President Lincoln’s iconic whiskers are now an inevitable part of his image, but the origin of the president’s facial hair are weirder than you can imagine. Weeks before Abe Lincoln became the 16th President of the United States at the age of 51, someone suggest him a makeover, and that someone was an 11-year old girl called Grace Greenwood Bedell.
On October 15, 1860, a few weeks before Abe Lincoln was elected President of the United States, Grace Bedell sent him a letter from Westfield, New York, urging him to grow a beard to improve his appearance.Lincoln responded in a letter on October 19, 1860, making no promises. However, within a month, he grew a full beard.
In an 1878 interview with a local newspaper of Westfield, Grace Bedell-Billings recalled what prompted her to write the letter.
- “We were at that time residing at Westfield, N.Y. My father, who was a staunch Republican, brought one day to me—who followed in his footsteps and was a zealous champion of Mr. Lincoln—a picture of ‘Lincoln and Hamlin,’ one of those coarse exaggerated likenesses which it seems the fate of our long-suffering people in such contents. You are familiar with Mr. Lincoln’s physiognomy, and remember the high forehead over those sadly pathetic eyes, the angular lower face with the deep cut lines about the mouth. As I regarded the picture, I said to my mother ‘He would look better if he wore whiskers, and I mean to write and tell him so.'”
Here is the transcript that Beddell sent to the president:
- Dear Sir
- My father has just home from the fair and brought home your picture and Mr. Hamlin’s. I am a little girl only 11 years old, but want you should be President of the United States very much so I hope you wont think me very bold to write to such a great man as you are. Have you any little girls about as large as I am if so give them my love and tell her to write to me if you cannot answer this letter. I have yet got four brothers and part of them will vote for you any way and if you let your whiskers grow I will try and get the rest of them to vote for you you would look a great deal better for your face is so thin. All the ladies like whiskers and they would tease their husbands to vote for you and then you would be President. My father is going to vote for you and if I was a man I would vote for you to [sic] but I will try to get every one to vote for you that I can I think that rail fence around your picture makes it look very pretty I have got a little baby sister she is nine weeks old and is just as cunning as can be. When you direct your letter direct to Grace Bedell Westfield Chautauqua County New York.
- I must not write any more answer this letter right off Good bye
- Grace Bedell
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