William H. Allen

W.H. Allen appears as the co-author with McLuhan of ‘Title VII Research Abstract’ (for Report on Project in Understanding New Media), Audio Visual Communication Review, 9:4, 1961. Allen might have appeared with McLuhan in this way for several reasons.

First and most simply, Allen was the founding editor of this journal and may have helped McLuhan put the abstract into the required form for it.

Second, as recorded in the ‘Itinerary and Summary of the Activities of the Consultant’ section of the Report:

February 28-March 5 (1960): The DAVI [Department of  Audiovisual Instruction of the National Education Association] Convention in Cincinnati where I was a member of a continuing panel. The major effect of this conference for my  studies was the sudden awareness that my approach to the media is close to the Systems Development type of effort. I owe this discovery to William Allen, Rand Corporation [and editor of the DAVI journal, Audio Visual Communication Review], and James Finn, DAVI President. As a result I have begun to work with our electrical engineering department here at Toronto.

With the shared by-line, McLuhan may have been expressing his appreciation of Allen’s help with his thinking more broadly.

Third, since Allen’s influence in the educational AV community was second to none, this might have been a way on his part to promote consideration of McLuhan’s work in that community. In fact, in the 1959-1964 period, discussion of McLuhan was nowhere as prevalent as it was in the Audio Visual Communication Review.

Fourth, Allen was both an academic (at USC) and an associate with the Rand Corporation. As was the case with Bernard Muller-Thym and Peter Drucker, McLuhan appreciated scholars who worked outside of the academy and who attempted to apply their ideas in real life.  As he repeatedly expressed, he had this ambition for himself.

Fifth, Allen combined his technology and education research with an intense concern with Christianity.  Also this sort of multiple avocation greatly appealed to McLuhan. It was one of the reasons for his longtime friendship with Muller-Thym and may well have been a factor in his relation with Allen.

The description of the papers of Andrew Christian Lohr (

This material was collected by William Homer Allen (1914-2009). Raised in Glendale, California, and in Arizona, he received an AB from UCLA (1941); MA, Claremont Graduate School (1948); and EdD, UCLA (1950). He was a captain in the Army, serving from 1941 to 1946.
Allen taught at San Diego State College, University of Wisconsin and the University of Southern California. He worked for the RAND Corporation from 1957 to 1960. He founded and edited the journal, AV Communication Review, published by the Department of Audiovisual Instruction [DAVI] of the National Education Association. (…)1 He retired from USC as professor in the education department in 1978.
Allen’s parents were Christian Scientists and then members of the Unity Church. They met Andrew Christian Lohr (1880-1960) in the early 1930s and became part of the group who met with him on a regular basis. They held teachings at their house in Glendale.
After he retired, Allen transcribed and organized Lohr’s teachings, leading to a self-published book, Born of Water and Spirit: Teachings in Mystic Christianity (1990). The book is organized into four parts: The Realm of God, The Realm of Man, Aspects of Man’s Regeneration, and Ways to Spiritual Attainment. Additional books with Lohr’s talks were planned but never published. Allen also painted and wrote an unpublished book on the relationship between John the Baptist and Jesus. He died in 2009.

  1. The description of Allen has “After 18 years” here, but this number seems mistaken since Allen was at USC already in the 1950s.  His career there lasted easily over 20 years. It may well be, however, that he became “professor in the education department” in 1960 and then retired from that position “after 18 years”.