The story behind Abraham Lincoln’s beard

Abraham Lincoln (AP Photo/Library of Congress/Alexander Gardner)

WESTFIELD, N.Y. (WIVB) — It’s the season of politics. While many are focused on the battle between Trump and Clinton, an election from 156 years ago is coming back on to the main stage. That’s because of its Western New York ties.

Known for wearing his top hat, the tallest president of the United States was a beardless man…that is until one little girl gave him, her opinion. That girl was Grace Bedell.

Michelle Henry, Chautauqua County historian told WIVB all about Grace. She said, “Grace Bedell was born in Albion, NY and her family moved here when she was about 8 years old.”

Grace’s story began in 1860 the year Abraham Lincoln was running as the republican candidate for office.

Henry shared, “Grace’s father went to the fair and came home with a campaign poster. At that time, Grace had never seen an actual image of Abraham Lincoln and she was kind of disappointed in his very thin face.”

Because of his delicate and fragile features Grace didn’t think he was fit to run for office and she made it known!

Henry shared, “Grace decided at the age of 11 to write a letter to Lincoln, and suggest to him that women would tease their husbands to vote for him if he were to grow whiskers.”

Surprisingly, the presidential nominee received and read the letter. He was so taken a back that he even responded!

Henry said, “He questioned whether people might think he was being affected if he were to grow a beard at that point in his campaign so he didn’t say that he would, but yet we know that he shortly thereafter did.”


On top of responding to the letter, Lincoln while on the campaign trail, stopped back in Westfield to meet little Grace. The spot where they met now holds a statue in remembrance of that special day.

Henry said, “It kind of depicts I think the moment that Grace may have been approaching him at the train station to meet him.”

One of the coolest parts of the statue is how it came about. Schools and businesses around the area collected Lincoln head pennies for years in order to fund the effort.

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