The Day Abraham Lincoln Stopped in NY to Meet Girl Who Inspired Beard
Abraham Lincoln once stopped in New York to meet the little girl who inspired him to grow a beard and there's a statue in the center of town to prove it.
Grace Bedell, of Westfield, New York, sent a letter to Lincoln on October 15, 1860, a few weeks before the President was elected into office, urging him to grow a beard.
The 11-year-old wrote the letter after seeing a picture of Lincoln that her father brought home.
I am a little girl only 11 years old, so I hope you won't 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 four brothers and part of them will vote for you anyway 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 too but I will try to get everyone to vote for you that I can. 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.
Four days later, Lincoln responded to Bidell's letter, answering her questions and making no promises on her request to grow facial hair. However, a few months later, Lincoln had a full beard.
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 silly affectation if I were to begin it now? Your very sincere well wisher
Abe Meets Grace
February 16 marks the anniversary Lincoln came to town and met the little girl who inspired his whiskers.
On February 16, 1861, Lincoln made a stop in Bidell's hometown of Westfield, New York while on his inaugural journey from Illinois to Washington, D.C.
The Philadelphia Enquirer said Lincoln told the crowd about the girl who urged him to grow facial hair, according to the National Parks Service.
Some three months ago, I received a letter from a young lady here; it was a very pretty letter, and she advised me to let my whiskers grow, as it would improve my personal appearance; acting partly upon her suggestion, I have done so; and now, if she is here, I would like to see her; . . . A small boy, mounted on a post, with his mouth and eyes both wide open, cried out, ``there she is, Mr. LINCOLN,'' pointing to a beautiful girl, with black eyes, who was blushing all over her fair face.
"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."
In July of 1999, a statue of the monumental meeting was created by sculptor Don Sottile and placed in the middle of the village.
The next time you're traveling through Western New York, be sure to stop at the intersection Route 394 and 20 and check out the tribute honoring the time Lincoln came to town to thank a little girl for her special letter with a simple suggestion.