Everyone knows that there are two Abraham Lincolns, clean-shaven and bearded. Lincoln famously decided to grow a beard for the first time after his election in 1860, when a little girl wrote him a letter suggesting it. The fabulous blog Letters of Note has published the original letter, and Lincoln's reply, both with transcriptions. (The letter is kept at the Detroit Public Library.)
Lincoln in 1860, sans beard.
After her father came home with an election poster featuring Lincoln's beardless image, 11-year-old Grace Bedell wrote to Lincoln, telling him:
Let your whiskers grow . . . . 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.
Lincoln wrote Grace back, asking abut 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?" But he obviously changed his mind. When Lincoln travelled by train to Washington, he stopped at her hometown of Westfield, NY, and asked the crowd at the station if Grace was there. According to the New York World,
There was a momentary commotion, in the midst of which an old man, struggling through the crowd, approached, leading his daughter, a girl of apparently twelve or thirteen years of age, whom he introduced to Mr. Lincoln as his Westfield correspondent. 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.
Grace later recalled:
He climbed down and sat down with me on the edge of the station platform. 'Gracie,' he said, 'look at my whiskers. I have been growing them for you.' Then he kissed me. I never saw him again.
As it turned out, Grace's letter influenced the course of history in another way, too. In 1860 Milton Bradley, a lithographer in Springfield, Mass., was making a living selling lithographs of a beardless Lincoln. When Lincoln grew a beard, his prints stopped selling. Bradley desperately needed new business - so he settled on printing a board game called The Game of Life.
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