Sculptor Emma Cadwalader Guild had long wished to model her fellow Ohioan, President William McKinley, but his busy schedule had not permitted a sitting. National grief after his death led to popular sentiment favoring an appropriate memorial of the late president in the U.S. Capitol. So the artist, who had abandoned hope for her project upon the president’s death, now resolved to create a posthumous bust instead. She collected all available photographic images and began the model. She worked on the McKinley bust in a studio in Athens, Ohio, covering the walls with images of the late president for inspiration. Guild studied each picture carefully and then removed it from the wall. “Finally but two were left, one representing her subject while he was Governor of the commonwealth, making a public address, and the other a picture which was made of him at a little dinner party at Senator Hanna’s Cleveland residence. With these two pictures she completed her study.”
The likeness was then cast in New York, and with the support of the Ohio congressional delegation, the bronze was brought to the Capitol for approval. The Joint Committee on the Library was subsequently authorized to pay the artist $2,000 and to place the bust in the Senate wing of the Capitol. With the acquisition of the McKinley bust, the artist was “granted the unusual honor of placing it on display in the President’s room.” 
Emma Cadwalader Guild was born in Zanesville, Ohio, in 1843. Largely self-taught, she spent much of her artistic career in Europe, establishing studios in London, Berlin, and Italy. Early works include a bronze figure of a standing African American man entitled Free, a marble bust of British statesman William Gladstone, a bronze of English artist George F. Watts, and a relief of Cardinal Henry Edward Manning. While initially Guild was relatively unknown in the United States, her bust of the late President McKinley, as well as a bust of Abraham Lincoln, brought the artist new recognition in her native country. In 1904 she exhibited at the Louisiana Exposition in St. Louis and won a bronze medal. Other important U.S. projects, including a bust of Andrew Carnegie, were to follow.
1. Abby G. Baker, “An American Woman Sculptor,” Pearson’s Magazine, February 1904, 174.