosaries.
Northeast of Portland near the border of Oregon and Washington, the Columbia Gorge Interpretive Center Museum is situated on the Columbia river. Tourists who visit would find themselves in shock and awe of the beautiful Don Brown Rosary Collection.
The collection is the work of Donald A. Brown, a Catholic-convert who was born on the 27th of April in 1895, in Tualatin, Oregon, later passing away in car accident on the 14th of December in 1975 at the age of 80.
In an interview shortly before his death, Brown explained his devotion to the rosary came during a stay at Mercy Hospital in North Bend, Oregon when he had pneumonia. The nuns there wore rosaries on their habits, beginning his path of conversion to the Faith.
“It was here that I saw the rosary being worn on the habits of the Sisters of Mercy. While my love for sacred art seems to have been born with me, the rosary has always held a special fascination for me. I consider my former years of illness a special blessing since the rosary was the beginning of the faith of my adoption.”
Brown started collecting rosaries in 1917, officially converting in 1929. He later became a brother of the Dominican Order, founded by the very saint that spread the rosary as a Marian devotion.
When news of his collection spread, Brown began receiving all sorts of rosaries from around the world, unsolicited, at his home. He donated the collection to the museum in 1973 and it continued to grow after his death in 1975, as was his wish, until the museum ran out of space in their exhibit and storage. Ripley’s Believe it or Not certified the collection the largest of its kind.
While a majority of the rosaries in the collection were from those who simply wanted to help Brown grow his collection, many have particular significance. The collection has rosaries from Father Flanagan of Boys Town, the first Catholic to run for president Al Smith, Robert Kennedy, Notre Dame football coach Lou Holtz, and even from a Fatima visionary: a 25-decade rosary handmade from bone beads carved by Saint Lucia dos Santos.
Brown believed the most important rosary in his collection, however, was the only one he asked for. He wrote to the campaign of headquarters of John F. Kennedy in 1960, and later received a small wooden rosary from his campaign manager who said the president had used it during World War II.