12-year-old Grace Bedell of New York wrote a letter to Republican presidential nominee Abraham Lincoln in 1860 encouraging him to grow a beard. Behold:
- 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 11 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 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. My father is going to vote for you and if I was a man I would vote for you to [sic] but I will try to 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 Chautauqua County New York.
- I must not write any more answer this letter right off Good bye
- Grace Bedell
And so Lincoln, making no promises when he actually took the time to write back, was sporting a full beard within a month. This means Lincoln was the first U.S. president to sport a beard in an official presidential portrait – and the first of five consecutive presidents to also sport a beard (way to ruin the “streak,” Chester A. Arthur – those mutton chops don’t count). The only presidents to sport mustaches (without accompanying beards) in their presidential portraits were Chester Arthur, Grover Cleveland, Teddy Roosevelt and William Howard Taft. Benjamin Harrison is the most recent president to have worn a beard in a presidential portrait, and Donald Trump is the only president to have a comb-over in a presidential portrait.