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The Story Behind Our First Bearded President

Many powerful men have worn beards on their faces throughout history, and Abraham Lincoln is likely one of the first names to come to mind. The 16th president of the United States was the first in his profession to proudly wear facial hair, but why did he do it? Being the first to break tradition is a pretty bold move, especially if you’re hoping to lead a country.

Honest Abe didn’t begin his campaign with a beard. It seems as though his plan was to follow the footsteps of the great leaders before him, but one letter from an 11 year old girl changed that.

The young lady responsible for the president’s beard was Grace Bedell of Westfield, NY. She suggested that he grow out his beard to improve his appearance and better his chances of being elected. In fact, one part of her letter read  “All the ladies like whiskers and they would tease their husband’s to vote for you and then you would be President.”

It’s safe to say that Miss Bedell was onto something, because this is true of many women today- the ladies just love the beards.

The correspondence between President-Elect Lincoln and 11-year-old Grace Bedell in 1860. Documents courtesy of the Detroit Public Library, Burton Historical Collection and the Benjamin Shapell Family Manuscript Foundation.

While we will never know for certain whether or not Abe’s beard won him the election, it’s safe to assume that it had a hand in the matter. Beards really do have great potential to improve one’s appearance. Maybe that’s why they say “beards are makeup for men.”

So, in honor of President’s Day, we hope you have enjoyed this piece of information about the first bearded president of the United States. If you already knew the history of why he grew a beard and still read this blog, we tip our top hats and thank you kindly!

Fineberg, Gail. “The Advice of a Little Girl”. Library of Congress. 2009 March.


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