The business was established in London in 1788 under the name John Allen, but little is known of its early existence. By the 1820s the firm began to appear in the London Trade Directories under Trunk Makers and listed as Allen, John 22 Strand. By the 1840s the company had workshops in Hungerford Street, Whitechapel. By 1865 the company name had become J. W. Allen and there were large, smart premises at 37 Strand. Catalogues from this period show that the company was selling travel items such as portmanteaus, trunks, and leather traveling bags, as well as barrack furniture such as portable armchairs, portable washbasins and portable beds. The business advertised heavily in Army Lists and periodicals likely to be of interest to the travel-minded. The company name in the advertisements appeared as either J. W. Allen or simply Allen; presumably the firm was so well known at this time that it was recognized by the abbreviated name.
The last known entry for J. W. Allen in the London Trade Directories was in 1913. The company's fortunes had declined by this time and it was trading from much smaller premises on the Strand.
by Mark Matlach