Lincoln’s Beard

In 1860 Abraham Lincoln was nominated as the Republican candidate for president. What a lot of people don’t realize is that Lincoln didn’t always have the whiskers that we automatically connect with his image. In fact, it was Lincoln’s campaign poster that sparked the desire of a little girl living in Westfield, NY to write to the candidate.

Hon A B Lincoln

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 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 Westfield Chautauqua County New York.

I must not write any more answer this letter right off. Goodbye.

Grace Bedell”

Lincoln took the time to sit down and write a reply to Miss Bedell’s rambling 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 have never worn any do you not think people would call it a silly affection if I were to begin it now?

Your very sincere well wisher

A. Lincoln”

As we all know, Lincoln grew out his beard and won the election. I’m not sure that the whiskers were what cinched it, but he definitely wouldn’t be the Lincoln that we know and love without them. The train that carried Lincoln from Springfield, Illinois to his new home in Washington D.C. went through Westfield. Lincoln made a stop in this little western NY town and asked to meet Grace. He sat with her on the edge of the platform and chatted with her for a bit. According to her, he pointed out his whiskers and told her that he had been growing them out for her. He gave her a kiss on the cheek and she never saw him again. The next time that Lincoln would travel through this little town would be during the journey to carry his body back to Illinois after he was assassinated.

The train station where Lincoln met Grace Bedell no longer stands, but the town of Westfield has immortalized this meeting with a statue. It has been vandalized a bit over the years, but the two figures still stand there in greeting.

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