Grace Bidell

A statue of Lincoln greeting Grace Bidell stands in Westfield, New York.

Grace Bidell, photographed in the 1870s.

Grace Bidell, photographed in the 1870s.

You can thank an 11-year-old girl for Abraham Lincoln’s beard.

In October of 1860, a few weeks before Lincoln was elected president of the United States, Grace Bidell wrote a letter to Lincoln, in which she said:

I have yet got four 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. (Read the full letter.)

Lincoln wrote back to the 11-year-old girl from Westfield, New York, and he had this response:

As to the whiskers have never worn any do you not think people would call it a silly affection if I were to begin it now? Your very sincere well wisher.

One month later, Lincoln had grown a beard. And when his inaugural train passed through Westfield, Lincoln singled out young Grace from the crowd. This is how Bidell recalled the event years later in life:

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.

By Doug Peterson

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