Miss Annie Allen (1853-1927) was a granddaughter of Dinah Trigg Allen and Shubael Allen. When George Caleb Bingham painted Annie’s portrait, she lived with her disfigured, reclusive grandmother and her pharmacist father, Trigg Thomas Allen (1804-1905). Her mother, Ann January Allen, died before 1860. Around Annie’s throat is a coral necklace. People of the 19th century thought coral protected children from illness. Adornments with the stone appear in many children’s portraits. Not many children wore so many coral strands nor had a living portrait painted in such a grand manner.
When I first saw the portrait of Miss Annie Allen, it puzzled me. Never before had I seen orange in Bingham’s palette or a full floral bouquet on a dress he painted.
One day on a break from my volunteer duties at the superb little Columbia Pacific Heritage Museum in Ilwaco, Washington, I mentioned the unusual painting to the archivist and curator, Barbara Minard, and showed her an image. Barbara once worked in New Mexico. She marveled at the hand-embroidered dress from Mexico. As a good historian, she qualified that she couldn’t be certain the dress was from Mexico, but it certainly reminded her of similar dresses, especially the hem design.
The following day I visited a former college roommate who grew up in southwest Texas. In undergraduate school we enrolled together in art history classes and art and art history are still touchstones for us today. I mentioned the dress to her. When I shared the image of Miss Annie Allen, she said matter-of-factly, “Yes, it’s from Mexico. My sister and I had dresses like that when we were children.”
In 1875, when she was 21, Annie married Samuel Livingston Long, a young merchant. After several years in St. Louis, they and their five children made their home in Kansas City. Annie Allen Long died in 1930, but her image, her early life, and the influence of the Santa Fe trade in Missouri are preserved in the George Caleb Bingham portrait, Miss Annie Allen.