Why Abraham Lincoln arrived in Albany with "huge whiskers"

lincoln westfield, nyPaul Grondahl's story today marking the 150th anniversary of Abraham Lincoln's visit to Albany -- especially the part about Lincoln arriving "tired, sunburned, adorned with huge whiskers" -- made us think of a totally charming story involving the great president and New York State.

We were driving on the Thruway south of Buffalo a few months back when we needed to stop for gas, and somehow ended up in Westfield. As far as we can tell, the village is famous for two things: 1) it's the self-proclaimed "grape juice capital of the world" and 2) the following story.

In the fall of 1860, Lincoln received a letter from 11-year-old Grace Bedell of Westfield, urging him to "let your whiskers grow":

... 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.

Jump ahead to February 16, 1861. Lincoln is riding a train from Springfield, Illinois to Washington, DC -- and the trip takes him through western New York (and, a few days later, to Albany).

From the National Park Service site:

Normally, Lincoln would have passed through this small community with the same briefness as others of its size, but Westfield contained a special citizen named Grace Bedell. Grace Bedell had written to Lincoln on October 15 of the previous year suggesting that he grow a beard. Lincoln must have anticipated that Grace was in that Westfield crowd, because he told the audience of the letter and called out for her. The Philadelphia Enquirer reported what Lincoln said and what happened.
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.
The President left the car, and the crowd making way for him, he reached her, and gave her several hearty kisses, and amid the yells of delight from the excited crowd, he bade her good-bye.

A bit different from his "divisive and raucous" visit to Albany a few days later.

By the way: Lincoln made two "visits" to Albany -- once ahead of his inauguration, and then again in 1865 when his body laid in state at the old state house.

photo: National Park Service

Comments

I just read on Cracked (some bits on the site a little on the NSFW side) about how Lincoln's growing of facial hair lead to the creation of The Game of Life board game. How timely!

http://www.cracked.com/article_18995_5-classic-board-games-with-disturbing-origin-stories.html

@KatherineSass: It all comes back to the beard. Somewhere, a physicist is developing a grand unified theory of the universe based on Lincoln's facial hair...

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