S. L. Allen & Planet Jr.


That fellow in the picture is Samuel Leeds Allen. He was an inventor and manufacturer of agricultural implements which were sold under the Planet Jr. trade name.

Allen was born May 5, 1841 into a prominent Quaker family in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. After graduating from a Quaker boarding school in 1859, S.L. went to live and work at his father's farm in New Jersey.

Young Sam applied his natural problem-solving intellect and mechanical skills to the work at hand. When he was 27 years old he patented his first agricultural tool— a seed planter fashioned from two wash basins.

Shortly thereafter he established the S.L. Allen manufacturing company. Allen was awarded almost 300 patents in his lifetime, most of which were for different farm and garden tools sold with the Planet Jr. name attached to them.

But Samuel Allen's most famous invention was not an agricultural implement. In 1889 he invented a snow sled with steel runners that could be easily steered. He called his new sled the Flexible Flyer.

Allen died in 1918 at 77 years old. The S.L. Allen Company and Planet Jr. was sold off in 1968. Planet Jr. is now a part of history, but the Flexible Flyer sleds are still being made (in China).

S.L. Allen became wealthy from is many inventions and his manufacturing company. But he was also known as a caring and innovative employer. Allen was one of the first industrialists to provide his workers with disability insurance and retirement plans. It is reported that he developed and produced the Flexible Flyer sled as a way of keeping his employees working in the winter months when demand for agricultural tools was slow and employees were often laid off.

I would like to learn more about this man. If anyone can direct me to an extensive biography of S.L. Allen, I would appreciate it. What I'd really like to know is how he came up with the name, "Planet Jr."