The long registered cover has a Blue Sydney “A”, New South Wales Registration label, a purple ‘REGISTERED’ handstamp and 2 green 1d KGV Head stamps as well as two 2d orange ‘Centenary of Victoria’ stamps, showing an Aborigine and the Yarra River, canceled by REGISTERED/ 31 AU 31/ SYDNEY N.S.W. It has a printed address of The International Society for Crippled Children , Inc., Elyria, Ohio. The reverse is backstamped Sydney, Chicago and Elyria, Ohio (Figure 1).
Edgar Fiske Allen was born at Newton, Mass. on May 8, 1862 of patrician stock, directly descended from the American Revolutionary war hero, Ethan Allen. The Allen family left New England in 1876 and settled in Cleveland, Ohio. Allen founded the Cleveland Cedar Company in 1888 for the production of railroad ties and utility poles. He won the contract for manufacture of utility poles for A.T.T. company, from which he made his fortune so that he was able to retire in 1905 when he sold his business. In 1888, he married Blanch Wood, and they had 2 sons, Homer and Frank, and the family was living in Elyria, Ohio, at the time of the cover.
A life changing experience led Edgar Allen to found an organization which, ultimately, became the ‘Easter Seals’. From the construction of one hospital in the small town, Elyria in Ohio, Easter Seals grew into an organization which now serves over one million clients a year in every state and in Puerto Rico. Allen’s continued efforts to identify need, and his persistent pursuit of the best means to meet that need, initiated a philosophy that is reflected in the scope of Easter Seals services today. These services include programs for children, vocational training, and employment and medical rehabilitation. Easter Seals continues the task set forth by Allen’s selfless dedication.
As a respected businessman he became involved with several community organizations. As a member of the Chamber of Commerce, Allen attended a meeting on May 28, 1907 to discuss the need for adequate medical facilities in Elyria, which had only a makeshift hospital staffed by a single nurse. Two days later, Allen and his family would become the victims of Elyria’s inadequate medical resources. On May 30, Allen’s 18-year-old son, Homer, was killed in a streetcar accident which claimed nine lives. Both of Homer’s legs were amputated and his father was told that if Elyria had emergency medical care, the boy could have been saved. In the days following the accident, Allen took the leadership role in a city-wide campaign to raise funds for a medical facility. He devoted himself to raising the funds needed, and the Elyria Memorial Hospital opened October 30, 1908 with 36 beds.
While volunteering as treasurer of Elyria hospital, Allen met 8 year old Jimmy Bodak, brought to the hospital in an effort to help straighten his legs. Jimmy developed an affection for Allen and began to call him by the name for which Allen would come to be known, “Daddy”. Allen became aware of the magnitude of the need for a facility for crippled children. Through his fund raising efforts enough money was raised, and Gates Hospital for Crippled Children was opened on April 15, 1915. It was the first facility of its kind in the nation.
Many children came for extended stays of two to three years and the hospital met their medical, emotional, spiritual, social and academic needs. Gates Hospital became a home away from home for those children in residence. But Allen realized that what parents wanted was community-based care and he knew he needed a support network to fill this need. In 1919, at the urging of Allen, several Rotary Clubs of Ohio met and formed the Ohio Society for Crippled Children, the predecessor to the Easter Seals. Allen was chosen President. The commitment of the Rotarians was threefold: compile information, assist in fund raising and assist in the building, equipping, and maintaining of the hospitals. The success of Ohio’s efforts became the catalyst for other states and countries to become involved.
In 1921 the National Society for Crippled Children was formed. Allen was elected first president, and by 1922 it was the International Society for Crippled Children. In February 1933 Allen suffered a heart attack from which he never fully recovered.. Although back at his desk after several months, in May of 1934 he tendered his resignation as president. As the impact of the Depression slowed the pace of the Society, board members considered new methods of raising funds. At the 1933 National Convention, Paul King, Allen’s eventual successor, championed the idea of selling seals as a means of raising funds. He suggested that Easter be the time for the sale, and the first campaign was launched in 1934. A picture of a block of 4 of the Easter Seals is seen in Figure 2.
On September 20, 1937 Allen was laid to rest in Elyria’s Ridgelawn Cemetery. His marker reads simply, “Edgar Fiske Allen, known as ‘Daddy’ to all friends of the crippled.” A picture of Edgar Allen is seen in Figure 3.
The way that Australia was involved in the charity was as follows: There was a meeting of past president Ben Gelling of Sydney Rotarians with Edgar Allen in the USA in 1925 and Gelling took the idea of Rotarian’s supporting the crippled children back to Sydney. The Sydney Rotarians went on to provide outstanding service to crippled children in N.S.W. as the N.S.W. Society for Crippled Children, later known as the Northcott Society.