In what has to go down as one of the all-time great moments of political image consulting, an 11-year old girl suggested to a fresh-faced Abe Lincoln that he grow a beard. And then he did. The website Letters of Note even has copies of the girl's letter and Lincoln's response. Beyond being the cutest historical footnote of all time, Ms. Grace Bedell, had some solid reasoning behind her request.
"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," she wrote, "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." [emphasis added.]
The bearded Lincoln is such an indelible American image that it's almost hard to believe his response to the girl.
As to the whiskers, having never worn any, do you not think people would call it a piece of silly affectation if I were to begin it now?
Your very sincere well wisher
Of course, as Andrew and the New York Times' awesome Disunion blog point out, there was a lot more to growing an Antebellum beard than you might think and Grace's letter was probably not actually the reason Lincoln bearded up. Facial hair had a politics and a history, etc.
All of which reminds this particular bearded reporter that we haven't had a President with facial hair since William Howard Taft. It's time that changed. Say it with me: up with this, we will not put!