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FHF: The Beard Gap

Two beards have never competed for the office of the President. Pictured here is Rutherford Hayes, a bearded president who beat the clean-shaven Samuel Tilden (111-B-5739)

Two beards have never competed for the Presidency. Pictured here is Rutherford Hayes, a bearded President who beat the clean-shaven Samuel Tilden. (111-B-5739)




In the history of Presidential elections, there has never been a battle of the beards. Beards have challenged mustaches. Mustaches have challenged clean-shaven candidates. Clean-shaven candidates have challenged beards. But never in the history of our republic, have two bearded candidates duked it out on the campaign trail.

This is startling for many reasons. One, beards are awesome, and have experienced a sort of renaissance as of late. Two, statistically speaking, the beard is more “electable” than a baby face.

Look at the numbers. In Presidential elections, bearded candidates have only faced off (ha!) with clean-shaven candidates in five elections. In three of them—1868, 1872, and 1876—beards took the White House. That means the odds are with you if you run with a beard.

Year Victor Runner-up
1856 Clean-shaven Beards
1864 Beard Mustache
1868 Beard Clean-shaven
1872 Beard Clean-shaven
1876 Beard Clean-shaven
1880 Beard Mustache
1884 Mustache Beard
1888 Beard Mustache
1892 Mustache Beard
1908 Mustache Clean-shaven
1912 Clean-shaven Mustache
1916 Clean-shaven Beard
1944 Clean-shaven Mustache
1948 Clean-shaven Mustache



History buffs will be quick to point out that the 1876 beard win was something of a technicality. The oh-so-heavily bearded Rutherford Hayes lost the popular vote but won the electoral vote (Florida was the deciding state), putting his beard in office over the clean-shaven Samuel Tilden. Still, Hayes won, making beards tops in elections.

What’s that mean for 2012? If the parties catch wind of the electability of beards, 2012 could shape up to be a hairy election year indeed.

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Comments

Comment from Curtis McMinn
Time October 22, 2010 at 2:11 pm

I don’t know what’s more awesome: the content or that the National Archives has a post proclaiming the awesomeness that is the manly beard.

Rob Reply:

Thanks, Curtis. We here at Prologue have a healthy appreciation for beards, side burns, soul patches, mustaches, and more. We hope you come back next week for another Facial Hair Friday.

Comment from Amanda
Time October 22, 2010 at 3:38 pm

Thanks for this very interesting historical factoid!

Comment from Bob
Time October 22, 2010 at 6:02 pm

1888 is also a questionable outcome, since Cleveland (clean-shaven) received more popular votes than Harrison (beard), who won in the electoral college. If one goes by the popular vote, the change in 1876 and 1888 may tip the balance in the other direction.

Comment from Ken
Time November 4, 2010 at 9:44 am

I think you better double-check 1872. As I recall, Horace Greeley was bearded – below the chin…

Rob Reply:

Ken,

There was heavy debate in the offices here about what exactly Horace Greeley’s hair is doing. The ultimate conclusion we arrived at was that because Greeley’s historically untamed sideburns didn’t connect at the chin, that this didn’t count as a beard. While he made not have technically been bearded, he certainly never had to worry about his neck getting cold.