At the age of 16 he went to Boston to earn money to complete his schooling, but, on a suggestion of his former schoolmaster, entered the restaurant business, in the employ of his uncle, the noted Peter Bent Brigham,
He then opened a restaurant of his own which was quite successful but ill health compelled him to sell out and go to Florida. Returning in I860, he established Brigham's restaurant and built "Brigham's Hotel" in the rear.
At the time of his death he owned property valued at $3,000,000, all within a mile of his hotel. In business life he was shrewd, honorable and reserved. He was naturally of a lively, cheerful disposition and he was charitable in many quiet ways.
Upon his death his will provided for small bequests to individuals and charitable institutions. The will also provided that the balance should used to form the "Robert B. Brigham Hospital for Incurables" It is provided in the will that on the completion of the Hospital a tablet of stone or bronze bearing the inscription "Erected by Robert B. and Elizabeth F. Brigham" shall be set in an appropriate place in the building or in one of the buildings if there be more than one.
Roberts Uncle formed the Peter Bent Brigham Hospital "for the care of sick persons in indigent circumstances". The two Brigham hospitals became formally affiliated with Boston's "Women's Hospital" and today are known as the "Brigham Woman's Hospital".