Abraham Lincoln, the 16th President of the United States, is famous for abolishing slavery, leading the Union to victory in the Civil War and many other groundbreaking political moves that changed the face of America. However, he is also famous for his iconic beards, which has a strange history behind it. In fact, Grace Bedell, a little girl of 11, may have had a lot to do with the much known look of the President and some argue that she may have even impacted his win in the election.
Somehow, Grace Greenwood Bedell became inspired and enthusiastic, when she saw a campaign picture of Abraham Lincoln as a candidate of the Presidential election. But, as his face looked ‘so thin’, Grace mailed him a letter from Westfield, New York on 15 October 1860, urging him to grow facial hair. She explained that since he had a narrow face, he would look much more impressive with beards. She also wrote to assure him that, all women like whiskers and they would thus tease their husbands to vote for him.
Lincoln personally responded to her on 19 October1860, making no promises. However, shortly after their exchange, Lincoln began to grow facial hair and by the time he was elected, he had a full beard.
While he was on his inaugural journey from Illinois to Washington DC by train, the trip took him through the New York state and included a stop in Bedell’s hometown of Westfield, New York. A large crowd gathered at the station to greet him and Lincoln, while speaking to them, wanted to know specifically, whether Grace Bedell is present in the gathering. As a surprised boy pointed him to a beautiful girl, with black eyes, Lincoln left his car, approached to the blushing girl and gave her several hearty kisses, before bade her good bye amid the yells of delight from the excited crowd. Grace Bedell never saw him again.
After Lincoln’s assassination, the anecdote became a popular children’s story. Later, a statue depicting the meeting between Lincoln and Bedell was installed in the center of the village of Westfield.