Thomas Sully painted the present portraits of Montgomery Blair (1813-1883) and Mary Elizabeth Woodbury Blair (1821-1887) to commemorate the occasion of their marriage in 1846. Commissioned by the groom's father, Francis Preston Blair, the portraits were on display at the couple's residence in Washington, D.C., known as Blair House, from the time of their commission until 1942 when the house was purchased by the U.S. Government. The Blair House has since been the official residence for both foreign and domestic guests of the U.S. president.
Montgomery Blair served as United States District Attorney from 1839 to 1843, and later in the Court of Claims and was involved in the case of Dred Scott v. Sandford in 1857. In 1854 the Blairs were founding members of the newly formed Republican Party, and played a decisive role in the campaign to elect Abraham Lincoln to the presidency. Montgomery Blair was thereafter appointed and served as Postmaster General in Lincoln's cabinet.