Today’s entry from the RedState Department of History discusses some of the most famous whiskers in world history. On this date in 1860, a young girl named Grace Bedell entered the national conversation in a most unique way.
Bedell was born in 1848. Her father became a staunch member of what was then the brand-new Republican Party, and was a supporter of Abraham Lincoln for President in the election of 1860.
While looking at a caricature of Lincoln with running mate and eventual Vice-President Hannibal Hamlin, Bedell’s father thought Lincoln didn’t look distinguished enough — something his daughter noted. She later wrote:
“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.”
So, she did. In one of the more famous correspondences between candidate and private citizen in our history, Bedell wrote to Lincoln on this date in 1860 (spelling errors included):
Hon A B Lincoln…
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
Perhaps to Bedell’s surprise, Lincoln wrote back:
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
And so, Lincoln grew his beard. Three months later, President Lincoln stopped in Bedell’s home town of Westfield, New York, and Bedell came to see him. The President noted her letter:
Some three months ago, I received a letter from a young lady here; it was a very pretty letter, and she advised me to let my whiskers grow, as it would improve my personal appearance; acting partly upon her suggestion, I have done so; and now, if she is here, I would like to see her; I think her name was Miss Barlly.” A small boy, mounted on a post, with his mouth and eyes both wide open, cried out, “there she is, Mr. Lincoln,” pointing to a beautiful girl, with black eyes, who was blushing all over her fair face.
Bedell remembered the occasion 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.”
The occasion is commemorated by a unique statue in the city.
Bedell later married a Union Army veteran, moved with him to Kansas and lived there until her death in 1936.
Happy Sunday and enjoy today’s open thread!