ALPHONSO TAFT was born in Townshend, Vermont, on 5 November 1810; attended local schools and taught school to obtain funds to study at Amherst Academy; graduated from Yale College, 1833; taught school at Ellington, Connecticut; held a tutorship at Yale while studying law; was admitted to the Connecticut bar, 1838; moved to Cincinnati and commenced the practice of law, circa 1840; married Fanny Phelps, 1841, and, after her death, Louisa Torrey, 1853; was appointed to the superior court of Cincinnati to fill a vacancy, then elected to the post for two terms, 1865–1872; resumed the practice of law, 1872–1876; served as Secretary of War, 8 March–22 May 1876; was appointed attorney general of the United States, 1876–1877; was an unsuccessful candidate for governor of Ohio, 1875 and 1879; served as minister to Austria-Hungary, 1882–1884; served as minister to Russia, 1885–1886; died in San Diego, California, on 21 May 1891.
Daniel Huntington (1816–1906) had completed four of his seven decades as a working artist and had secured his reputation as a portrait, historical, and landscape painter when Secretary Alphonso Taft sat for him during the nation’s centennial year. The Army increased the fee for secretarial portraits from $300 to $500, effective with Huntington’s work on Taft, an increase fully justified in light of the additional requirements of painting from life—requirements involving appointments, sittings, and approvals.
By Daniel Huntington
Oil on canvas, 29½" x 24½", 1876
page created 2 March 2001
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