William Dennison was born in Cincinnati, Ohio in 1815. He worked with his father's woolen firm as a youth and studied law in Cincinnati, becoming active with the Whig Party prior to relocating to Columbus c.1838. In 1858 he gained the party nomination for the United States Senate and won election the next year. Later he served as Postmaster General of the United States. His election as Governor of the State of Ohio came on the heels of this appointment in 1860. Dennison was chairman for the National Union/Republican Party at their convention in Baltimore in 1864. This convention nominated Abraham Lincoln. Following the Civil War, Dennison became commissioner of the District of Columbia, receiving that appointment from President Grant. Dennison died in Columbus, Ohio in 1882.
John Henry Witt (Witte) was born in Indiana near the Ohio River town of Dublin, and during his youth worked as a machinist and Wagon Painter for his uncle's agricultural supply firm. Witt relocated to Columbus after a time of study with J.O. Eaton in Cincinnati, the year was 1862. J.O. Eaton had gained the reputation of being one of the most talented figures and portrait painting. John Witt was a very active artist in the Central Ohio, painting portraits of many of the leading families therein. He also was a noteworthy teacher, his students included some of the foremost regional artists of the day. Silas Martin, James Mosure, and Philip Clover were some of the standouts. Witt took an active role in the affairs of the Capitol city and is the artist of record for a significant number of the Ohio governor's portraits in this collection. The year 1873 finds Witt in Washington painting portraits of General Sherman, Senator Sherman, Judge Swayne, and Charles Sumner. He was a member of the Literary Club of Washington, D.C. In 1878 he moved to New York City where he was met with great success, becoming one of the top society artists of the day. Witt was enrolled as an associate member of the New York Academy of Art in 1887.