LINCOLN MEETS THE LITTLE GIRL WHO ASKED HIM TO GROW HIS WHISKERS

 

 A letter in which the aged Grace Bedell, formerly of a small town in Western New York, gives a vivid account of her meeting with President Lincoln on a railroad platform, some seventy years before. As a young girl of eleven years she had written to the clean-shaven candidate, inquiring whether he had any daughters, describing her baby sister and confessing she wished "you should be President of the United States very much." A campaign picture of Lincoln and Hamlin, which her father had brought home, met with her approval. She informed him that of her four brothers, "part of them will vote for you any way," and then promised that "if you will let your whiskers grow I will try and get the rest of them to vote for you." Grace explained to the candidate that he "would look a good deal better for your face is so thin," and passed on the astute political advice that "all the ladies like whiskers and they would tease their husbands to vote for you and then you would be President." Lincoln evidently saw the force of these arguments, promptly grew his whiskers, and kept them, from then on, even though, in his reply to her, on 19 October 1860, just before the election, he wondered whether having never worn whiskers before, "do you not think people would call it a piece of silly affectation if I were to begin now?" On his way to Washington for his inauguration, sporting a neatly-clipped three-month-old beard, Lincoln noticed that his train passed through her hometown and that he was scheduled to address the crowd at the station. He did not forget his young correspondent. Grace remembers: "...I will try to give you the information you desire. I have no extra copy of my letter to Mr. Lincoln but I think you might get one or find where to get one by writing Mr. George A. Donders...On the day that Mr. Lincoln called at Westfield, there was a large crowd gathered to hear him speak. I was a small girl and went to the depot with two of my older sisters. After making his speech from the step of the R.R. car, he stepped down onto a freight platform and told the crowd that he had a correspondent in this place who thought he would look better if he wore a beard. He said that if she was present he would like to see her. Every one cried out 'Who is she.' He replied 'Grace Bedell.' I had not even heard him call my name but a man, a friend of my family, took me and the crowd parted to let us through. They lifted me onto the platform and Mr. Lincoln took me by the hand and said 'You see, Grace. I let these whiskers grow for you.' Then he kissed me. That is all. I was so frightened and excited that I knew not what to do. I had a bouquet of flowers in my hand which I had intended giving to him but I still had the stems in my hand when I arrived at home. My husband was Geo. N. Billings a vetern [sic] of the Civil War. Mr. Donders has the original letter which I wrote to Mr. Lincoln...."