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The Girl Who Told Abraham Lincoln to Grow His Beard

When you close your eyes and picture Abraham Lincoln, is he clean-shaven or bearded?

Most people would imagine him with a beard. This is how he appears in the places where we are most likely to encounter him: the penny and the Lincoln Monument. But it turns out that if not for some astute personal grooming advice from an 11-year-old girl, the Lincoln we all know might have been beardless.

Portrait of Abe Lincoln taken on August 13, 1860. (Courtesy: Library of Congress, public domain)

Portrait of Abe Lincoln taken on August 13, 1860. (Courtesy: Library of Congress, public domain)

Grace Bedell was a little girl growing up in Westfield, New York who admired the self-taught lawyer from Illinois who was running for president. She had one problem with him, however: she felt he should grow a beard to fill out his thin face.

Grace decided to write him a letter to tell him this.

Hon A B [sic] Lincoln…

Dear Sir

My father has just home for 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 left 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 for for you to [sic] but I will try to get every one to vote for you that I can 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 Westield Chautauqua County New York. I must not write any more answer this letter right off

Good bye

Grace Bedell

Abe Lincoln received and responded to her letter personally, in his typical humble and humorous style:

Springfield, III 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

Though it appears from his response that he is not inclined to take her advice, look how he appears in this photo from just a month later, a few weeks after winning the election:

Portrait of Abraham Lincoln by Samuel G. Alshuler, November 25 1860 (Courtesy: Library of Congress)

Portrait of Abraham Lincoln by Samuel G. Alshuler, November 25 1860 (Courtesy: Library of Congress)

When President-Elect Lincoln headed from his home in Illinois to Washington D.C. for his inauguration, his trip took him through New York State, and he stopped in Westfield — Grace’s hometown. Here’s how the Hartford Weekly Times recounted the incident in 1878:

Hartford Weekly Times, November 21, 1878. (Courtesy: The MyHeritage newspaper collections)

Hartford Weekly Times, November 21, 1878. (Courtesy: The MyHeritage newspaper collections)

The president-elect asked to see Grace at the platform. She was in the crowd, but was too far away from Abe to hear the request. A friend led her forward, and Abe shook her hands and kissed her, and said: “You see, I let these whiskers grow for you, Grace.”

Abraham Lincoln kept that beard for the rest of his (albeit all-too-short) life.

This story became quite popular after his assassination, and today, there is a statue depicting the event of their meeting located in Westfield. Perhaps this anecdote captured so many imaginations because it embodies something about what the United States of America has always strived to be: a place where every voice matters. 

The post The Girl Who Told Abraham Lincoln to Grow His Beard appeared first on MyHeritage Blog.

Source: My Heritage

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