Our story begins as the 1860 presidential election neared its climax.
Grace Bedell was an 11-year-old living in Westfield, N.Y., who not only took a keen interest in Abraham Lincoln, but also in his appearance. She decided to do something about it by writing a letter to the man who soon would become the 16th president. This is her letter of Oct. 15, 1860:
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 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 dir[e]ct to Grace Bedell Westfield Chatauque County New York
I must not write any more answer this letter right off Good bye
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,
During Lincoln’s trip from Springfield to Washington, D.C., in February 1861, the train stopped at Westfield where Lincoln asked if Grace Bedell was present. Years later, Bedell recalled that incident:
“He climbed down and sat down with me on the edge of the station platform," she recalled. “‘Gracie,’ he said, ‘look at my whiskers. I have been growing them for you.’ Then he kissed me. I never saw him again.”
Next: Abraham Lincoln and Thomas D. Jones.