In 1904 John Taylor Wood contacted the chairman of the Joint Committee on the Library, Senator George Peabody Wetmore, offering to sell the bust of his grandfather Zachary Taylor. “This Bust was given to me by my mother, eldest child of President Taylor, who married General Robert Crooke Wood, Surgeon-General U.S. Army. As far as the family know[s] it is the only one extant of him,” wrote Wood in a letter. He further noted: “All agree it is a most excellent likeness; could not be excelled; the work of a talented sculptor. But strange I have no record of the artist nor have I been able to obtain his name.”
Several bills on the subject were introduced and reported in the Senate, but no floor action took place until 1909. At that time, the committee purchased the bust of Taylor from Lola Wood, widow of John Taylor Wood. The committee paid Lola Wood $2,000, drawn from funds specifically designated for that purpose in the Sundry Civil Expenses Act, approved March 4, 1909.
As John Wood reported, the identity of the sculptor is not known. The likeness of Taylor in the Senate’s portrait bust is, however, similar to that appearing on a commemorative medal authorized by resolution of Congress on May 9, 1848, to recognize Taylor’s Mexican War victory. The miniature portrait in profile was engraved by Charles Cushing Wright from a bas-relief portrait by Salathiel Ellis. Known as a sculptor of cameo portraits, Ellis designed several medals for the United States Mint, including those honoring Millard Fillmore, Franklin Pierce, James Buchanan, Abraham Lincoln, Winfield Scott, and Cornelius Vanderbilt.