Mr. Lincoln’s Whiskers – by Margot Sullivan

Margot Sullivan is a retired Adult Services Librarian who still works part-time as a Reference Librarian and leads two popular book discussion groups. Read Margot Sullivan’s in the Norwood Transcript and Bulletin.

Abraham Lincoln is my very favorite president! Why- you might ask? One reason is that I was born on his birthday, February 12th! I always thought that day along with Washington’s birthday should also be a national holiday for him, of course, not me! The few times I have been to Washington D.C. my first destination is the Lincoln Memorial to contemplate a most remarkable man in our nation’s history. He guided this country through the divisive Civil War and his Proclamation Emancipation ending slavery is one of our most sacred documents. The library has a huge selection of materials on Abe Lincoln, his wife Mary Todd Lincoln, his family, the Civil War and his assassination. Three titles I highly recommend are Doris Kearns Goodwin’s “Team of Rivals: the political genius of Abraham Lincoln” (973.7092), David Herbert Donald’s Pulitzer Prize biography “Lincoln” (B Lincoln), and Philip Kunhardt’s “Lincoln: an illustrated biography” (B Lincoln). I especially enjoy the last recommendation as photographs often can tell a story better than words!

Truthfully I thought I knew a lot about Abe Lincoln but just this year became aware of a real event in his life regarding his whiskers. Grace Bedell, an eleven year old child from Westfield, New York, wrote a letter to Mr. Lincoln part of which reads “if you will let your whiskers grow I will try and get the rest of them (her brothers) 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”. Grace mails the letter hoping that Mr. Lincoln would answer and he did! A. Lincoln responds in part “As to the whiskers, having never worn any, do you not think people would call it a piece of silly affection if I were to begin now?” Abe Lincoln won the election and traveling to Washington stops in New York and Grace sees his whiskers. A wonderful picture book entitled “Mr. Lincoln’s Whiskers” by Karen Winnick is in the biography section of the children’s room! A facsimile of Grace’s letter is on the back pages of the book. The majority of the photos we see of Abraham Lincoln have his “whiskers”.

While researching material on Abe Lincoln for a cable show I came across the slender volume “Lincoln at Home: Two Glimpses of Abraham Lincoln’s Family Life” by David Herbert Donald. (B, Lincoln) and learned another wonderful snippet about Abe Lincoln in the White House! First of all Americans were trying to get use to children in the White House. Lincoln’s boys were active and venturesome. They especially loved two small goats Nanko and Nannie who were allowed around on the grounds and tended to destroy the gardens. But they also had the run of the White House! Mischievous Tad harnessed Nanko to a chair and gleefully interrupted a reception in the East Room as Nanko pulled him around on a sled in and out of the hoop skirts! Later Abraham writes to his wife Mary that “Nanny” disappeared probably much to the gardeners delight. I enjoyed reading about these antics of the children. I imagine Mary Lincoln had her hands full! Come to the library and read about Abraham Lincoln.

Happy Birthday, Mr. Lincoln!

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