William Boyd Allison was born in Perry, Ohio, on March 2, 1829. He attended Allegheny College in Meadville, Pennsylvania, and in 1849, graduated from Western Reserve College of Hudson, Ohio (now in Cleveland). After studying law, he was admitted to the bar in 1852, and began his legal career in Ashland, Ohio. Allison moved to Dubuque, Iowa, in 1857 where he established a law practice. During the Civil War, Allison served as a lieutenant colonel in the Union army. He was elected as a Republican to four successive terms (1863-1871) in the US House of Representatives where he was chairman of Expenditures in the Department of the Treasury. An unsuccessful candidate for the US Senate in 1870, he returned to Dubuque and his law practice. Two years later he again ran for the Senate, this time winning. Allison remained in the Senate until his death in 1908. During that time he served on the Appropriations Committee and the Committee on Engrossed Bills, and was chairman of both the Committee on Indian Affairs and the Republican Caucus.