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Abraham Lincoln meets Grace Bedell

A few weeks before he was elected President, Lincoln received a letter from Grace Bedell, an 11-year-old girl from Westfield, New York, who urged him to grow a beard to help him get elected. In Lincoln's response of October 19, he gave no promises, but a month later allowed his beard to grow.

By the time Lincoln left his Illinois home to start his inaugural journey to Washington, D.C., he wore a full beard. The trip took him by rail through New York state, stopping briefly in Westfield on February 16. Once at the train station, he called into the crowd for Grace. The following contemporary newspaper accounts recorded the incident.


From the Philadelphia Inquirer of February 20, 1861:

At Westfield, Mr. Lincoln greeted a large crowd of ladies, and several thousand of the sterner sex. Addressing the ladies, he said, "I am glad to see you; I suppose you are to see me; but I certainly think I have the best of the bargain. (Applause.) 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; I think her name was Miss Barlly." 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, and on we rushed.

From the New York World of February 19, 1861:

The train bearing the President and suite left Cleveland this morning at 9 o'clock. Quite a large crowd was assembled at the depot and along the line of the track for some distance. The train consisted of one baggage car and three passenger cars, one of the latter beautifully carpeted, curtained, and upholstered for the occupancy of the President's party.

At Euclid, a station near Cleveland, a man was injured by the premature discharge of a cannon. A telegraphic report of his death, received at the next station, was subsequently contradicted. At Wickliffe, Willoughby, Painesville, and other small stations, clusters of people, gathered from the adjacent country, were assembled, ranged along platforms, swarming upon adjoining roofs, clinging upon posts and fences, and exhibiting the heartiest enthusiasm. At Westfield an interesting incident occurred. Shortly after his nomination Mr. Lincoln had received from that place a letter from a little girl, who urged him, as a means of improving his personal appearance, to wear whiskers. Mr. Lincoln at the time replied, stating that although he was obliged by the suggestion, he feared his habits of life were too fixed to admit of even so slight a change as that which letting his beard grow involved. To-day, on reaching the place, he related the incident, and said that if that young lady was in the crowd he should be glad to see her. There was a momentary commotion, in the midst of which an old man, struggling 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.

At Girard, a station near Erie, a profound sensation was created by the sudden appearance of Mr. Horace Greeley. He wore that mysteriously durable garment, the white coat, and carried in his hand a yellow bag, labelled with his name and address, in characters which might be read across Lake Erie. He had, it was said, mistaken the special for the general train, and was a good deal embarrassed on finding himself so suddently cheek by jowl with the chief of the great and triumphant party which he had so large a hand in establishing, and of which he is one of the most powerful and least judicious supporters. He at first made an incursion into the reporters' car, where he was captured, and marched off in triumph, by Mr. Secretary Nicolay, to the President's car. Here he was introduced for the first time to Mrs. Lincoln. At the next stopping place Greeley suddenly disappeared. His arrival and departure were altogether so unexpected, so mysterious, so comical, that they supplied an amusing topic of conversation during the rest of the journey.

At Dunkirk, at the conclusion of a brief speech, Mr. Lincoln, placing his hand upon a flag-staff from which the stars and stripes waved, said, "I stand by the flag of the Union, and all I ask of you is that you stand by me as long as I stand by it." It is impossible to describe the applause and the acclamation with which this Jacksonian peroration was greeted. The arches of the depot echoed and re-echoed with the ring of countless cheers. Men swung their hats wildly, women waved their handkerchiefs, and, as the train moved on, the crowd, animated by a common impulse, followed, as if they intended to keep it company to the next station. Inside the car the enthusiasm created by the conclusion of the speech was scarcely less than the outside assemblage had exhibited. The company evinced a general disposition to intone hurrahs and sing patriotic songs out of tune."

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