The incredible story of the girl, age 11, who encouraged Lincoln to grow a beard because ‘all the ladies like whiskers’
Even among the distinguished company of former U.S. presidents, Abraham Lincoln’s portrait stands out.
Nearly every schoolchild can pick out the 16th president, thanks his to tall, this frame, his long coat and stovepipe hat – and the distinctive beard on his chin.
The source of the president’s facial hair has been revealed as an 11-year-old girl who wrote a letter to the then-Republican presidential candidate and urged him to grow a beard because ‘all the ladies like whiskers.’
Distinctive: This is the image of Abraham Lincoln that Americans have come to know — stately and with his chin adorned by a neatly kept beard
Political boom: Grace Bedell said Lincoln’s face would look less ‘thin’ if he grew a beard and said he would certainly win the election because ‘all the ladies like whiskers’
Grace Bedell of Westfield, New York, penned a letter to Lincoln in October 1860 suggesting that he would have a better chance of getting elected if he grew a beard, Mental Floss magazine reports.
The story of Lincoln’s trademark beard has become a source of national interest after the release – and success – of Steven Spielberg’s newest film, ‘Lincoln.’
Daniel Day Lewis takes on the role of the battle-hardened president as he lead the nation through the brutal Civil War.
Remarkable: Grace Bedell, seen here as a young woman in the 1870s, won Lincoln’s heart with her letter
‘You would look a great deal better for your face is so thin,’ she said.
‘All the ladies like whiskers and they would tease their husbands to vote for you and then you would be President.’
Women weren’t allowed to vote at the time, and did not gain the right until 1920.
Remarkably, the Illinois Senator promptly wrote her back.
‘As to the whiskers, having never worn any, do you not think people would call it a piece of silly affectation if I were to begin it now’
He did not promise her a beard, but photographs from the era reveal he stopped shaving shortly after the letter was written.
Weeks later, when he was elected president, Lincoln stopped in New York to visit little Grace on his way from Illinois to Washington, D.C.
A newspaper report from the time captured the scene: ‘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.’
Later, Grace told reports that the newly-elected president sat on the edge of the train platform with her and told her ‘Gracie, look at my whiskers. I have been growing them for you.’
The exchange between the 11-year-old and one of the nation’s greatest presidents became such a strong symbol that when Gracie later moved to Delphos, Kansas, the town erected a statue of the little girl and Lincoln meeting.
Signs on the interstate still advertise the city as the home of ‘Lincoln’s Little Girl.’
In 2010, a low-budget short film called ‘Grace Bedell’ was produced, telling the story of the girl’s decision to send a letter to the Lincoln.
The saga between Lincoln and Grace does not end there, though.
In 2007 a third letter between the two was discovered.
History in the making: These are the letters exchanged between Grace and then-Republican candidate Lincoln in October 1860
This one is more dire and far less innocent.
In 1864, after three years of brutal war between the states, Grace, now age 15, wrote the president and asked for his help getting a job at the Treasury Department printing banknotes.
‘My Father during the last few years lost nearly all his property, and although we have never known want, I feel that I ought and could do something for myself,’ she wrote.
She made reference to a previous letter that had gone unanswered and begged Lincoln to remember her as the little girl who convinced him to grow his whiskers.
There is no evidence Lincoln, mired in the war, ever responded to her request.
She later married a former Union soldier and moved to Kansas in 1871, where they farmed a plot of land. Her husband later went into banking.
Grace died in 1936.
A LITTLE GIRL’S AUDACIOUS REQUEST: GRACE BEDELL’S LETTER TO ABRAHAM LINCOLN REVEALED
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 got 4 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 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
ADVICE TAKEN: HOW ABRAHAM LINCOLN QUICKLY RESPONDED TO LITTLE GRACIE’S LETTER
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 piece of silly affectation if I were to begin it now?
Your very sincere well wisher,
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