One of the more common subjects in sculpture that I’ve seen from figure sculptors of today and of the past is of Abraham Lincoln. It’s no surprise as he represents so much that is good even by todays standards. From his poor upbringing he learned humility, defending the defenseless and the value of hard work. As he grew older these qualities defined him and helped lead him to becoming the 16th President of the United States. They guided him as the nations leader through the civil war. They also guided him as he helped free the slaves of the South first with his Emancipation Proclamation and finally the 13th amendment.
In addition, and just as important, he was thoughtful. A great example was how he responded to an 11 year old girl’s letter, written to him just before he was elected President. In it, the girl said that he looked too thin in the face to be voted President. And anyways all the ladies preferred bearded men and that he needed to grow his beard to help him get elected. Some of her brothers, she said in that letter, would vote for him if he did so.
To grow a beard or not to grow a beard, that is the question
It’s hard to imagine any Presidential candidate actually reading a letter such as this let alone listening to it’s message. But that is what Lincoln did. He not only grew his beard out just before being elected President (of which he kept for the entirety of his Presidency until his death 4 years later). He also wrote her a thoughtful letter back. Although he didn’t promise to grow it out he did address it. “As to the whiskers, having never worn any, do you not think people would call it a silly affectation if I were to begin it now?”
History now remembers Abe Lincoln as our first bearded President and it was one little girl’s idea. How humble of a man and how generous he must have been. It is these qualities that I think all men aspire. To have wisdom and respect yet gentle and thoughtful.
The bust I created of Lincoln doesn’t show him with his beard, but rather just before he was elected. At the time that he would have read the letter from the little girl. Abe Lincoln, beardless. To me, that was the moment that best captures one of the most influential men in our nations history.