Lincoln made no promises in his reply to Bedell’s letter:
- Springfield, Ill Oct 19, 1860
- Miss Grace Bedell
- My dear little Miss
- Your very agreeable letter of the 15th is received. I regret the necessity of saying I have no daughters. I have three sons – one seventeen, one nine, and one seven, years of age. They, with their mother, constitute my whole family. As to the whiskers, having never worn any, do you not think people would call it a silly affectation if I were to begin it now?
- Your very sincere well wisher
- A. Lincoln
- Shortly after this exchange, Lincoln allowed his beard to grow. By the time he began his inaugural journey from Illinois to Washington, D.C. by train, he had a full beard. The trip took him through New York State, and included a stop in Bedell’s hometown of Westfield, New York, where thousands gathered to meet the president-elect. There, Lincoln asked to meet Grace Bedell by name.
The February 19, 1861 edition of the New York World recounted the meeting as follows:
“At Westfield an interesting incident occurred. Shortly after his nomination Mr. Lincoln had received from that place a letter from a little girl, who urged him, as a means of improving his personal appearance, to wear whiskers. Mr. Lincoln at the time replied, stating that although he was obliged by the suggestion, he feared his habits of life were too fixed to admit of even so slight a change as that which letting his beard grow involved. To-day, on reaching the place, he related the incident, and said that if that young lady was in the crowd he should be glad to see her. There was a momentary commotion, in the midst of which an old man, struggling through the crowd, approached, leading his daughter, a girl of apparently twelve or thirteen years of age, whom he introduced to Mr. Lincoln as his Westfield correspondent. Mr. Lincoln stooped down and kissed the child, and talked with her for some minutes. Her advice had not been thrown away upon the rugged chieftain. A beard of several months’ growth covers (perhaps adorns) the lower part of his face. The young girl’s peachy cheek must have been tickled with a stiff whisker, for the growth of which she was herself responsible.”
Bedell recalled the event years later:
“He climbed down and sat down with me on the edge of the station platform,” she recalled. “‘Gracie,’ he said, ‘look at my whiskers. I have been growing them for you.’ Then he kissed me. I never saw him again.