John Romeyn Brodhead (1814-1873), American historical scholar, was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, on the 2nd of January 1814, the son of Jacob Brodhead (1782-1855), a prominent clergyman of the Dutch Reformed Church. He graduated at Rutgers College in 1831, and in 1835 was admitted to the bar in New York City. After 1837, however, he devoted himself principally to the study of American colonial history, and in order to have access to the records of the early Dutch settlements in America he obtained in 1839 an appointment as attaché of the American legation at the Hague. His investigations here soon proved that the Dutch archives were rich in material on the early history of New York, and led the state legislature to appropriate funds for the systematic gathering from various European archives of transcripts of documents relating to New York. Brodhead was appointed (1841) by Governor William H. Seward to undertake the work, and within several years gathered from England, France and Holland some eighty manuscript volumes of transcriptions, largely of documents which had not hitherto been used by historians.
These transcriptions were subsequently edited by Edward O'Callaghan (vols. i.-xi. incl.) and by Berthold Fernow (vols. xii.-xv., incl.), and published by the state under the title Documents relating to the Colonial History of New York (15 vols., 1853-1883). From 1846 to 1849, while George Bancroft was minister to Great Britain, Brodhead held under him the post of secretary of legation. In 1853-1857 he was naval officer of the port of New York. He published several addresses and a scholarly History of the State of New York (2 vols., 1853-1871), generally considered the best for the brief period covered (1609-1690). He died in New York City on the 6th of May 1873.