About Thomas Allen & Son

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Thomas Allen & Son Limited is the oldest family-owned and operated agency publisher in Canada, serving the Canadian book trade for more than nine decades. Four generations of Allens have been involved in the business, and from the beginning we have been the exclusive agent for Boston's Houghton Mifflin Company.

Our story begins in 1888, when Thomas Allen was a 16-year-old. Leaving his home in Galt, Ontario, Tom took a job running errands and handling books at the warehouse of the Methodist Bookroom and Publishing House in Toronto. His boundless energy and enthusiasm helped him rise quickly through the ranks at the Bookroom.

Thomas Allen & Son Limited is the oldest family-owned and operated agency publisher in Canada, serving the Canadian book trade for more than nine decades.

In 1901, Tom formed a partnership with George MacLeod, an American who had started a publishing operation in Toronto two years earlier. That partnership, MacLeod and Allen, continued for 15 years, and ended amicably when Tom decided to strike out on his own. In 1916, he founded Thomas Allen Limited.

The 1920s and '30s were difficult years for the publishing industry in Canada, and in particular for Tom Allen's young company. But just when the future looked bleakest, Tom discovered a new American novelist - Lloyd C. Douglas. With the sale of Douglas' Magnificent Obsession and subsequent novels including The Robe, the firm gained the financial stability it required to grow. The prosperity of the business continued as Tom published books by Canadian poet Edna Jaques, pioneer feminist and parliamentarian Nellie McClung, and one of the leading statesmen of the time – Winston S. Churchill. Stephen Leacock, Foster Hewitt, and W.L. Mackenzie King also joined the esteemed list of authors published by the company.

By 1943, the business was thriving, and Tom convinced his son Forbes Duncan (Dud) Allen to join as Vice-President. This second-generation Allen was responsible for the start of a long line of Maggie Muggins and Just Mary books from CBC writer/broadcaster Mary Grannan. These story collections became Canada's best-selling children's books in the 1950s. Dud also bought the S.J. Reginald Saunders publishing company and ran it separately before selling it to his younger son, Bob, who subsequently changed the name to Saunders of Toronto Limited.

In 1954, Dud's older son, John D. Allen, joined the firm and went on to become President and at one point founded a second publishing company, Hamlyn Publishing Group Canada Limited. After purchasing Saunders of Toronto from Bob, John closed the Hamlyn operation. Saunders of Toronto is no longer a separate entity and its business activities have been folded into Thomas Allen & Son Limited.

John's son, T. James (Jim) Allen, joined the company in 1980. In October 1999 Jim took over the position of President and CEO of Thomas Allen & Son Ltd., from his father, John, who is now retired.

In January 2000 we launched a new publishing division, Thomas Allen Publishers, which saw the company return to the business of publishing "Books of Merit" by and for Canadians.

Recognition for Thomas Allen & Son Limited has continued to grow over the years. In 1991, our 75th anniversary, we were named Publisher of the Year by the Canadian Booksellers Association for our contribution to the Canadian book trade. 2006 marked our 90th anniversary.

In 2000, the president and CEO of Thomas Allen & Son, Jim Allen, committed the company to renew the original 1916 mandate of the company, to publish trade books. Under the direction of Publisher and veteran literary editor Patrick Crean, a new publishing division, Thomas Allen Publishers, began to acquire, develop and publish Canadian titles.

The mandate for our publishing division is to seek out and publish quality literary fiction and non-fiction. We are looking for original voices, fine writing and uncommon ideas. Our intention is to publish books of distinction and merit. Books of Merit was a slogan first used by our founder Thomas Allen in 1916. Our list today continues this tradition with Books of Merit that both entertain us and challenge us in our ways of thinking about our place in the world

In August 2013, Thomas Allen Publishers was sold to Dundurn Press. "The publishing environment has changed considerably in recent years and I find that the publishing division requires additional capital and commitment at a time when our core agency business also requires increased commitment and resources. I have decided it is time to allow it to be owned and managed by a house that is fully committed to Canadian books." Thomas Allen & Son will continue to focus on being a distributor for its expanding list of US and UK client publishers.