Cole, Allen E.

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Allen E. Cole (l883-l970) was a professional photographer in the Cleveland, Ohio, African American community. His years of photographing the working and middle-class community in Cleveland produced a collection of some 50,000 negatives at the time of his death; the negatives were acquired in l980 by the Western Reserve Historical Society. The motto of his business, "Somebody, Somewhere, Wants Your Photograph," was used as title for a collection of his photographs published by the society in l980. After graduating from Storer College in Harper's Ferry, West Virginia, Cole worked as a waiter, railroad porter, cook, and a real estate businessman. When that business proved to be slower than expected, Cole moved to Cleveland, where he worked as a waiter at the Cleveland Athletic Club, eventually becoming headwaiter, a position he held for ten years. At the Athletic Club, Cole met Joseph Opet, manager of the Frank Moore Studios, who introduced him to photography and hired him as a part-time assistant. After six years, Cole decided to leave the Athletic Club to make his living as a photographer. In 1922, he opened his own studio at his home on East 103rd Street, later moving to 9909 Cedar Road. During the Depression when individual orders declined, he began doing commercial work and commission work for eight white-owned studios. Cole's work earned prizes and praise at state and local exhibitions, and was frequently published in The Call and Post.

click here to view the Encyclopedia of Cleveland History entry for Allen E. Cole

From the guide to the Allen E. Cole Papers, 1887-1972, (Western Reserve Historical Society)

biographical sketch courtesy of the Encyclopedia of Cleveland History

Allen E. Cole (1883-1970) was a professional photographer in the African American community of Cleveland, Ohio. He generated over 27,000 negatives during his life, a collection acquired by the Western Reserve Historical Society and selectively published in a book entitled Somebody, Somewhere, Wants Your Photograph (1980), which was Cole's business motto. The son of Allen and Sara Cole, he was born in Kearneysville, West Virginia. Cole graduated from Storer College and worked as a waiter in Atlantic City, New Jersey, and a railroad porter and cook in Cincinnati, Ohio, until he was injured in a train accident. He moved to Cleveland, worked as a waiter at the Cleveland Athletic Club, and eventually became head waiter there for over 10 years.

At the Athletic Club, Cole met Joseph Opet, manager of Frank Moore Studios, who introduced him to photography. He assisted at Opet's studios for six years, and then opened a studio in his home in 1922. When individual orders declined during the Great Depression, Cole did commercial work and commission work for eight white studios. Cole contributed photographs to the Cleveland Call and Post, and his work earned prizes at state and local exhibitions. Cole also was a founder and treasurer of the Progressive Business League, an officer of the Dunbar Life Insurance Company, a member of St. James African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church, and was active in the Elks and Masons. For years he was the only African American member of the Cleveland Society of Professional Photographers. His wife, Frances T. Cole (1889-1979), was his assistant and business manager. Cole was buried in Highland Park Cemetery.

click here to view the Encyclopedia of Cleveland History entry for Allen E. Cole

From the guide to the Allen E. Cole Photographs, 1870-1970, 1920-1970, (Western Reserve Historical Society)

