Alfred Reginald Allen (1876-1918) was a prominent Philadelphia neurologist and neurosurgeon. He was also heavily involved in Philadelphia theater scene, writing numerous comic operas, and was a founding member of the Savoy Company. In 1915 he enlisted in the Army Reserves, eventually achieving the rank of Lieutenant Commander. In this letter written from training camp to his father, Rev. George Pomeroy Allen, Allen explains a little bit about why he left a successful life as a doctor to risk his life in a war unlike any seen before.
In the summer of 1918 Allen’s reserve unit was called into action. He was killed in action on September 30 in the Battle of Argonne. Here is the official telegram sent to Allen’s wife, Helen Warren Allen, informing her of her husband’s death. Note that the telegram is sent over a month after Allen was killed. I can only imagine the anguish that the Allen family, and indeed families all across the country, must have felt while waiting for official word about their loved ones.
After Allen’s death many of his troops and colleagues sent letters of condolence to his family. Here is just one of those from an enlisted man under Allen’s command.
The Allen Family Papers is a rich collection with many stories to tell. This particular facet is especially significant as we celebrate Veteran’s Day.
HSP houses many other collections with World War I-related content. Here are a few highlights:
- Jones and Taylor families papers (# 2037)–The papers of William Johnson Taylor II, document his service as an officer in the US Army Medical Corps on the Western front in France. See finding aid for inventory: http://www.hsp.org/files/findingaid2037jonestaylor.pdf
- Perot family papers (# 1886)–Sarah Hallowell’s letters provide vivid details about life in France during and after World War I. See finding aid for inventory: http://www.hsp.org/files/findingaid1886perot.pdf
- Frederick C. Penfield papers (# 1752) document, in letters and photos, life in Austria-Hungary during World War I.
- Committee of Public Safety for the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania records (# 1551) offers extensive information about the war effort on the home front and attempts to provide assistance for people and businesses in Pennsylvania.
- South Philadelphia Liberty Loan Committee records (# 217) document local war fundraising activities through correspondence, ephemera, and other materials.
- Carlotta Herring Brown collection (# 83) contains journals and notes documenting World War I.
- Philadelphia War Photograph Committee collection (V 03) documents participation in the war on the home front.
These are just a few of the collections illuminating World War I’s impact at home and abroad.