Isaac Wayne MacVeagh was born in Phoenixville, Pennsylvania, on April 19, 1833. He attended school in Pottstown, Pennsylvania, and then went to Yale College where he graduated, tenth in his class, in 1853. He studied law in West Chester, Pennsylvania, and was admitted to the bar in 1856. He served in the Union army during the Civil War as an infantry captain and as a major in the cavalry. He was compelled to resign from the military because of ill health. MacVeagh served as chairman of the Republican State Committee of Pennsylvania in 1863, and was appointed United States Minister to Turkey in 1870. He served for one year. On March 5, 1891, President Garfield appointed him Attorney General of the United States. He was continued under Arthur's administration, but resigned on October 24, 1881. MacVeagh died on January 11, 1917 in Washington, D.C.
Uhle was born in Chemnitz, Saxony, and was brought to the United States by his parents in 1851. He received his first instructions in art from his father, attended the Pennsylvania Academy at age fifteen and studied the "old Masters" in Munich and Paris. He became interested in photography and devoted the years between 1867 and 1875 to this new medium. In 1877 Uhle opened a studio in Philadelphia and was constantly employed in painting portraits.
Uhle's portrait of Attorney General MacVeagh was painted in 1884.