... whose real name was William Dodds, was a highly successful Music Hall Artiste who used the banjo in his act at the turn of the 20th century. He used the name William Allen on official records.
He was conducting a successful teaching studio at 38 Newington Butts, London, where he was born, but his increasing professional engagements made it necessary for him to finally give up teaching. In 1902 he toured the U.S.A. for twelve months.
It is not known when he first started to make banjos, but his first models were called "Revelation", the wood hoop of which was covered by an S-shaped metal casing with a projecting flange at the bottom through which the brackets passed.
When he went into partnership with Olly Oakley in 1926 with a shop at 61, Charing Cross Road, London, the “Will Van Allen" banjos, well made modern instruments, appear to have been products of the John G. Abbott workshops.
He dissolved his partnership with Olly Oakley in 1929 or 1930 and very few Van Allen banjos appeared to have been sold after this date.
Pictures courtesy of Fred