Allen family papers
The Allen family of Philadelphia had its roots in Bristol, United Kingdom. Samuel Allen (sometimes spelled Allan or Allin) came to America in 1681 and settled in what is now known as Chester, Pennsylvania. The Allen family papers consist of correspondence, photographs, albums, newspaper clippings, v...
|Collection:||Allen Family Papers|
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23.2 Linear feet 57 boxes, 13 volumes, 2 flat files
The collection is open for research.
The Allen family of Philadelphia had its roots in Bristol, United Kingdom. Samuel Allen (sometimes spelled Allan or Allin) came to America in 1681 and settled in what is now known as Chester, Pennsylvania. The Allen family papers consist of correspondence, photographs, albums, newspaper clippings, volumes, manuscripts, ephemera, and artifacts collected first by Dr. Alfred Reginald Allen (1876-1918) and then by his son Alfred Reginald Allen Jr. (1905-1988).
Dr. Alfred Reginald Allen was a noted neurologist and neurosurgeon who earned his degree from the University of Pennsylvania Medical School in 1898. Dr. Allen published a few medical papers and articles mostly about his specialty, injuries of the spinal cord. Dr Allen was also heavily involved in the theater and penned numerous operettas, some of which were published. He was a founding member of the Savoy Opera Company of Philadelphia, which produced the works of Gilbert & Sullivan and still exists to this day. However, Dr. Allen seems to have abandoned his work in the theater in the early part of the twentieth century to focus on his medical career, probably under pressure from his father, Rev. George Pomeroy Allen (1845-1919). In 1904 he married Helen Burgess Warren (1879-1949), daughter of noted architect Ebenezer Burgess Warren (1833-1917). They had two children, twins Alfred Reginald Jr. and Helen Warren Allen II (1905-1954). In 1915 Dr. Allen joined a reserve unit of the United States Army, eventually achieving the rank of major. When the United States joined World War I in 1917 Dr. Allen’s unit was sent to France. He was killed in action in September 1918 during the Battle of Argonne.
Alfred Reginald Allen Jr., called Reggie, seems to have pursued the career in arts that his father could not. After graduating from Harvard in the late 1920s Reggie was elected to the board of the Philadelphia Orchestra and became its general manager in 1935. In 1939 he moved to Hollywood, California to work in Universal Pictures’ scenario department. When the United States joined World War II in 1941 Reggie served as a lieutenant commander in Air Combat Intelligence. After the war he returned to Hollywood to work for a British film company called the J. Arthur Rank Organisation. He married Helen Huntington Howe (1916-1975) in 1946. (Helen Howe Allen achieved a certain degree of fame as a novelist and essayist, including having some works that reached the New York Times’ best-seller list. Her papers are currently located in the archives at Radcliffe College.) From the early 1950s to his retirement in 1969 Reggie worked for the Metropolitan Opera in New York City. Reggie seems to have shared his father’s love of the works of Gilbert & Sullivan in particular. After retiring from the Met he served as curator of the Gilbert & Sullivan Collection of the Pierpont Morgan Library, maintained a collection of Gilbert & Sullivan memorabilia, and published two books about their operettas.
This collection of Allen family papers is rich in personal correspondence, particularly between Dr. Allen and his father in the late nineteenth century, between Dr. Allen and his wife while he was at the Army’s Plattsburg training camp and overseas, and between Reggie and his mother from the 1920s until her death in 1949. There are also numerous photographs and albums in the collection which are mostly family portraits, pictures of their summer holidays on Lake George, New York, and the family’s many travels abroad.
There is also a significant amount of genealogical material in the form of historical biographies, family trees and letters. Dr. Allen began doing genealogical research and Reggie it. While Dr. Allen concentrated on the history of the Allens and the Pomeroys, Reggie expanded the research to include the Howes, the DeWolfs, the Huntingtons, and other related lineages. This genealogical research is particularly interesting as all lines of the family were people who settled in America in the 1600s. The Pomeroys in particular were some of the original founders of the town of Dorset, Massachusetts.