How a Little Girl Grew a Beard and Changed History

Abraham Lincoln, three-quarter length portrait...

According to the “On This Day” section of The New York Times, in 1860 a girl named Grace Bedell wrote a letter to Abraham Lincoln stating that she believed Lincoln could improve his appearance if he grew a beard.

I thought this was interesting story so Keith and I began searching the entire Internet and came across some really interesting primary sources regarding this event.  Our results are below.

Keith immediately went to the Library of Congress and found some direct sources, including the actual letter Grace wrote to Lincoln.

The above link is a snippet from the The Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Exhibition focusing on his time as a Presidential candidate, titled “Candidate Lincoln.”  On this page you can view Lincoln pre- and with-beard, which is pretty entertaining and interesting.

Here as an easier to read transcription of Grace Bedell’s letter.  But I’ll quote the full thing below.  I love reading the language of Lincoln’s day.

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 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

Grace Bedell

Followed by Lincoln’s personal reply to the 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, 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

A. Lincoln

ABC News has an interesting article about this story, reported on during President Obama’s Inauguration. Be sure to watch the fascinating video on the page.

There is also a great website called the Grace Bedell Foundation,  that shares the same video as above, without any of the advertisements, as well as a plethora of information about the Grace’s history, Lincoln, and their correspondence.

Below are some additional fun links we found while searching for this post.

A Google Maps view of The Bedell-Lincoln Statue, located in Westfield, NY, which was featured in the video.

A collection of pictures of the statue on Panoramio.

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