Alphonso Taft was born in Townshend, Vermont, on November 5, 1810. He graduated from Yale College in 1833. Taft was a tutor at Ellington High School in Connecticut for two years, and then for two years at Yale College. While teaching, he studied law and was admitted to the bar, at New Haven, Connecticut, in 1838. He settled in Cincinnati in 1839, and was a member of the city council for three years, and a member of the boards of trustees of the University of Cincinnati and of Yale College. He received a degree of LL.D. from Yale in 1867. Taft was an unsuccessful candidate for Congress in 1856. In 1865 he was appointed to fill a vacancy on the bench of the superior court of Cincinnati, was elected and reelected unanimously, then resigned in 1872. In March 1876, Taft was appointed Secretary of War by President Grant, and on May 22, 1876, became Attorney General of the United States. At the expiration of his term of office, on March 11, 1877, he resumed the practice of law. Taft was U.S. Minister to Austria-Hungary in 1882, and Minister to Russia from August 22, 1884 through August 1885. He died in San Diego, California, on May 21, 1891.
Thorp was born in Ohio in 1844 and did not begin the study of art until he was twenty years old. During the 1870's he maintained a studio in the United States Capitol and painted many Government officials and other notables, including Grant, Lee, Sherman and Sheridan.
One of his portraits of Abraham Lincoln (made from earlier sketches) was purchased in 1920 for exhibition in the Senate Corridor of the United States Capitol.