In 1965 Marie J. Niehaus, daughter of sculptor Charles Niehaus, bequeathed her father’s bust of President James Garfield to the United States. She asked that the piece be displayed in the President’s Room of the U.S. Capitol, along with the bust of President William McKinley, already in the room. The Joint Committee on the Library accepted the Garfield bust as a gift from the Niehaus estate.
Born in Cincinnati, Ohio, and trained in his home state and at Munich’s Royal Academy, Niehaus was Cincinnati’s logical choice to create the city’s memorial to the slain president following Garfield’s death in 1881. The resulting standing figure of Garfield, modeled in 1883 as Niehaus’s first commission, led immediately to commissions for Ohio’s two contributions to the National Statuary Hall Collection in the U.S. Capitol: Garfield and former governor William Allen.
Marie Niehaus stated that her father executed the Senate’s bust of Garfield at the same time as his full-length sculptures of the president. Lucretia Garfield, the widowed first lady, is said to have consulted on the modeling of the works.
After the Garfield commissions, Niehaus primarily worked abroad in a Rome studio. In 1892 he executed a particularly noteworthy pair of bronze relief doors for New York City’s Trinity Church, and in 1893 he exhibited with distinction at the World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago. Niehaus is represented today by 10 sculptural pieces in the U.S. Capitol; the Senate’s busts of Garfield and Vice President Daniel D. Tompkins are among them. His public sculptures are located in numerous cities in the United States.