Memory Stream

Alfred Reginald Allen, neurologist and popularizer of Gilbert and Sullivan.
Alfred Reginald Allen, neurologist and popularizer of Gilbert and Sullivan.
Posted: May 12, 2013

Gilbert and Sullivan productions in this country owe much to the Allen family of Philadelphia. Alfred Reginald Allen (1876-1918), a noted neurologist and neurosurgeon, founded the Savoy Company in this city in 1901 to stage the works of W.S. Gilbert and Arthur Sullivan.

Allen earned his degree from the University of Pennsylvania Medical School in 1898, and published medical papers and articles mostly about his specialty - injuries of the spinal cord. He also was heavily involved in the theater and wrote numerous operettas, some of which were published.

After seeing Gilbert and Sullivan shows in England, he helped form and conduct the Savoy Company's productions. Allen, however, seems to have abandoned his work in the theater in the early part of the 20th century to focus on his medical career.

When the United States entered World War I, Allen's reserve unit was sent to France. He was killed in action in September 1918 during the Battle of the Argonne Forest.

His son, Alfred Reginald Allen Jr. (1905-88), continued the family military and theater legacy. He was a lieutenant commander in Air Combat Intelligence during World War II. As a civilian, he held positions at the Philadelphia Orchestra, Universal Pictures, and the Metropolitan Opera in New York City. After his retirement in 1969, Allen Jr. served as curator of the Gilbert and Sullivan Collection of the Morgan Library, maintained a collection of Gilbert and Sullivan memorabilia, and published two books about their operettas.


Content and images provided by the Historical Society of Pennsylvania. For more stories, visit www.hsp.org.

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