Grace and Abe — 150 Years Ago Today

October 15, 2010/1860
Volume 1, Issue 1 (1 Issues Since 15 October 2010)
October 15, 1860. A few weeks before the Presidential election, eleven-year-old Grace Bedell of Westfield, New York, a town on the shore of Lake Erie, wrote the clean-shaven Abraham Lincoln:

Grace Bedell

“My father has just come home from the fair and brought home your picture and Mr. Hamlin’s. [Hannibal Hamlin, US Senator from Maine, was Lincoln’s Vice Presidential running mate].
I am a little girl only 11 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 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 to but I will try to get everyone to vote for you that I can 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 direct it to Grace Bedell Westfield Chautauqua County New York.
I must not write any more answer this letter right off Good bye”

Four days later, President Elect Lincoln sent this reply:

Candidate Lincoln. Thought to be the last beardless portrait of Lincoln. August 13, 1860. Click on image to learn more.

Candidate Lincoln. Thought to be the last beardless portrait of Lincoln. August 13, 1860. Click on image to learn more.

Springfield, Ill Oct 19, 1860
Miss Grace Bedell

My dear little miss
Your very agreeable letter of the 15th is received — I regret the necessity of saying that 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 affectation if I were to begin it now?
Your very sincere well wisher
A. Lincoln

The Two Meet

On his train journey from Springfield, Illinois to Washington, DC for his March 4, 1861 inauguration, the train stopped in Westfield, New York, where he was met by a large crowd.When he addressed the crowd, he related the story of the letter, and said that if Grace Bedell were in the crowd, he would like to meet her.
The February 19, 1861 edition of the New York World reported,”There was a momentary commotion, in the midst of which an old man struggled through the crowd, approached, leading his daughter, a girl of apparently twelve or thirteen years of age, whom he introduced to Mr. Lincoln as his Westfield correspondent. Mr. Lincoln stooped down and kissed the child, and talked with her for some minutes. Her advice had not been thrown away upon the rugged chieftain. A beard of several months’ growth covers (perhaps adorns) the lower part of his face. The young girl’s peachy cheek must have been tickled with a stiff whisker, for the growth of which she was herself responsible.”

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Filed under Civil War Book of Days: 1860

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