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Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Fan Mail for Mr. Lincoln


by Jen AlLee


Fan mail. If you're the one getting it, it can be encouraging, frustrating, or even frightening. If you're the fan, you never know how the person you're writing to will react.

On October 15, 1860, eleven-year-old Grace Bedell of Westfield, N.Y., wrote a letter to presidential candidate Abraham Lincoln. It read as follows:
Abraham Lincoln
August 13, 1860

N Y
Westfield Chatauque Co
Oct 15. 1860


Hon A B Lincoln

Dear Sir
My father has just home from the fair and brought home your picture and Mr. Hamlin's. I am a little girl only eleven years old, but want you should be President of the United States very much so I hope you wont think me very bold to write to such a great man as you are. Have you any little girls about as large as I am if so give them my love and tell her to write to me if you cannot answer this letter. I have got 4 brother's 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. My father is a going to vote for you and if I was a man I would vote for you to but I will try and get every one to vote for you that I can   I think that rail fence around your picture makes it look very pretty   I have got a little baby sister she is nine weeks old and is just as cunning as can be. When you direct your letter dir[e]ct to Grace Bedell Westfield Chatauque County New York
 
I must not write any more   answer this letter right off

Good bye
Grace Bedell

I love how sure this little lady was that he would write back! And what an interesting campaign strategy she had. Mr. Lincoln certainly must have gotten a smile out of her letter. And he did take the time to write back.
Abraham Lincoln
February 9, 1861

October 19, 1860
Springfield, Illinois
 Miss. Grace Bedell

My dear little Miss.
Your very agreeable letter of the 15th. is received.  I regret the necessity of saying I have no daughters. I have three sons -- one seventeen, one nine, and one seven, years of age. They, with their mother, constitute my whole family. 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 it now?  
Your very sincere well-wisher, A. Lincoln

Lincoln apparently wasn't too concerned about what people would think, because as we all know, he did grow the beard. In fact, when he was President-elect, he stopped in Westfield on February 16, 1861, sporting his new beard. Thousands had gathered to meet him, but he asked if Grace Bedell was in attendance. She was, and clambered forward to meet him. Years later, Grace talked about her meeting with the President.
Grace Bedell
in the 1870's

"He climbed down and sat down with me on the edge of the station platform," she recalled. "'Gracie,' he said, 'look at my whiskers. I have been growing them for you.' Then he kissed me. I never saw him again."

This story speaks to the power of one voice, the power of public opinion, even the power of a nice, healthy beard. But to me, it's a wonderful human moment between the leader of the country and a child who wanted to help her choice for president. Who's to say the presence of a beard didn't influence some voters? Either way, an adult took the time to read a girl's letter, write back to her, consider her opinion, and then follow up with her and show her that he'd followed her advice.

How cool is that?

How about you? Have you ever written a fan letter? Did you ever hear back?



JENNIFER ALLEE was born in Hollywood, California, and spent her first ten years living above a mortuary one block away from the famous intersection of Hollywood & Vine. Now she lives in the grace-filled city of Las Vegas, which just goes to prove she’s been blessed with a unique life. When she’s not busy spinning tales, she enjoys playing games with friends, attending live theater and movies, and singing at the top of her lungs to whatever happens to be playing on the car radio. Although she’s thrilled to be living out her lifelong dream of being a novelist, she considers raising her son to be her greatest creative accomplishment. She's a member of American Christian Fiction Writers, Romance Writers of America, Christian Authors Network, and the Christian Fiction Blog Alliance. Her novels include The Pastor’s WifeThe Mother Road and A Wild Goose Chase Christmas from Abingdon Press; Diamond in the Rough and Vanishing Act, the first two books in the Charm and Deceit series, from Whitaker House and co-written with Lisa Karon Richardson; and the novella Comfort and Joy in the Christmas anthology, Mistletoe Memories from Barbour.



10 comments:

  1. what a cool story. Lincoln is one of my favorite presidents, and if he wasn't - this story would put him there. Adults taking time for children just shows something extra in the character of a person, I think.

    i drew cartoons for awhile for the Colorado Rockies (major league baseball) it came about in part because i wanted to see if i could do a daily comic strip and i sent copies to one of the players on the team (not a star, cuz i didn't think they'd actually have time to read the comic). apparently the cartoons got popular with the team because the player i sent them to would leave the cartoon of the day in the locker of the player the cartoon was about. (although i only did about four cartoons a week). it was kind of cool when i went early to a ball game and one of the players i got an autograph from recognized me and said "hey, you're the cartoon girl! you're good!"

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    1. That's cool, Deb. Did you keep copies of them? You could turn it into a vintage souvenir ebook.

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  2. Cool story. Who knew President Lincoln had a personal stylist. LOL.

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    1. It does make a person wonder, doesn't it? Did he ever write about why he starting growing facial hair?

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  3. I saw in the paper that this was the anniversary of that very famous letter. It's such a touching, personal moment in the life of a great man!

    I wrote a letter to Dr. Seuss once. I'd heard he would send autographs to kids who wrote to him, but alas, he didn't write back.

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    1. Well, since you admitted that one, Susie, I'll admit I once wrote to Bobby Sherman because TigerBeat had said he'd send an autographed pic of himself. I never got anything back, either. Boo hoo.

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  4. Jen, I just love this story. I had heard about the letter before, but I did not hear that he actually met her. I think the fact that he remembered that was very special. I will venture to say that her supportive and funny little letter probably meant something to him. He didn't win all his elections after all and was no stranger to self-doubt and self-recrimination. So her support was likely very sweet.

    I don't think I've ever sent a fan letter. I've never received on either. Though a young girl did drew a picture and sent it to me after reading my first novella. I thought that was pretty cool! I've kept the picture too.

    DebH, Very cool story!

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  5. Hi Ladies! DebH, how cool! You're the cartoon girl!

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  6. Jen, this is a wonderful post. I've always respected Abe Lincoln, but this inspiring story has heightened my respect. What makes it special isn't the fact that he wrote back to her, but that he also called her out to meet her in person. He didn't have to do that, and it shows that he wanted to finish what he started. Kudos to the Prez.

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  7. Loved this story and the letter. I just enjoyed a visit to the Seward Museum, and re-watched Lincoln, so I'm feeling rather close to the moment now. I had never heard of this before so I appreciate your sharing it, Jen.

    I don't recall writing any fan letters... hmmm. I guess it's not too late to start!

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