Grace Bedell Billings (New York Times)

“Suggester of Beard for Lincoln Dies, 88,” New York Times, November 3, 1936, p. 25.

Mrs. Billings, Then Child, Met President-Elect After He Heeded Her Letter.

DELPHOS, Kan., Nov. 2 (AP).- Mrs. Grace Bedell Billings, who as an eleven-year-old girl was reputed to have induced Abraham Lincoln to grow a beard, died here today at the age of 88.

During the election campaign of 1860, Mrs. Billings, who was living in Westfield, N. Y., noticed some election poster portraits of Lincoln, and scrawled this latter to the presidential nominee:

“Dear Mr. Lincoln: I think you would look better with whiskers. Two of my brothers are Republicans, two are Democrats. I think I could get my Democratic brothers to vote for you if you wore a beard. The rail fence around your picture in the poster is very pretty. Have you any little girls?”

Four days later, she received this answer from Lincoln:

“My Dear Grace Bedell: Your very agreeable letter of the 15th received. I regret to say I have no little girl. I have three sons, one 17 years old, one 9, and one 7. Speaking of whiskers, don’t you think people would call it a silly affection if I should begin wearing whiskers?”

Mrs. Billings recalled in an interview several years ago that Lincoln, while going through Westfield in February after his election, left the train and on meeting her said, “Gracie, look at my whiskers; I have been growing them for you,” whereupon he kissed her. She never saw him again.

Mrs. Billings still had the letter at her death.

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