Abraham Lincoln’s Beard

Grace (Bedell) Billings was born in 1848 in New York. As an eleven-year-old, she made an indelible mark on how we view President Abraham Lincoln.

On October 15, 1860, she wrote the presidential candidate a letter suggesting that more people would vote for him if he grew a beard. She told him that a beard would keep his face from looking so thin.

Candidate Lincoln responded to her four days later with the following 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 affection if I were to begin it now? Your very sincere well-wisher,

A. Lincoln

While Lincoln’s letter was non-committal about growing a beard, he actually did start growing one shortly after receiving Grace’s letter. His barber was William Fleurville, an immigrant from Haiti who settled in Springfield, Illinois out of fear that he would be enslaved if he chose to live in a warmer state.

Fleurville had been the future President’s barber for the 24 years that Lincoln lived in Springfield and Lincoln was his lawyer. It was Fleurville who the future President asked for advice on how best to shape his beard.

The beard grew out quickly and Lincoln was the successful candidate in the Presidential race. When he left Springfield to assume his duties in the nation’s capital, he decided to have the train stop in Grace’s hometown. A huge crowd was there to greet the President. He asked if Grace was present. She was and came forward.

Years later, Grace would recall their meeting. “He climbed down and sat down with me on the edge of the station platform,” she recalled. ”’Grace’, he said, ‘look at my whiskers. I have been growing them for you.’ Then he kissed me. I never saw him again.”

It’s hard to imagine Abraham Lincoln today without a beard. His iconic image was given as free advice. Today candidates for office spend fortunes on grooming advice.

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“Men don’t cry, they water their beard.” – unknown


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