Abraham Lincoln grew his famous beard because of an 11-year-old girl.

  • President Abraham Lincoln
President Abraham Lincoln
Credit: Everett Collection/ Shutterstock

Abraham Lincoln is lauded for his steadfast leadership in a time of tumult, but the 16th President evidently also had an impressionable side: One of his defining physical traits, his iconic beard, was grown at the suggestion of an 11-year-old girl. In the fall of 1860, as Lincoln campaigned for the presidency, he received a letter from one Grace Bedell of Westfield, New York. In her letter, Bedell expressed her excitement for Lincoln’s political aspirations but suggested that he might gain even more support if he grew some facial hair. 

“I hope you wont think me very bold to write to such a great man as you are,” she wrote. “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.”

In a letter dated October 19, Lincoln wrote back to Bedell. “Having never worn any, do you not think people would call it a piece of silly affection if I were to begin it now?” he asked. Yet by the following January, the recent President-elect indeed had a beard growing in. The next month, in February 1861, a bearded President Lincoln made a stop in Westfield and met Bedell in person. As he continued to make his way via train to Washington, D.C., his facial hair filled in, and by the time of his March 1861 inauguration, he was the first U.S. President with a full beard.  

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