Ira Allen: A Biography

Land speculator, revolutionary, pamphleteer, politician, and empire builder, Ira Allen was a key figure on the Green Mountain frontier. In a remarkable Vermont pioneer generation that included such noteworthy leaders as Ethan Allen, Thomas Chittenden, Moses Robinson, Isaac Tichenor, and Stephen Row Bradley, Allen stood out for his extraordinary energy, vision, and accomplishments.

Allen helped create and sustain the independent State of Vermont; held such important state offices as treasurer, surveyor general, and member of the Governor’s Council; published hundreds of pages defending Vermont against a host of internal and external enemies; and represented Vermont in negotiations with the British Empire, other American states, and Congress.

J. Kevin Graffagnino’s biography ably details Ira Allen’s extraordinary life. As the first published examination of Allen’s career in nearly a century, this book shines new light on Allen and his prominent role in Vermont’s formative decades.   

Advanced praise for Ira Allen: A Biography: 

Governor James Douglas: Surveyor, speculator, author, revolutionary: Ira Allen led a colorful and complicated life that’s captured in all its glory by one of Vermont’s foremost historians. Kevin Graffagnino brings a lifetime of scholarship to this biography of a Founding Father of the Green Mountain State. Was Ira likeable? Maybe not, but he was a key player in Vermont’s early history. You’ll know a lot more about the state’s formative years after reading this book.

Mercedes de Guardiola, author of “Vermont for the Vermonters”: The History of Eugenics in the Green Mountain State: Thoughtful and considered, Kevin Graffagnino’s biography skillfully draws out Ira Allen the man from the legends of the Allen brothers and their Green Mountain Boys. Graffagnino brings to life the complex politics of the Revolutionary War era, offering a nuanced look at a foundational chapter of Vermont’s history and a man who—for the better or worse of his fellows—could so often be found at the center of it all.

Robert Mello, author of Moses Robinson and the Founding of Vermont: In Ira Allen: A Biography, eminent Vermont historian J. Kevin Graffagnino skillfully untangles and illuminates the intriguing, multiplex life and career of one of Vermont’s most talented, enterprising, audacious, inscrutable, and tragic founders.

Peter S. Onuf, Thomas Jefferson Professor of History Emeritus, University of Virginia: Land speculator and political entrepreneur of dubious loyalty, Ira Allen emerges from brother Ethan’s long shadow in Kevin Graffagnino’s engaging new biography. Anyone interested in Vermont’s history in its fascinating formative decades will be richly rewarded by this wise and well-written account of this crucially important but neglected figure.”

Art Cohn, Director Emeritus, Lake Champlain Maritime Museum: It is often said that one of the rewards of studying history is that it allows us to mine the valuable lessons from the people who lived before us. If that be true, then this new biography chronicling the life of Ira Allen, masterfully researched and written by Kevin Graffagnino, provides an encyclopedia of lessons in human behavior. Ira Allen, youngest brother of the legendary Ethan, was a principal in the formation of Vermont, a partisan in the conflict between Yankees and Yorkers, and a player in the American Revolution whose obsession with wealth led to a tapestry of poor decisions, disastrous outcomes, and priceless lessons. This comprehensive biography confirms that while Ira was indeed a founder of the University of Vermont and the state itself, he was also “a hard founding father to love.”

Paperback and eBook, September 13th, 2024.

$24.95, 324 pages.

Read an interview with Graffagnino about the book here

Preorder from the VHS bookstore

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