Richard Allen, 1853 - 1884

by Brian Stevenson
last updated September, 2023

Richard Allen was an accountant in Troy, New York. For a few years during the mid-1870s, he was an amateur microscopist. Allen prepared microscope slides with custom-printed labels (Figure 1), which he offered to exchange with other enthusiasts (Figure 2).

Figure 1. Microscope slide with a strew of diatoms, including Synedra splendens, prepared by Richard Allen ca. 1876-77. He presumably purchased the typeset labels to add a touch of professionalism to the slides that he exchanged with other microscopists. I acquired the illustrated slide from California among a collection of 1870s-80s slides, implying that Allen’s exchange pleas reached across the continent.


Figure 2. Exchange offers from Richard Allen, published in “The American Naturalist”, “The American Journal of Microscopy and Popular Science”, and “Science Observer”. The postal address, 146 North Fourth Street, Troy, was Allen’s business address.


Richard Allen was born in Troy, New York, on February 23, 1853. He was the elder of two children, and only boy, of Alexander and Melinda Allen. Father Alexander worked as a barrel maker, in partnership with other members of his family.

The 1870 national census did not list an occupation for Richard, who was then 17 years old. But, the 1871 Troy City Directory listed him as being a “bookkeeper”, working at 146 North Fourth Street and “boarding” with his parents at 511 River Street.

The 1875 New York state census recorded that Richard had married, to a woman named Fannie. It is not clear whether they had any children.

Richard Allen published a series of exchange offers in 1876, his first known interest in microscopes (Figure 2). Other ads were published in early 1877, requesting correspondence and specimens of sponges. No further records of his microscopical interests have been found, suggesting that he had largely abandoned the hobby by the middle of 1877. I have not found any records of Allen being involved with microscopical or other scientific clubs.

Richard Allen died on October 3, 1884, in Troy. He was only 31 years old.



The American Journal of Microscopy and Popular Science (1876) Exchange offers from Richard Allen, page 111 and others

The American Naturalist (1876) Exchange offers from Richard Allen, Vol. 10, page 381 and others

Science Observer (1877) Exchange offers from Richard Allen, page 2 and others

Tombstone of Richard Allen (accessed September, 2023)

Troy, New York, City Directory (1866, 1867, 1868, 1871, 1873, 1875, 1878, 1882, and 1884) accessed through

US census and other records, accessed through