WASHINGTON – The letters that Abraham Lincoln exchanged with a young girl from Westfield – which resulted in the president following her suggestion and growing his famous beard – will be coming back to Chautauqua County for a temporary visit if Sen. Charles E. Schumer gets his way.
Schumer on Tuesday urged the Detroit Public Library and the Benjamin Shapell Manuscript Foundation – which have the two letters – to lend them to the Chautauqua County Historical Society for display at the McClurg Museum in Westfield next year as the county marks the 150th anniversary of Lincoln’s assassination.
The 11-year-old Westfield girl, Grace Bedell, wrote to Lincoln during his 1860 presidential campaign to suggest that he grow a beard because “all the ladies love men who wear whiskers.”
Lincoln not only responded to the letter, but he took her up on her suggestion. Schumer said that anecdote gives Chautauqua County a unique connection to the former president that the county would like to commemorate.
“Grace Bedell and her letters to Abraham Lincoln are a permanent part of Chautauqua County lore, and a special link to Lincoln’s presidency and legacy,” said Schumer, D-N.Y. “With the 150th anniversary of President Lincoln’s assassination approaching, I am beginning a campaign to bring these letters – which connect Westfield in such a poignant way to a famous moment in our nation’s history – home to Westfield to display in honor of the anniversary.”
Schumer made his request in letters to Detroit Public Library Director Jo Anne Mondowney and Benjamin Shapell Manuscript Foundation Director Menachem Grossman. The Detroit library has the letter that Bedell sent to Lincoln, while the Benjamin Shapell Manuscript Foundation, based in Beverly Hills, Calif., has Lincoln’s response.