Many historians point to television as the game-changing technology that made a presidential candidate’s appearance almost as important as their platform. The truth is, aesthetics played a role in politics long before the American public tuned in to the evening news. Eleven-year-old Grace Bedell knew that when she wrote to presidential hopeful Abraham Lincoln on Oct. 15, 1860:
“I have got 4 brother’s (sic) and part of them will vote for you any way and if you will 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 husband’s to vote for you and then you would be President.”
Lincoln’s response, penned just four days later, seemed to dismiss Bedell’s suggestion. He wrote, “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 now?”
Honest Abe obviously reconsidered, and regardless of whether he would have won without his beard, it is hard to picture President Lincoln today without this “silly affectation.” Is the facial hair of other past presidents equally recognizable? Take our quiz below to find out.
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