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:
August 13, 1860
Westfield Chatauque Co
Oct 15. 1860
Hon A B Lincoln
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
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.
February 9, 1861
October 19, 1860
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.
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 Wife, The 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.