Manuscripts Division
William L. Clements Library
University of Michigan

Finding aid for
Allen Family Papers, 1814-1893

Finding aid created by
Naomi Herman-Aplet and Meg Hixon, October 2011

Summary Information
Title: Allen family papers
Creator: Allen family
Inclusive dates: 1814-1893
Extent: 0.25 linear feet
Abstract:
The Allen family papers contain personal correspondence of the family of Northborough, Massachusetts, preacher John Allen. Allen and his sons, Joseph Henry Allen, Thomas Prentiss Allen, and William Francis Allen, often discussed antebellum politics and other matters, including slavery and abolition.
Language: The material is in English
Repository: William L. Clements Library, University of Michigan
909 S. University Ave.
The University of Michigan
Ann Arbor, MI 48109-1190
Phone: 734-764-2347
Web Site: www.clements.umich.edu


Access and Use
Acquisition Information:

1997-2003. M-3383.3; M-3397.4; M-4031.6; M-4257.3.

Access Restrictions:

The collection is open for research.

Copyright:

Copyright status is unknown

Processing Information:

Cataloging funded by the National Historical Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC). This collection has been processed according to minimal processing procedures and may be revised, expanded, or updated in the future.

Preferred Citation:

Allen family papers, William L. Clements Library, The University of Michigan


Arrangement

The collection is arranged in the following series:

  • Series I: Correspondence
  • Series II: Pamphlets
  • Series III: Photographs
  • Series IV: Miscellaneous

Each series is arranged chronologically.


Biography

Joseph Allen was born on August 15, 1790, and graduated from Harvard Divinity school in 1811. In 1816, the newly ordained Allen became pastor of the Congregational Church at Northborough, Massachusetts, a position he retained until his death on February 23, 1873.

His first son, Joseph Henry Allen (b. August 21, 1820), followed his father into the clergy after his 1840 graduation from Harvard. Joseph served congregations in Jamaica Plain, Massachusetts (1843-1847); Washington, D. C. (1847-1850); and Bangor, Maine (1850-1857). Notably, he oversaw the funeral of former president John Quincy Adams. Joseph then entered the publishing industry, and worked as an editor for the Christian Examiner (1857-1869) and the Unitarian Review (1887-1891). From 1878-1882, he returned to Harvard as a professor of history. Joseph Henry Allen died in 1898.

Joseph Allen's second son, Thomas Prentiss Allen, was born in 1822 and also attended Harvard Divinity School, graduating in 1846. He spent most of his career preaching and teaching in Sterling, Massachusetts, and became involved in various temperance and antislavery movements. Thomas Prentiss Allen died in 1868.

William Francis Allen, another of Joseph Allen's sons, was born on September 5, 1830, and became a professor and head of the Ancient Languages department at the University of Wisconsin. He died in 1889.


Collection Scope and Content Note

The Allen family papers contain personal correspondence of the family of John Allen, a preacher in Northborough, Massachusetts. He and his sons, Joseph Henry Allen, Thomas Prentiss Allen, and William Francis Allen, often discussed antebellum politics and other matters of intellectual concern, including slavery and abolition.

The Correspondence series (260 items) consists primarily of personal correspondence between family members. Thomas Prentiss Allen composed many of these letters, though his brothers and their sister Elizabeth also contributed. The well-educated Allens discussed a wide range of personal and political topics, and their letters provide a vivid picture of the politically charged antebellum era. They often shared opinions on local and national politics, emphasizing the conflicts over slavery that eventually erupted into secession and Civil War. Notably, Thomas Prentiss Allen expounded at length on Daniel Webster's famous speech urging support of the Compromise of 1850 and offered his own opinions on the political issues involved, including the Wilmot Proviso (March 24, 1850). Other letters of particular interest concern the Free Soil party and the Fugitive Slave Act (December 10, 1850 and January 9, 1851). Elizabeth Allen wrote a majority of the later items in the collection to Joseph Allen, her father, communicating a view of her life on the home front during the Civil War and occasionally mentioning the war and domestic politics.

The Pamphlets series (2 items) contains the following two items:

  • Fathers and Children, containing manuscript essays based on Biblical verses (September 1842)
  • A Discourse on Occasion of the Death of Hon. John Quincy Adams..., by Joseph Henry Allen (1848)

The Photographs series (2 items) contains two 19th-century portraits printed on thick cards.

The Miscellaneous series (5 items) contains a newspaper clipping regarding the death of William Francis Allen, as well as four manuscripts about various topics.

Subject Terms

    Subjects:
    • Unitarianism--History.
    • United States--History--Civil War, 1861-1865.
    • United States--Politics and government--1815-1861.
    Contributors:
    • Allen, Elizabeth.
    • Allen, Joseph, 1790-1873.
    • Allen, Joseph Henry, 1820-1898.
    • Allen, Thomas Prentiss, 1822-1868.
    • Allen, William Francis, 1830-1889.
    Genre Terms:
    • Letters (correspondence)
    • Card photographs (photographs)
    • Pamphlets.
    Contents List
       Container / Location    Title
     
    Correspondence [series]:
    Box   1 Folder   1-30
     1814-1893
     
    Pamphlets [series]:
    Box   1 Folder   31
     1848,  1862
     
    Photographs [series]:
    Box   1 Folder   32
     1800s
     
    Miscellanous [series]:
    Box   1 Folder   33
     Undated
    Additional Descriptive Data
    Related Materials

    The Clements Library holds many items written by Joseph Allen and his sons, including a large number of sermons. To access these titles, search Mirlyn, the University's online catalog.

    Bibliography

    "Allen, Joseph." Herringshaw's Encyclopedia of American Biography of the Nineteenth Century. Thomas William Herringshaw, ed. Chicago: American Publishers' Association, 1901.

    "Allen, Joseph Henry." Herringshaw's Encyclopedia of American Biography of the Nineteenth Century. Thomas William Herringshaw, ed. Chicago: American Publishers' Association, 1901.

    "Allen, William Francis." Herringshaw's Encyclopedia of American Biography of the Nineteenth Century. Thomas William Herringshaw, ed. Chicago: American Publishers' Association, 1901.