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.
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.
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 &
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
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
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
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
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.