Abraham Lincoln was clean shaven his entire life until he received a letter from an 11 year old girl named Grace Bedell. In 1860, Grace wrote a letter to Lincoln telling him to grow a beard, because
A future president took an 11 year old’s advice; Lincoln grew a beard. Here is the exchange between Grace Bedell and Abraham Lincoln. These letters reveal how one persons words can change the world, and reminds would-be wise men to listen closely to the voices of the youth.
Grace’s letter to Lincoln
Oct 15, 1860
My father was just home from the fair and brought home your picture and Mr. Hamlin’s. I am a little girl only eleven 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 brother’s and part of them will vote for you any way, and if you will 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 husband’s to vote for you and then you would be President.
My father is a going to vote for you and if I was a man I would vote for you too but I will try and 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, Chatauqua County, New York.
I must not write any more. Answer this letter right off.
Abraham Lincoln’s response to Grace
October 19, 1860
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
The progression of Abraham Lincoln’s beard
Aug. 13, 1860
Last beardless photo of Lincoln
Nov. 25, 1860
One month after Grace’s letter
Feb. 9, 1861
10 days before meeting Grace
Abraham Lincoln Meets Grace Bedell
Lincoln’s inaugural journey to Washington, D.C. took him through New York State, and on February 19, 1861 he stopped in Grace Bedell’s hometown of Westfield, New York.
The Philadelphia Enquirer reported that Lincoln spoke to the crowd at the train station, saying,
“Some three months ago, I received a letter from a young lady here; it was a very pretty letter, and she advised me to let my whiskers grow, as it would improve my personal appearance; acting partly upon her suggestion, I have done so; and now, if she is here, I would like to see her;”
… A small boy, mounted on a post, with his mouth and eyes both wide open, cried out, “there she is, Mr. LINCOLN,” pointing to a beautiful girl, with black eyes, who was blushing all over her fair face.
The February 19, 1861 edition of the New York World reported,
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. A beard of several months’ growth covers (perhaps adorns) the lower part of his face. The young girl’s peachy cheek must have been tickled with a stiff whisker, for the growth of which she was herself responsible.”
Bedell recalled the event years later:
“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.”
Lincoln heeded Grace’s advice and wore a beard for the rest of his life.