Alanson B. Houghton was born on 10 October in 1863 in Cambridge, Middlesex County, Massachusetts. His father, Amory Houghton Jr, would be named the president of Corning Glass Works, the company founded by his grandfather, Amory Houghton Sr, in 1851. In 1868, his family moved to Corning, New York. He attended the Corning Free Academy in Corning and St. Paul's School in Concord, New Hampshire. Houghton graduated from Harvard University in 1886 and then pursued postgraduate courses in Europe.