University of New England - Innovation for a Healthier Planet

Elizabeth Akers Allen papers, 1866-1911

Full finding aid (pdf)

Collection Scope and Content

This collection is composed primarily of letters from Elizabeth Akers Allen to her friend Gilbert Tracy, written between 1902-1911. The bulk of the letters were written in 1902, and discuss her work, finances, and other personal matters. Also included are several letters to Tracy from Allen’s daughters, Grace Cook and Florence Percy McIntyre. Some literary correspondence between Allen and several publishers is included, as well as a manuscript copy of Sea Birds, under her pseudonym Florence Percy, dated 1866.

Biographical/Historical Note

Allen was born Elizabeth Anne Chase on October 9, 1832 in Strong, Maine and grew up in Farmington, Maine, where she attended Farmington Academy (later Maine State Teachers College). In 1851 she married her first husband, Marshall Taylor; the marriage ended soon after in divorce. She served as writer and associate editor for The Portland Transcript beginning in 1855, and in the next year published her first volume of poetry, Forest Buds from the Woods of Maine, under the pseudonym Florence Percy. She traveled throughout Europe from 1859-1860, serving as a correspondent for The Portland Transcript as well as the Boston Evening Gazette.

From Rome, she dispatched to The Saturday Evening Post of Philadelphia the poem “Rock Me to Sleep, Mother,” which would become her most well known work. It was later set to music and became a famous Civil War song. In August 1860, she married Benjamin Paul Akers, a Maine sculptor who she met in Rome. Akers died in 1861 of tuberculosis. From 1863 to 1865, Elizabeth Akers Allen worked in Washington, D.C., as a government clerk. In 1865, she married Elijah M. Allen. In 1866, a collection of her work, entitled Poems was published; a controversy ensued in which Alexander M.W. Ball claimed authorship of “Rock Me to Sleep, Mother.” Allen became involved in legal proceedings to reclaim the copyright, as the poem was indeed her own work.

After living for a while in Richmond, Virginia, Allen returned with her husband to Portland, Maine in 1874, where she took a job as the associate literary editor of the Daily Advertiser. The couple finally moved to Tuckahoe, New York, in 1881, during which time Allen published several more volumes of poetry, including Queen Catherine’s Rose (1885), The High-Top Sweeting (1891), and The Ballad of the Bronx (1901). She also wrote and published one novel, The Triangular Society: Leaves From the Life of a Portland Family in 1886. She died on August 7, 1911.