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Charles Herbert Allen
1st appointed U.S. civil governor Governor of Puerto Rico

In office
May 1, 1900 – September 15, 1901
Preceded by George Whitefield Davis
Succeeded by William Henry Hunt
Member of the
U.S. House of Representatives from
Massachusetts's 8th district

In office
March 4, 1885 – March 3, 1889
Preceded by William A. Russell
Succeeded by Frederic T. Greenhalge
Personal details
Born (1848-04-15)April 15, 1848
Lowell, Massachusetts
Died April 20, 1934(1934-04-20) (aged 86)
Lowell, Massachusetts
Political party Republican

Charles Herbert Allen (April 15, 1848 – April 20, 1934) was an American politician and businessman. After serving in state and federal elected positions, he was appointed as the first United States-appointed civilian governor of Puerto Rico when the U.S. acquired it after the Spanish-American War. He previously had served as Assistant Secretary of the Navy under President William McKinley.

After returning to the U.S. from Puerto Rico, Allen headed for Wall Street and became a vice president of Morton Trust Company and its successor, the Guaranty Trust Company of New York. He formed the American Sugar Refining Company - a sugar syndicate which, by 1907, was the largest in the world. It owned or controlled 98% of the sugar processing capacity in the U.S. and was known as the Sugar Trust.[1][2] Allen was treasurer of American Sugar Refining in 1910, its president in 1913, and in 1915 he joined its board of directors.[3] The company is currently known as Domino Sugar.

Early life

Allen was born in Lowell, Massachusetts to Otis and Louisa (Bixby) Allen. He attended public and private schools. He did his undergraduate work at Amherst College, where he graduated in 1869.[4] He worked with his father in their company, Otis Allen and Son, a lumber business that sold railroad ties, housing frames and road building materials.

Political career

Allen was elected to two terms in the Massachusetts House of Representatives in 1881 and 1882; and one term in the Massachusetts Senate in 1883. He was elected as a Republican to the Forty-ninth and Fiftieth Congresses, serving March 4, 1885 to March 3, 1889.[4] In 1890, Allen was nominated for governor of Massachusetts by the Republicans, but was defeated by William E. Russell.[4]

In 1884, he received the title "Colonel," when Governor George Dexter Robinson appointed him to his personal staff. He also served as the Massachusetts Prison Commissioner from 1897 to 1898.[4] In 1898 President William McKinley named Allen as Assistant Secretary of the Navy when Theodore Roosevelt resigned the post to enter the Spanish-American War. He held this position from 1898 to 1900.[4]

Governor of Puerto Rico

When the war ended, President McKinley appointed Allen as the first civilian governor of Puerto Rico, and he served from 1900-1901.Though Allen had a business background, his financial administration of Puerto Rico was strikingly unsound. The revenue for the island's government was raised internally, from Puerto Rico's own resources, mostly from tariffs, sales taxes and property taxes. During Allen's tenure this annual budget equaled the 4.4 million pesos the Spanish had spent in 1897, but without expenses for a five-thousand man garrison or the former contributions to the Catholic church.[5]

Corrupt administration

Due to this reduced overhead, the island should have had a substantial budget surplus - but Allen's financial administration did not provide many benefits for the people. He ignored the appropriation requests of the Puerto Rican House of Delegates, and refused to make any municipal, agricultural or small business loans. He built roads at double the old costs. 85% of the school-age population did not have schools. Instead of making needed infrastructure and education investments, Allen raided the Puerto Rican treasury and re-directed the insular budget to no-bid contracts for U.S. businessmen, railroad subsidies for U.S.-owned sugar plantations, and high salaries for U.S. bureaucrats in the island government.[5][6] Allen was also listed as one of the "Politicians in the Lumber and Timber Business in Puerto Rico." [7]

By the time Allen left in 1901, nearly all of the governor's 11-member Executive Council were U.S. expatriates. Half the appointive offices in the government of Puerto Rico had been given to visiting Americans, 626 of them at top salaries.[5][6]

