In 1860, having recently seen a picture of him without facial hair, an 11-year-old girl named Grace Bedell decided to write to Republican candidate Abraham Lincoln with a suggestion: to grow a beard. Her letter, and Lincoln’s reply, can be seen below.
She met Lincoln a few months later, as the President-elect travelled victoriously to Washington, D.C. by train. He now had a beard. Grace later said of the meeting:
“He climbed down and sat down with me on the edge of the station platform,” she recalled. “‘Gracie,’ he said, ‘look at my whiskers. I have been growing them for you.’ Then he kissed me. I never saw him again.”
(Source: Detroit Public Library; Images above: Lincoln in 1858, via, Lincoln in 1863, via.)
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
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