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Almanac: Abraham Lincoln's beard

Almanac: Lincoln's whiskers
Almanac: Why Lincoln grew a beard 02:10

And now a page from our "Sunday Morning" Almanac: October 15th, 1860, 157 years ago today … a date that will live in hirsute history.

For that was the day 11-year-old Grace Bedell, of Westfield, New York, wrote a letter to presidential hopeful Abraham Lincoln, urging him to "let your whiskers grow."

Statue of Grace Bedell and Abraham Lincoln
Statues of Grace Bedell and Abraham Lincoln, in Westfield, N.Y. Zachary Frank/Alamy

"All the ladies like whiskers," she went on, "and they will tease their husbands to vote for you and then you would be president."

Lincoln took her advice, of course, and statues in Westfield depict the brief meeting he had with her four months later while en route to his inauguration as our first bearded president.

The first, but hardly the last.

Four of his successors -- Ulysses S. Grant, Rutherford B. Hayes, James A. Garfield, and Benjamin Harrison -- all had full beards.

While Chester Alan Arthur, Grover Cleveland, Theodore Roosevelt, and William Howard Taft all rate honorable mention for sporting mustaches.

But in the 104 years since Taft left office, not a single president has had facial hair.

In fact, the last bearded nominee -- Charles Evans Hughes -- went down to defeat in 1916, while the last mustachioed nominee, Thomas E. Dewey, lost not just once, but TWICE -- in 1944 and 1948.

Not that modern presidential politics are totally bereft of beards. Al Gore grew one AFTER losing the 2000 election. And Paul Ryan briefly had one in 2015, but not until AFTER declaring he was not going to run for president.

Beardless presidents -- it would have broken Grace Bedell's heart.

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