Biographical / Historical
Allen Seymour Olmsted, 2nd, a lawyer and judge, was also an activist for civil liberties and pacifist causes. He was born on July 9, 1888, in Le Roy (New York), the son of John Bartow and Clara Morgan Olmsted. He attended Lafayette High School in Buffalo (New York), and then went to Harvard University, where he graduated cum laude in 1909. In 1912, he received a law degree from Harvard Law School. While a student there, he was president of the Harvard Men's League for Woman Suffrage. Following law school, Olmsted was admitted to the bar in Massachusetts, New York, and Pennsylvania. Early in his career, he specialized in railroad rate cases, bringing them before the Interstate Commerce Commission and various state regulatory agencies.
Olmsted moved to Philadelphia (Pennsylvania) in 1915 and soon joined the law practice of Saul, Ewing, Remick, and Saul. In 1930, he moved his principal office to Media (Pennsylvania), but maintained a downtown Philadelphia office at Saul, Ewing as well. He enlisted and served overseas during World War I with the American Expeditionary Force as a sergeant major with the 14th Railway Engineers (1917-1919), and remained for a year after the war with the Sorbonne Detachment in Paris. Disillusioned by war as a solution to world disputes, Olmsted began to have a strong interest in pacifism.
In 1921, Olmsted married Mildred Scott Olmsted, whose papers (DG 082) are also available at the Swarthmore College Peace Collection. The couple had a son, Peter Scott, and adopted two more children, Enid Scott and Anthony Scott. Allen Olmsted supported his wife's peace activities by serving as counsel without fee for the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom and, later, for the Jane Addams Peace Association.
Early in the 1920s, Olmsted served on the Council of the Pennsylvania branch of the American Birth Control Federation and was on the Council of the Philadelphia branch as well. He was President of Philadelphia Young Democracy in 1923. In 1927, as a member of the American Legion's Howard C. McCall Post #20, Olmsted stood trial for urging that an alien had the right to make pro-Communist remarks and should be defended accordingly; he was subsequently acquitted by the Legion for his "alleged seditious utterings." Olmsted served as an attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union, and was a member of that organization most of his life. He was active in the National Council for Prevention of War. He served as Chairman and was active with the Philadelphia Peace Council (1926-1945), whose purpose was "to further international justice and good will by acting as a clearing-house for information and as a link for co-operation between organized groups working for World Peace."
During World War II, Olmsted joined the Religious Society of Friends and served on the Conscription, Disarmament, and Rights of Conscience Subcommittee of the Friends Committee on National Legislation. On behalf of the Joint Peace Committee (of Chester and Providence (Pennsylvania) Friends Monthly Meetings), he helped to draft a proposal to stop the war without an unconditional surrender by Germany. In 1950, he helped raise funds for the Larry Gara conscientious objection case. He served as treasurer of the Central Committee for Conscientious Objectors in the early 1950s and was also on its Legal Committee. Olmsted was a member of the Rights of Conscience Committee of the American Friends Service Committee in 1955 and 1956.
Allen Olmsted was also interested in politics. He ran for the legislature on the Democratic ticket in 1928, and for Judge of the Court of Common Pleas in 1937, 1947, and 1949. In 1958, he was appointed Judge by Democratic Governor George Leader, and became the first Democrat ever named to be Judge of the Court of Common Pleas of Delaware County (Pennsylvania). In a bid for election in Nov. 1959, Olmsted was defeated by Republican Thomas A. Curran.
The Olmsteds resided in Rose Valley (Pennsylvania). Allen Olmsted died in December 1977 at the age of 89.