Collection MC286 - Harper and Allen families

Title proper

Harper and Allen families

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  • Textual record
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  • Source of title proper: Title based on the contents of the collection.

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  • 1889-1965, predominant 1889-1915 (Creation)
    Harper, Allen (family)

Physical description

10 cm of textual records and photographs : b&w

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Name of creator

(Branch begins in the late-19th century)

Biographical history

Sarah Estelle Harper, the daughter of Jessie Theal and Duncan Small Harper, was born about 1875 in Shediac, Westmorland County, New Brunswick. Duncan S. Harper owned a shoemaking factory, with his partner Charles Webster, in the 1880s and early 1890s. Harper became ill with a disabling muscular disease in 1889, and in the mid-1890s his business was destroyed by fire. He died in 1903, leaving his wife and seven children: Mary, Winnie, Helen, Sadie (Sarah), Beatrice, Duncan DeBlois, and Dufferin.

Sadie Harper received her early education in Shediac, later studying art, English, violin, and voice at the Ladies College at Sackville, N.B. during the 1894-1895 academic year. She discontinued her formal studies, possibly due to her father's illness, and, in 1903, married educator Frank Allen of Ithaca, New York. Frank was the son of Charlotte Tuttle and the Rev. John Salter Allen, a Methodist minister who had served at Meductic, York County, N.B. where Frank was born in 1873. Frank Allen studied physics, chemistry, and Latin at the University of New Brunswick, and later earned an M.A. and a Ph.D. at Cornell University in New York.

Initially, Sadie and Frank Harper lived in Shediac, where Frank was principal of Shediac High School. In 1904, they moved to Winnipeg, Manitoba where Sadie became involved in the Fort Rouge Methodist Church, the Red Cross, and a number of other charitable organizations, and Frank became the first professor of Physics at the newly-created University of Manitoba. He chaired the Physics Department for 40 years, and produced numerous research articles. He retired from university teaching in 1944, but continued researching and writing for another 20 years. The Allen Building on the University of Manitoba campus, home of the Cyclotron Research Station, was named in his honour.

The Allens raised three children, namely, John, Lillian, and William. John F. Allen was a professor at the University of St. Andrews, William Allen became principal of the Architectural Association School of Architecture, and Lillian Allen (d. 1995) was an associate professor of Housing and Design of the University of Manitoba. Sadie Harper Allen died prematurely in October 1915, and Frank Allen died in November 1965.

Custodial history

Information about the custody of these records prior to acquisition is incomplete.

Scope and content

This collection consists primarily of personal records of Duncan S. Harper, Sadie Harper Allen, and Frank Allen. It includes 7 diaries of Sadie Harper, covering the years 1890-1898, along with a transcription of each, as well as the original and a transcription of 22 letters written in 1912 by Sadie Harper Allen to family members while she was travelling with her husband in England (London, Manchester, Ambleside, Stratford), Scotland (Edinburgh, Glasgow), and Switzerland.

The writer offers a portrait of pre-war Britain, recording her impressions of the suffragettes, her visit to the House of Commons to hear Prime Minister Asquith, British customs, and of dignitaries attending the Imperial Universities Congress in London. There are 3 additional letters written by Sadie Allen to her family, a letter from John (Jack) Allen to Bill commenting on Sadie Allen's 1912 letters, and Aunt Nellie's account of Sadie and Frank Allen's 1912 trip to Europe, written for publication in a New Brunswick newspaper. Transcriptions of the latter 4 letters are also included.

The collection also includes the original and a transcription of the diary of Duncan Small Harper in which he records details of his 1889 European tour, made primarily in search of medical help for his debilitating muscular disease.

Lastly the collection contains a brief curriculum vitae of Frank Allen; 2 poems composed by him; Allen and Harper families genealogical information; obituary notices for both Frank and Sadie Allen; a newspaper article on Professor Frank Allen, "an inspired physicist;" and photographs of Frank Allen (1912) and Sadie Harper Allen.

The diaries and letters were transcribed by the donor, Lillian B. Allen, prior to 1977.

Physical condition

Immediate source of acquisition

Donated to the Provincial Archives of New Brunswick in four installments -- January 1976, August 1977, and May 1978 -- by Lillian B. Allen, of Winnipeg, Manitoba, the daughter of Sadie and Frank Allen


Language of material

  • English

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No restrictions

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An inventory is available

Associated materials

A photograph of Frank Allen, taken about 1904, is located in P1 (no. 164).

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