Herbert Allen ’29

I wasn’t completely surprised to receive a number of emails today with a common theme: Herbert Allen was really good looking. I’d have to agree. So just for fun here are a couple of more pictures.

Here he is in his Rice track uniform. He was, as you will have no doubt have anticipated, a thrower:

And here he is at work in the Mech Lab:

Finally, I also found this extremely interesting picture of Allen among a crew out in an East Texas oilfield. He’s the one at the far right, with a pipe in his mouth:

I love these pictures very much. One of the pitfalls of studying the history of Rice (or the history of anything, I suppose) is a lazy tendency to forget that the actors in our controversies were actual human beings, with complex lives and motivations. But I can never think of Herbert Allen’s actions during the Masterson crisis without also thinking of the young man in these photographs. It certainly muddies up the narrative, all to the good in my opinion.

Herbert Allen announcing the appointment of William Masterson to the Rice faculty, February 21, 1969:

Bonus: Out of all the pictures of Allen that I’ve seen (which is a LOT), this is one of my favorites. It was taken in 1981, after he had retired from Cameron Ironworks. In the meantime he had invented the Screwpull and started a company to commercialize it, which he later gave to Rice.  Still handsome.

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9 Responses to Herbert Allen ’29

  1. Speaking of Screwpull — while drafting a resolution upon his retirement from the board of Texas Commerce, I checked with Mr. Allen to confirm the number of his patents — 100 +- vs. 300 +-. The 300 +-. as it turned out, included his international patents. I asked whether those included Screwpull. He said it didn’t. I told him I had one, that I loved it, but it had broken. He said, “Really? Send it back to me because I want to see where it broke.” I did so, and he sent me two in return. This was in the 1980s. I still have one. Best corkscrew I’ve ever had.

  2. Melissa Kean says:

    I know mine gets a pretty good workout!

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  4. John Francis says:


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  6. Rusty Turner says:

    Mr Allen was also a HUGE Rice booster. When I was in graduate school (at Rice), I supported myself by working as the 3rd shift switchboard operator at Cameron Iron. Many times in my 3 years, Mr Allen would call (sometimes from overseas…in the late ‘60s, when that was expensive) and ask me if I could hook him up with the broadcast of the game in progress. I would put him on one of our office lines and plug my radio in next to the phone. He always called me back to thank me.

    Several years later, I got to know him well enough to sample a tiny bit of his extraordinary cellar. He was always gracious, informed and inquisitive. Truly a gentleman and a scholar…and inventive, to boot!!

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