Archival Resources
Role Title Holding Repository
creatorOf Canadian Stage Theatre Archives (University of Guelph). Pélagie : an Acadian musical odyssey / book and lyrics by Vincent de Tourdonnet, book and music by Allen Cole, based on the novel "Pélagie-la-Charrette" by Antonine Maillet ; directed by Marti Maraden, 2004 - performance file. University of Guelph
creatorOf Canadian Stage Theatre Archives (University of Guelph). Tabu : a Celebration of Sexuality / collectively created by Allen Cole, Mark Christmann, Peter Hinton, Leslie Lester, Shaun Phillips, Dawn Roach, David Findlay, Luanne Karn, Denyse Karn, Alisa Palmer, Marta Stothers, and Chiyoko Szlavnics, 1991 - house program. University of Guelph
creatorOf Shaw Festival Collection (University of Guelph). Major Barbara / by Bernard Shaw ; directed by Joseph Ziegler, music composed and directed by Allen Cole, 2005 - video. University of Guelph
creatorOf Theatre Passe Muraille Archives (University of Guelph). Hush / libretto by Noami Riches ; music by Allen Cole ; directed by Alisa Palmer and Peter Hinton, 1990 - house program. University of Guelph
creatorOf Canadian Stage Theatre Archives (University of Guelph). Tabu : a Celebration of Sexuality / collectively created by Allen Cole, Mark Christmann, Peter Hinton, Leslie Lester, Shaun Phillips, Dawn Roach, David Findlay, Luanne Karn, Denyse Karn, Alisa Palmer, Marta Stothers, and Chiyoko Szlavnics, 1991 - production photos. University of Guelph
creatorOf Canadian Stage Theatre Archives (University of Guelph). Tabu : a Celebration of Sexuality / collectively created by Allen Cole, Mark Christmann, Peter Hinton, Leslie Lester, Shaun Phillips, Dawn Roach, David Findlay, Luanne Karn, Denyse Karn, Alisa Palmer, Marta Stothers, and Chiyoko Szlavnics, 1991 - reviews and articles. University of Guelph
creatorOf Theatre Passe Muraille Archives (University of Guelph). A Play about the Mothers of Plaza de Mayo / written and directed by Alisa Palmer, music by Giovanni Batista Pergolesi, adapted with musical direction by Allen Cole, set designed by Sara Schilt, 1993 - house program. University of Guelph
creatorOf Allen E. Cole Photographs, 1870-1970, 1920-1970 Western Reserve Historical Society
creatorOf Shaw Festival Collection (University of Guelph). The Invisible Man / by H.G. Wells, adapted for the stage by Michael O'Brien ; directed by Neil Munro, designed by Judith Bowden, original music composed by Allen Cole, 2006 - performance files. University of Guelph
creatorOf Canadian Stage Theatre Archives (University of Guelph). Allen Cole - company portraits. University of Guelph
creatorOf Shaw Festival Collection (University of Guelph). Major Barbara / by Bernard Shaw ; directed by Joseph Ziegler, designed by Christina Poddiubiuk, music composed and directed by Allen Cole, 2005 - performance files. University of Guelph
creatorOf Allen E. Cole Papers, 1887-1972 Western Reserve Historical Society
creatorOf Theatre Passe Muraille Archives (University of Guelph). A Play about the Mothers of Plaza de Mayo / created by Alisa Palmer, music by Giovanni Batista Pergolesi, adapted with musical direction by Allen Cole, 1992-1993 - house programs. University of Guelph
creatorOf Theatre Passe Muraille Archives. Hush / libretto by Noam Riches ; music by Allen Cole ; directed by Alisa Palmer and Peter Hinton, 1990 - production photos. University of Guelph
creatorOf Tarragon Theatre Archives (University of Guelph). Anything That Moves / book by Ann-Marie MacDonald with Alisa Palmer, music by Allen Cole, lyrics by Ann-Marie MacDonald ; directed by Alisa Palmer, 2001 - House Program. University of Guelph
creatorOf Shaw Festival Collection (University of Guelph). The Coronation voyage / by Michel Marc Bouchar, translated by Linda Gaboriau ; directed by Jackie Maxwell, original music composed by Allen Cole, 2003 - house program. University of Guelph
Role Title Holding Repository
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Subject
African Americans--Ohio--Cleveland--History--Sources
African Americans--Ohio--Cleveland--Social life and customs--Photographs
African American athletes--Ohio--Cleveland--Photographs
Cole, Allen E., 1883-1970
African American businesspeople--Ohio--Cleveland--Photographs
African American portrait photographers--Ohio--Cleveland
African American business enterprises--Ohio--Cleveland--Photographs
African Americans--Ohio--Cleveland--Societies, etc.--Photographs
Cole, Allen E., 1883-1970--Photograph collections
African American entertainers--Ohio--Cleveland--Photographs
Commercial photography--Ohio--Cleveland--History--Sources
African American men--Ohio--Cleveland--Photographs
African American neighborhoods--Ohio--Cleveland--Photographs
African American women--Ohio--Cleveland--Photographs
African American families--Ohio--Cleveland--Photographs
African American photographers--Ohio--Cleveland
Photography, Commercial--Ohio--Cleveland--History--Sources
African Americans--Ohio--Cleveland--Photographs
African American churches--Ohio--Cleveland--Photographs
African American clergy--Ohio--Cleveland--Photographs
African American children--Ohio--Cleveland--Photographs
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