Life after politics

After resigning as governor in 1901, Allen headed to Wall Street and joined the House of Morgan as vice-president of both the Morgan Trust Company and the Guaranty Trust Company of New York, through which he built a sugar syndicate in Puerto Rico. By 1907 this syndicate, the American Sugar Refining Company, owned or controlled 98% of the sugar processing capacity in the United States and was known as the Sugar Trust.[1][2] By 1910 Allen was Treasurer of the American Sugar Refining Company, by 1913 he was its President, and by 1915 he sat on its Board of Directors.[8] While Allen built the largest sugar syndicate in the world, his hundreds of political appointees in Puerto Rico provided him with land grants, tax subsidies, water rights, railroad easements, foreclosure sales and favorable tariffs.[9] In effect, Charles Allen leveraged his governorship of Puerto Rico into a controlling interest over the entire Puerto Rican economy.[1][9] Today, the Allen sugar syndicate is known as Domino Sugar.

Private life

Allen had married Harriet C. Dean of Manchester, New Hampshire in 1870, and they lived in Lowell on Rolfe Street, at a house they called "The Terraces." They raised two daughters, Bertha and Louise. While Allen and his family were living in Puerto Rico when he was governor, his daughter Bertha Allen married naval officer George W. Logan in 1900. Their wedding was at the Palace, the governor's residence.

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The second daughter, Louise Allen (1875–1953), became a sculptor and a member of many artistic societies. Her son, Allen Hobbs, was an hydographer in the US Navy and was appointed as the 32nd Governor of American Samoa.[10]

Allen pursued a variety of leisure interests. He was an avid painter, and completed twenty-seven landscape and marine paintings. These are held in the Allen Collection of the Whistler House Museum of Art in Lowell.

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Interested in gardens, he ensured that the grounds of his home, "The Terraces," were planted with gardens, fountains, a pergola, and a large gazebo. The latter can be seen in photographs of the Allen House Collection, University of Massachusetts Center for Lowell History.[11] It was donated by Walter E. Hayes, his groundskeeper.[11]

Charles Herbert Allen died in Lowell and is buried in Lowell Cemetery.[4]

Legacy and honors

  • The Terraces, is now called Allen House and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. It is within the boundaries of the South Campus of the University of Massachusetts Lowell.[12]


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 Cesar J. Ayala, American Sugar Kingdom; University of North Carolina Press, 1999; pp. 45-47.
  2. 2.0 2.1 "Sold Beet Sugar Stock: President Allen Says Sugar Trust Tried to Conform to the Law," New York Times; April 1, 1914.
  3. "Charles H. Allen Resigns," New York Times, June 16, 1915.
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 4.4 4.5 Charles Herbert Allen Congressional Bio.
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 Thomas Aitken, Jr.; Luis Munoz Marin: Poet in the Fortress, pp. 60-61; Signet Books/New American Library, 1965
  6. 6.0 6.1 Manuel Maldonado-Denis; Puerto Rico: A Socio-Historic Interpretation, pp. 70-76; Random House, 1972
  7. Charles Herbert Allen, Political Graveyard.
  8. "Charles H. Allen Resigns," New York Times
  9. 9.0 9.1 Federico Ribes Tovar; Albizu Campos: Puerto Rican Revolutionary, pp. 122-144, 197-204; Plus Ultra Publishers, 1971
  10. "Captain Ralph Waldo Hungerford". Government of American Samoa. 2010. Archived from the original on 27 May 2010. Retrieved 1 May 2010. 
  11. 11.0 11.1 Allen House Collection, University of Massachusetts, Center for Lowell History
  12. "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. 2008-04-15. 

General sources

  • Davenport's Art Reference 2001/2002, page 73
  • Courier Citizen, April 21, 1934
  • Whistler House Museum of Art files

External links

United States House of Representatives
Preceded by
William A. Russell
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Massachusetts's 8th congressional district

March 4, 1885 – March 3, 1889
Succeeded by
Frederic T. Greenhalge
Government offices
Preceded by
Theodore Roosevelt
Assistant Secretary of the Navy
May 11, 1898 – April 21, 1900
Succeeded by
Frank W. Hackett
Political offices
Preceded by
George Whitefield Davis
Governor of Puerto Rico
Succeeded by
William Henry Hunt

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