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Archive for 'Facial Hair Fridays'

Facial Hair Friday: The Curiously Facial Hairless Members of Lincoln’s Cabinet

In the late 1700s, as Americans fought for their independence, most men were clean-shaven. As we moved into the 1800s, however, facial hair—elaborate facial hair, at that—came back into style.

Despite this shift, many men remained clean-shaven. A smooth face was often considered more professional and refined, but facial hair denoted ruggedness.

It is not a huge surprise, therefore, that many of President Lincoln’s cabinet members had no facial hair.

Montgomery Blair was an abolitionist despite his upbringing in a prominent slave-holding family in Franklin County, Kentucky. He was also one of the founders of the Republican party. President Lincoln appointed Blair as his Postmaster General in 1861, then replaced him in 1864, following Blair’s own suggestion. Blair told his wife that the President “acted from the best motives” and that “it is for the best all around.” He campaigned for Lincoln’s reelection and remained close with Lincoln’s family.

Simon Cameron was orphaned at age nine and apprenticed to printer and editor Andrew Kennedy. He entered into journalism, and later rail line construction and banking, among other business enterprises. He was first elected to the Senate as a Democrat in 1844, but eventually switched to the Republican party. Although Cameron was nominated as a presidential candidate in the 1860 election, he gave his support to Lincoln at the Republican National Convention. President Lincoln named Cameron … [ Read all ]

Facial Hair Friday: Gideon Welles, Bearded and Bright

Since the new film Lincoln has spent a few weeks in theaters, we thought it’d be interesting to learn more about President Lincoln’s fantastically hairy cabinet.

First up is Gideon Welles, who served as President Lincoln’s and then as President Johnson’s Secretary of the Navy from 1861 to 1869, the longest anyone had held the position. Born to an esteemed Connecticut family, Welles had facial hair almost as prodigious as his political presence.

Gideon Welles graduated from what is now Norwich University in Vermont with a degree in law. However, he found he had a knack for journalism and became editor and part owner of the Hartford Times in 1826. That year, he was also elected to the legislature. As a Jacksonian Democrat, Welles supported wide-spread enfranchisement and President Jackson’s anti-bank campaign. In 1836, Jackson appointed Welles as the postmaster of Hartford, Connecticut, until William Henry Harrison removed him in 1841.

When the “slavery issue” emerged in the 1850s, Welles became a major figure in the newly formed Republican party, serving as Republican national committeeman and member of the party’s national executive committee. He also helped establish the Hartford Evening Press to support the party. He was a strong advocate for Lincoln and abolition, and was rewarded with appointment to President Lincoln’s cabinet. Throughout his career, Welles was regarded as an unusually astute, methodical, and … [ Read all ]

Facial Hair Friday: Hang ten, Pat Nixon!

Some time ago, a Facebook fan expressed thanks that we would never combine our First Ladies Friday with our Facial Hair Friday. To which we replied, never say never! Of course, the facial hair in this photograph is not on First Lady Pat Nixon, but that scraggly surfer goatee is in very close proximity to Pat, so we are going to count it as a two-for-one.

The First Lady had just finished a land-grant ceremony at Border Field, CA, to create a new park area at the U.S.-Mexico border for the Legacy of the Parks Program. Border Field State Park is 15 miles south of San Diego, CA. When the U.S.-Mexico War ended in 1848, delegations from both countries began surveying the boundary at this location in 1850. Border Monument number 258 can be seen from inside the park, but it no longer can be reached because there are border fences on both sides. When the First Lady was there, there was only barbed wire, and she was able to reach out and greet the Mexican citizens who had gathered on the other side.

The park is in the Tijuana River National Estuarine Research Reserve. Threatened and endangered birds like the Western Snowy Plover and the Light-footed Clapper Rail now live in the salt marshes and sand dunes. (Surfers and picnickers can also enjoy the park’s facilities!)

The Legacy … [ Read all ]

Constitution 225: The President

 

Today’s post was written by National Archives volunteer Paul Richter. It is part of a series tracing the development of the Constitution in honor of the 225th anniversary of this document on September 17, 2012.

The President of the United States is one of the most famous positions in the world. But the first draft of the job description was profoundly different from what it has become today. When the Constitutional Convention took up debate about the role of President, they had not yet named the position. In his notes, Madison refers to the position by various terms, including “Executive Magistrate,” “Nat’l Executive,” and simply “the Executive.”

Naming convention was not the only source of debate. The delegates wavered between a term in office lasting six or seven years before finally agreeing on four years. They considered electing the President by either a popular vote or through appointment by the legislature before developing the Electoral College as a compromise between the two.

The convention resolved early on that one person should be vested with the power of the executive branch. As the list of executive responsibilities grew, the delegates also provided for subordinate members of the executive branch, including the Vice President and the cabinet. These provisions form the foundation for most of today’s Federal agencies, including the National Archives.… [ Read all ]

Facial Hair Friday: Presley, Presley is our cry!

Do sideburns set your heart aflutter? It’s been 35 years since Elvis Presley died, but judging from the media coverage and chatter on Twitter with #ElvisWeek, his fan base is still enthusiastic. But the some of the most passionate fan letters about the bewhiskered singer can be found in the National Archives.

In 1958, Linda Kelly, Sherry Bane, and Mickie Mattson in Montana were beside themselves (“we will just about die!”) at the idea of Elvis having to take a razor to his sideburns as part of his patriotic duty when he was drafted into the Army in March 1958. They wrote to President Eisenhower, but unfortunately their favorite singer still had to serve—and groom himself according to Army regulations. The letter is now a part of the holdings of the Eisenhower Presidential Library.

Fans also bypassed the President and sent pleas directly to the First Lady, hoping she would be more sympathetic to their cause. But this letter to Mamie Eisenhower did not end up in the Eisenhower Presidential Library records. Instead, the First Lady’s office sent the letter to the Army, with the notation “Respectfully referred for appropriate handling.”

The letter went into Elvis’s Official Military Personnel File, or OMPF, where it became a part of the National Archives as part of the permanent holdings of the  National Personnel Records Center in St. … [ Read all ]