Uncommon Knowledge

Uncommon Knowledge: Did Abraham Lincoln have a beard?

May 27, 2014

Penny Portrait | UncommonGoodsIn spite of all the evidence suggesting the contrary, the answer is no. The evidence goes right back to the source of Lincoln’s legendary chin scruff. While campaigning for President in 1860, he received a letter from an 11-year-old girl named Grace Bedell, who encouraged him to grow his whiskers out because he “would look a great deal better.” She went on to explain, “All the ladies like whiskers and they would tease their husbands to vote for you and then you would be President.” Lincoln did comply with the girl’s wishes, but the key word here is “whiskers.” In the 19th century, whiskers and beards were very different things. Beards were facial hair allowed to grow unchecked. They were less reputable than their civilized, neatly trimmed counterpart, which is what (according to Grace) “all the ladies like.” President Rutherford B. Hayes had a beard. But President Abraham Lincoln had whiskers.

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