While serving as vice president, Garret Augustus Hobart was asked by the Joint Committee on the Library to select a sculptor to execute a marble bust of himself for the Senate’s Vice Presidential Bust Collection. The committee acted according to the recently adopted Senate resolution of January 6, 1898, which expanded the collection beyond the Chamber’s gallery-level niches to allow placement of the busts in the “Senate wing of the Capitol.” Hobart, however, delayed the decision and died without having made a recommendation. In 1900 the committee asked the deceased vice president’s widow, Jennie Tuttle Hobart, for a referral; she chose distinguished sculptor Frank Edwin Elwell, a New Jersey resident.
Fine arts juries at the World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago in 1893 had awarded Elwell’s sculptural groups a gold medal. Previously he had sculpted the Senate’s bust of Vice President Levi P. Morton, along with many other works. Elwell prepared the plaster model for the Hobart bust in his New York City studio, and the well-known marble cutters, Piccirilli Brothers, translated the model into marble. Elwell wrote to then-acting Architect of the Capitol Elliott Woods in June of 1901: “There is however a slight dark spot on the lapel of the coat on the right side facing the bust, but it is of no account, in fact I think that the marble is superior to the Morton bust in color. The face is entirely clear with the exception of a very slight dark, near the hair. It is remarkable that so large a piece of marble should have come out so well.”
Jennie Tuttle Hobart was pleased with the resulting bust and, according to the artist, commented in a letter to him, “I think that no one could have made a better likeness than you have made.” Following Mrs. Hobart’s official approval, the completed marble bust was placed in the U.S. Capitol in 1901.
Elwell wrote and lectured on the importance of art in society, and later served as curator of statuary at New York City’s Metropolitan Museum of Art. His last major works, completed in 1907, were the symbolic figures of Greece and Rome for the United States Customs House in New York City.