Frederick Lewis Allen
Biography of Frederick Lewis Allen
Frederick Lewis Allen (July 5, 1890 Boston, Massachusetts - February 13, 1954 New York City) was the editor of Harper's Magazine and also notable as an American historian of the first half of the twentieth century. His specialty was writing about what was at the time recent and popular history. He studied at Groton and graduated from Harvard University in 1912 and received his Master's in 1913. He taught at Harvard briefly thereafter before becoming assistant editor of the Atlantic Monthly in 1914, and then managing editor of The Century in 1916. He began working for Harper's in 1923, becoming editor-in-chief in 1941, a position he held until shortly before his death. His wife, Dorothy Penrose Allen, died just prior to the publication of Only Yesterday.
Allen's popularity coincided with increased interest in history among the book-buying public of the 1920s and 1930s. This interest was met, not by the university-employed historian, but by an amateur historian writing in his free time. Aside from Allen, these historians included Carl Sandburg, Bernard DeVoto, Douglas Southall Freeman, Henry F. Pringle, and Allan Nevins (before his Columbia appointment).
His best-known books were Only Yesterday (1931), a book chronicling American life in the 1920s, and Since Yesterday (1940), which covered the Depression of the 1930s. His last and most ambitious book, The Big Change, was a social history of the United States from 1900 to 1950. Allen also wrote two biographies, the first of which was about Paul Revere Reynolds, a literary agent of the era. This work is notable because it contains a chapter about Stephen Crane, but is difficult to find because it was privately published.
The Frederick Lewis Allen Memorial Room in the New York Public Library was established by the Ford Foundation in 1958. It is Room 228e on the second floor of the library, and is fully accessible to wheelchair users. However, admission is limited to writers currently under book contract to a publishing company.