Main content

William C. Allen diaries


Held at: Haverford College Quaker & Special Collections [Contact Us]370 Lancaster Ave, Haverford, PA 19041

This is a finding aid. It is a description of archival material held at the Haverford College Quaker & Special Collections. Unless otherwise noted, the materials described below are physically available in their reading room, and not digitally available through the web.

Overview and metadata sections

William Charles Allen (1857-1938) was born in Westtown, Pennsylania, on March 9, 1857, the son of Richard Allen and Mary Dutten. Allen was often ill as a child, and received little schooling after age 14. He married Elizabeth C Bromley in Burlington, New Jersey, on September 10, 1883, and the couple had one daughter. Due to Allen's health, the family moved from New Jersey to Colorado, and later to California.

Allen was a recorded minister of the Philadelphia Yearly Meeting and made multiple religious visits to Japan, China, Australia, and South Africa, as well as England and Ireland. Allen also founded the Peace Committee of Churches of the Pacific Coast. Allen was a conscientious objector, and wrote a number of books related to this topic, including "Real war: as seen in South Africa, 1899-1900 (1910), "War! Behind the Smoke Screen" (1929), and "A Quaker diary in the Orient," among other publications.

Allen died on March 14, 1938, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, at the age of 81.

This collection is composed of six volumes of William C. Allen's religious visits around the world from 1904 to 1937. Three volumes of the collection are handwritten, and the remaining three have been typed by Allen. While the diaries in this collection cover a wide range of topics, entries generally describe the customs, manners, language, transportation, food, and religious beliefs in each location Allen visited. In addition, Allen describes Quaker meetings he lead and religious and political leaders he met with in each place he visited.

Only one volume of the collection does not record a religious visit- volume 4 of the collection is a record of Allen's thoughts on World War I, which he kept during 1917 while living in San Jose, California.

The William C. Allen diaries were donated to Special Collections, Haverford College in 1939 by Elizabeth C.B. Allen.

Processed by Kara Flynn; completed August, 2015.

Haverford College Quaker & Special Collections
Finding Aid Author
Kara Flynn
Finding Aid Date
August, 2015
Access Restrictions

The collection is open for research use.

Use Restrictions

Standard Federal Copyright Laws Apply (U.S. Title 17).

Collection Inventory

Vol 1, 1904-1908.
Volume 1
Scope and Content note

This volume includes entries from three trips that Allen made with his wife from 1904-1908.

The first trip described in this volume is a trip Allen and his wife took to Puerto Rico and Barbados from late 1904- early 1905. Entries describe travel to Puerto Rico by rail and boat, Quaker meetings held at various military hospitals and visits and Meetings held at schools throughout Puerto Rico. While in Puerto Rico, Allen and his wife spent the majority of their time in San Juan, San German, and Rio Piedras. In February of 1905, the couple traveled from San Juan, Puerto Rico to Barbados. Entries from Allen's time in Barbados describe Quaker meetings Allen lead, secular meetings with other religious and political leaders, and discussions of the "revival methods" popular in Barbados, as well as the competition presented by more established Christian denominations.

The second trip described in this volume is a religious visit to Ireland, Denmark, and Norway in 1907. Allen describes travel from Boston to Ireland, visits with Irish Friends, Quaker Meetings in Dublin, and visits and Meetings held at various schools. While in Ireland, Allen visited Cork, Waterford, Dublin, Limerick, and Belfast, from which city he sailed to Hamburg. From Hamburg, he traveled to Copenhagen, Denmark. In Denmark, Allen's entries describe visits with Friends, Meetings attended, and travel throughout Denmark. From Copenhagen, Allen travels on to Norway, in August of 1907.

The third and final trip described in this volume is a trip to Germany and France taken by Allen and his wife in 1908. Allen describes travel to Hamburg, descriptions of other travelers and interactions with travelers from various other countries, travel to France, and Meetings he attended there.

Vol 2, 1914-1915.
Volume 2
Scope and Contents note

The collection includes both the handwritten diary, and a typed transcript of this volume. This volume describes Allen's travel throughout Japan, China, the Philippines, Australia, and New Zealand from 1914-1915.

