Otto Brown was born around 1882 in Long Sutton, Somerset, the second son of Sarah and Charles Brown, a beer seller and grocer.
Charles Brown, Otto’s father, was born in Long Sutton in 1839, and when the 1881 census was taken, he was an unmarried man of forty-one, earning a living by selling beer from a licensed, “outdoor” beer house. ( Brown’s business was described as an “Outdoor Licensed Beer House” because the beer had to be “consumed off the premises”). He, also, sold groceries from his shop and in the commercial listings in local trade directories, he is entered as a “grocer & beer retailer”.
Shortly after the 1881 census was taken, Charles Brown married Sarah, a local woman in her early twenties and their first child, Charles Brown junior, was born around 1881.
Otto Brown was born in the village of Long Sutton, the following year, as was their third child, Herbert born 1884. Two more boys were born in Long Sutton before the Brown family moved to Pokesdown in Hampshire – Alwyne Duncan Brown (born 1889, Long Sutton) and George Leonard Brown (born 1893, Long Sutton). By 1897, Charles Brown and his family had left Long Sutton.
The 1901 census records Charles Brown and his family at 25 Wickham Road, Pokesdown, near Christchurch in Hampshire. Sixty-one year old Charles Brown was now employed as a “Gardener (Domestic)”. Otto Brown is described on the census return as an “Artist & Photographer”, aged 18. The census enumerator notes that Otto Brown was a self-employed photographer (“own account”) and was working from the home address in Wickham Road.
By the Spring of 1905, Otto Brown was in Sussex. (Otto’s marriage was registered in the Steyning district of Sussex during the 2nd Quarter of 1905). Around 1905, Otto Brown entered into a business partnership with Leon Balk (born 1878, Taurage, Lithuania), a photographer who had been operating a photographic studio in Eastbourne, Sussex, since 1903. The firm of Balk & Brown operated at studio at 116 Langney Road, Eastbourne and another at 69 Devonshire Road, Bexhill-on-Sea. It appears that Otto Brown was based at the Bexhill studio in Devonshire Road, while Leon Balk remained in Eastbourne.
Around 1906, Otto Brown left Bexhill and established his own studio at 2, Chapel Road, Worthing. Leon Balk took over the Bexhill studio previously run by Brown when the partnership was dissolved in 1906 and he remained in business at 69a Devonshire Road until 1915. (See Leon Balk)