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Allen Family Papers

Identifier: Midwest-MS-Allen

Scope and Content of the Collection

Mainly courtship letters between Gideon W. Allen and Annie Cox prior to their marriage in 1865, containing detailed descriptions of life and their political beliefs during the Civil War.

Gideon W. Allen lived in Ann Arbor while attending law school. and described the conflicts he faced in school because of his political beliefs as a "Copperhead Democrat," as well as his financial struggle to finish his law studies. Later he discussed the machinations of avoiding the draft, and wrote from Green Bay and Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin, as he traveled looking for a suitable position and living place for his soon-to-be new wife. In the course of his job seeking, he encountered a corrupt statesman and observed the changes taking place in these frontier towns. After their marriage, Allen wrote while traveling by boat south through Illinois to Georgia looking for a more suitable climate for their growing family. He described the towns of Rock Island, Rome, and Atlanta. Annie Cox resided in Madison, Wisconsin during their courtship. She wrote of her financial hardships, and conveys a notable dissatisfaction at the limitations of her status as a woman. Together, they share an ongoing, spirited debate on politics and religious beliefs in which Gideon Allen showed a great respect for his future wife's intelligence. There are also a few letters from other family members, including most notably one to Gideon W. Allen from his sister Martha who wrote of a rebel uprising that displaced her family in southern Missouri. Also of interest are letters of Michael Poad, father of Annie Cox, and letters from Elizabeth J. Cox, Annie's mother.

Ruth F. Allen materials consist primarily of letters collected by Mabel Nebel for her unfinished biography of Allen, together with the incomplete manuscript. Letters are from several of Allen's close friends whom she met while in college, and colleagues from her professional scientific career. The manuscript is useful for its descriptions of the lives of Ruth F. Allen's parents and their family history. There are also photographs of Gideon W. and Annie Cox Allen, Ruth F. Allen, and friends of Ruth F. Allen, and a few personal items.


  • Creation: 1862-1964



Materials are in English.

Conditions Governing Access

The Allen Family Papers are open for research in the Special Collections Reading Room; 1 box at a time (Priority III).

Ownership and Literary Rights

The Allen Family Papers are the physical property of the Newberry Library. Copyright may belong to the authors or their legal heirs or assigns. For permission to publish or reproduce any materials from this collection, contact the Roger and Julie Baskes Department of Special Collections.

Biography of the Allen Family

Wisconsin family.

Gideon Winant Allen was born in 1835 in New London, Ohio. His family were poor farmers, and he left home as soon as he was able to pursue an education, working farming and construction jobs during the summers to pay his way. He attended school first in Madison, Wisconsin (where he met Annie Cox), and transferred to the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor in 1862. He had strong political views, and was considered a Copperhead Democrat, who favored peace preserving the Union at any cost, even if it meant allowing slavery. After graduating with his law degree, he sought work in greater Wisconsin, traveling to Green Bay, and finally Sturgeon Bay where he secured a position as district attorney. In Sturgeon Bay he practiced law, and later became a member of the state legislature. After a three year engagement, as he was at last settled with a respectable position, he married Annie Cox in 1865. In 1872, Gideon Allen attempted to find work in a more amicable climate and traveled to southern Illinois and Georgia, but was unsuccessful and returned to Sturgeon Bay where he lived until his death of tuberculosis in 1912.

Annie Cox was born Annie Poad in Mineral Point, Wisconsin in 1840. Her parents were Elizabeth Baker and Michael Poad, who had come to Mineral Point from Cornwall, England to work in the mines. Elizabeth Baker, originally from Boston, found it difficult to adapt to the hardscrabble life of a miner's wife, and left Michael Poad soon after the birth of their daughter, Annie. She was granted one of the first divorces in Wisconsin. She married Charles J. Cox, a carpenter, and relocated to Madison. Cox was often out of work, and struggled financially throughout their marriage. Annie Cox was a strong abolitionist and active in the temperance movement, which was often at odds with Gideon Allen, who enjoyed liquor and tobacco, and late in life declared himself an atheist. Annie Cox Allen died of tuberculosis in 1895.

The Allens had five children, two of which died in infancy. A son Frank was born in 1869, but drowned in 1877. A second son, Arthur was born in 1873. Their daughter Ruth F. Allen was born on May 21, 1879. She attended schools in Sturgeon Bay, and excelled in math and science. She attended the University of Wisconsin at Madison where in 1905 she completed an A.B. degree in botany, followed by an M.A. in 1907, and Ph.D. in botany in 1909. Allen was the first woman, and seventh person to receive a Ph.D. from the department. She taught at Michigan Agricultural College, and then at Wellesley College where she may have begun her research into plant pathology. She resigned from Wellesley in 1918 and took a position with the U.S. Department of Agriculture where she worked for the next 16 years. Poor health and allergies caused her to request a transfer to U.C. Berkeley, where she conducted research for the Division of Cereal Crops and Diseases and became known for her work with rust fungi on agricultural crops. Throughout her career, she faced pay inequities and sexism, but still managed to earn renown for her work and publish several highly regarded articles. She retired from the State Department in 1936 due to recurring health problems. She died of a stroke in 1936.


2 Linear Feet (2 boxes, 1 oversize folder)


Courtship letters of lawyer and Wisconsin statesman Gideon W. Allen and his future wife Annie Cox during the years of 1863-1865 in which they discuss current their political and religious beliefs, Allen's travels throughout Wisconsin while looking for work, and Cox's life as a woman in Madison, Wisconsin. Also an unfinished biography of renowned botanist Ruth F. Allen by Mabel Nebel, incoming correspondence of Ruth F. Allen, and other family correspondence, photographs, and personal materials of the Allen family.


Materials arranged alphabetically.

Collection Stack Location

1 2 2


Gift, Mabel Nebel, 1964.

Processed by

Lisa Janssen, 2010.


This inventory was created with the generous support of the National Endowment for the Humanities. Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this inventory do not necessarily represent those of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Inventory of the Allen Family Papers, 1862-1964
Lisa Janssen
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the The Newberry Library - Modern Manuscripts and Archives Repository

60 West Walton Street
Chicago Illinois 60610 United States