The typed transcript of the diary includes a foreword by Allen himself, explaining why he and his wife decided to embark on their trip despite the outbreak of WWI. Allen writes that he felt his calling was to help to neutralize tensions between America and Japan, which is reflected in the many meetings he has with various political leaders during his time there. The volume begins with Allen's arrival to the Friend's Mission in Tokyo, Japan in September, 1914. Entries describe meetings with political leaders and officials, and religious leaders in Tokyo, and includes reports he made to Friends back home concerning his efforts on behalf of the Peace Committee. Allen then travels to Seoul, Korea, and Shanghai, China, and performs similar peace-keeping work by meeting with religious and political leaders and officials at each destination, giving "peace addresses," and speaking with soldiers.

Allen travels on to Manila, in the Philippines, and Brisbane Australia, where his travels revert to a more typical description of a religious visit. In Manila and in Brisbane, Allen's entries describe Quaker meetings held, visits to schools, and visits with Friends at each destination.

Vol 2 transcript, 1914-1915.
Volume 3
Vol 3, 1916-1920.
Volume 4
Scope and Content note

This volume describes Allen's visit to England and Ireland in 1916, and a trip to Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa, from 1919-1920.

Entries from Allen's trip to England and Ireland describe his voyage from New York to England, his attendance at the London Yearly Meeting, attendance at various Quaker meetings, and visits with Friends in each country.

Entries from Allen's second trip in this volume describe his arrival in Sydney, Meetings he lead there, and his voyage to New Zealand. In New Zealand, Allen records meetings he lead, visits with Friends, and he discusses the lack of preachers in New Zealand. Allen then travels to Cape Town, South Africa, where he again leads Quaker meetings and visits with Friends who have settled their after retiring from missionary work. While in South Africa, Allen's entries describe the racial violence he observes, as well as a visit to a leper colony on an island off the coast of Cape Town.

Vol 4, 1917.
Box 1
Scope and Content note

This volume is a typed transcript of Allen's original diary, which he typed himself in 1933. This volume is unique in that it is the only volume in the collection that does not record a religious visit, and because it is the only volume that Allen writes in the form of letters to himself.

This volume was written while Allen was living in San Jose California, and includes fourteen "letters" or entries, which span from April to December of 1917. Each entry focuses on the early days of America's involvement in WWI, particularly the propaganda that Allen observes, as well as the rising displays of patriotism and nationalism. Many entries focus on the representation of the war in the newspapers and other forms of propaganda. Allen also discusses his disagreement with war in general, and his frustration with the encouragement of support for WWI in American government and popular culture.

Vol 5, 1922-1923.
Box 1
Scope and Content note

This volume is entitled; "Record of the last two trips made around the world by William C. and Elizabeth C.B. Allen." Entries in this volume describe Allen and his wife's travel to Japan (Tokyo, Kobe, Nagasaki), China (Hong Kong, Canton), Singapore, Indonesia (Java, Batavia, Buitenzorg, Garvet, Djokia, Solo, Seerbaja, Modjowarno), Australia (Brisbane, Toowamba, Bundaberg, Rockhampton, Melbourne, Adelaide, Sydney), Tasmania, South Africa (Wellington, Johannesburg, Pietermaritzburg, Durban, Lovedale), and London.

In each location, entries generally include Allen's reflections on customs, manners, transportation, food, accommodations, religious beliefs, and the languages and dialects spoken. In addition to these reflections, Allen also describes Quaker meetings he lead and meetings he had with other religious leaders.

Vol 6, 1936-1937.
Box 1
Scope and Content note

This volume is entitled; "Record of the Second and Third Trips Around the World Made by William C. and Elizabeth C.B. Allen. In this volume, Allen and his wife travel to London, South Africa, and the Canary Islands, though the majority of entries are made while in South Africa. Similarly to his other diaries, Allen recount Quaker meetings he lead, visits made to schools and Meetings held there, and visits with Friends in South Africa.

Print, Suggest