Abraham Lincoln Grows a Beard

Abraham Lincoln left, before he received the letter from Grace Bedell, and right, shortly before he met her in 1861
Abraham Lincoln left, before he received the letter from Grace Bedell, and right, shortly before he met her in 1861

Historical Context

Abraham Lincoln sported one of the most famous beards in history, but this may not have happened without the intervention of an eleven-year-old girl named Grace Bedell. She wrote a letter to Lincoln, then the then-Republican nominee for President, and, asking he President to grow 'whiskers', said "All the ladies like whiskers and they would tease their husbands to vote for you and then you would be President."

Lincoln responded to Bedell's letter, saying: "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?"

Nevertheless, Lincoln began to grow his famous beard out after the exchange of letters with Bedell. This was not the end of the story: Lincoln actually met Bedell when he was taking a train from Illinois to Washington D.C. for his inauguration in February 1861. Stopping in her hometown of Westfield, New York, Lincoln asked to meet the girl, and years later she recalled: "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."

It was revealed that Bedell wrote Lincoln a second letter in 1864 asking for a job at Treasury so she could support her family financially, but it is not known if Lincoln ever received or read this letter. He would be assassinated in 1865.

Photo Info


Photographer: Unknown
Location taken: Westfield, New York, USA

Source: Wikimedia Commons

Related Events

  • 1860-10-15 11-year-old Grace Bedell writes to Abraham Lincoln telling him to grow a beard
  • 1861-02-16 Abraham Lincoln stops his train at Westfield on his way to Washington to thank 11-year old Grace Bedell in person for her advice to grow a beard to gain more votes

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