Question of the Week
What Philadelphia neurologist founded The Savoy Company?
Answer: Dr. Alfred Reginald Allen
Gilbert and Sullivan productions in this country owe much to the Allen family of Philadelphia. Dr. Alfred Reginald Allen (1876-1918), a noted neurologist and neurosurgeon, founded The Savoy Company in this city in 1901 to stage the works of Gilbert & Sullivan. Dr. 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 penned numerous operettas, some of which were published. After seeing Gilbert & Sullivan shows in England, he helped form and conduct The Savory Company’s productions. Dr. Allen, however, seems to have abandoned his work in the theater in the early part of the twentieth century to focus on his medical career.
His son, Alfred Reginald Allen Jr., (1905-1988), continued the theater legacy though. 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 & Sullivan Collection of the Pierpont Morgan Library, maintained a collection of Gilbert & Sullivan memorabilia and published two books about their operettas.
Father and son both served their county in the military. When the United States joined World War I in 1917, Dr. Allen’s reserve unit was sent to France. He was killed in action in September 1918 during the Battle of Argonne. His son was a lieutenant commander in Air Combat Intelligence during World War II.
HSP's collection of Allen family papers (#3126) is rich in personal correspondence, particularly that of Dr, Allen and his son, Reggie. There are also numerous photographs and albums, genealogical materials, as well as some of Dr. Allen's musical compositions and notes.
About the Author
Look for these history stories every Sunday in the Philadelphia Inquirer. The stories, called Memory Stream, are published in the Currents section of the newspaper.