A.B. Harvard, 1851; study at Berlin and Göttingen, 1854-5.
Tutor, private family, New York, 1851-4; asso. princ, English and Classical School (West Newton, MA), 1856-63; tchr. Freedman's Aid Commission, St. Helena Island, SC, 1863-4; agent, Sanitary Commission, Helena AR, 1864-5; asst. supt. schools, Charleston, SC; prof. anc. langs., Antioch College, 1865-6; tchr., military academy (Perth Amboy, NJ), 1866-7; prof. anc. langs. & history, U. Wisconsin, 1867-89.
Slave Songs of the United States, ed. with Charles P. Ware and Lucy M. Garrison (New York, 1867); Manual Latin Grammar, with J. H. Allen (Boston, 1868); A Latin Reader, with J. H. Allen (Boston, 1869); Introduction to Latin Composition (Boston, 1870); Caesar, De Bello Gallico (Boston, 1874); Cicero De Senectute and Select Orations (Boston, 1873); "The Battle of Mons Graupius" TAPA 11 (1880) 83-91; Tacitus, Agricola and Germania (Boston, 1881); Tacitus Annals I-VI (Boston, 1882); "The Monetary Crisis in Rome, A.D. 33" TAPA 18 (1887) 5-18; "The Lex Curiata de Imperio" TAPA 19 (1888) 5-19; Essays and Monographs (Boston, 1890); A Short History of the Roman People (Boston, 1890);Edited with J. H. Allen and J. B. Greenough: Gai Sallusti Crispi De Catilinae coniuratione (Boston, 1874); The Poems of Virgil. Vol. I Pastoral Poems and Six Books of the Aeneid (Boston, 1877) (vol. 2 not published); Gai Juli Caesaris De bello Gallico, (Boston, 1883); Selections from Ovid, Chiefly the Metamorphoses, rev. by H. N. Fowler (Boston, 1890); Essays and Monographs, Memorial Volume (Boston, 1890); M. Tulli Ciceronis Cato Maior de Senectute, reedited by Katharine Allen (Boston & New York, 1908).
William Francis Allen was one of the pioneers in the teaching of ancient history in the United States, turning from philology to broader interests in the ancient world, teaching by topics and relying on original sources. He is remembered for his Latin Reader, co-edited with his brother, Joseph Henry Allen, and as the author of over 900 articles and reviews on classical, historical, and political subjects. He contributed historical and mythological notes as well as introductions to the Allen and Greenough series of texts (see Joseph Henry Allen). He redirected the Wisconsin department toward scholarship and was instrumental in the development of the graduate school. Frederick Jackson Turner was his protége.
J. D. Butler, Trans. Wise. Acad. Sci., Arts and Letters 8 (1890) 439-41; DAB 1:211; David B. Frankenburger, "Memoir" in Essays and Monographs (Boston, 1890) 3-21, with bibliography, 353-82; NatCAB 6:160; Sandys, 459; Clement L. Smith, CR 4 (1890) 426-8; WhAmHS 89.