Today in History: Oct. 15

… [I]f 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.—Grace Bedell, letter to Abraham Lincoln dated October 15, 1860

Grace Bedell, an 11-year-old girl from Westfield, New York, wrote a letter to Abraham Lincoln, candidate for U.S. President, on this date in 1860, in which she urged him to grow a beard. “You would look a great deal better for your face is so thin,” she wrote.

Years later, she recounted that she saw a photo of Lincoln and was struck by the deep lines around his mouth and his high forehead and thought there up a solution.

Her letter in full, as reproduced in AbrahamLincolnOnline.org:

N Y
Westfield Chatauque Co
Oct 15. 1860
Hon A B Lincoln
Dear Sir
 
My father has just home from the fair and brought home your picture and Mr. Hamlin’s. I am a little girl only eleven years old, but want you should be President of the United States very much so I hope you wont think me very bold to write to such a great man as you are. Have you any little girls about as large as I am if so give them my love and tell her to write to me if you cannot answer this letter. I have got 4 brother’s and part of them will vote for you any way and if you will 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 husband’s to vote for you and then you would be President. My father is a going to vote for you and if I was a man I would vote for you to but I will try and get every one to vote for you that I can I think that rail fence around your picture makes it look very pretty I have got a little baby sister she is nine weeks old and is just as cunning as can be. When you direct your letter direct to Grace Bedell Westfield Chatauque County New York
 
I must not write any more answer this letter right off
Good bye
Grace Bedell

(She certainly was eleven years old. “Answer this letter right off.”)

He wrote to her within days, as per her request. He had never worn a beard, but he grew one in reply to her letter and cultivated it through his presidency. In his letter, he wrote:

Miss. Grace Bedell
My dear little Miss.
 
Your very agreeable letter of the 15th. is received.
 
I regret the necessity of saying I have no daughters. I have three sons — one seventeen, one nine, and one seven, years of age. They, with their mother, constitute my whole family.
 
As to the whiskers, having never worn any, do you not think people would call it a piece of silly affection if I were to begin it now? Your very sincere well-wisher
 
A. Lincoln

The following February, Lincoln stopped in Westfield, New York, on hus way to Washington, DC, and his first inaugural. Lincoln was greeted by a large crowd, asked for Miss Grace Bedell, and she stepped forward. He sat down with her and thanked her for helping him do something which he had resisted out of habit.

Bedell lived into the 1930s and never met another U.S. President. A statue commemorating the meeting of the president-elect and the eleven-year-old was put up in Westfield in 1999 (photo at top).

* * * *
“The Girls Want to Go to a Nightclub,” the first episode of I Love Lucy, aired 65 years ago today on CBS. It was the second episode that was filmed but it was the first one broadcast, as the other episode required more editing. The full episode:

 
* * * *
The Great Dictator, a film by Charlie Chaplin, premiered in theaters on this date in 1940.

* * * *
Friedrich Nietzsche was born on this date in 1844. Fritz Feld was born on this date in 1900. John Kenneth Galbraith was born on this date in 1908. Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr. was born in 1917 on this date. Mario Puzo was born in 1920 on this date. Italo Calvino was born on this date in 1923. Michel Foucault was born 90 years ago today. Fela Kuti was born in 1938 on this date.

* * * *
Lee Iacocca is 92 today. Barry McGuire is 81. Linda Lavin is 79. Representative Jim Leach is 74. Penny Marshall is 73. Jim Palmer is 71. Richard Carpenter is 70. Chris De Burgh is 68. Larry Miller is 63. Jere Burns is 62. Tanya Roberts is 61. Emeril Lagasse is 57.

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