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Tag: abraham lincoln

Facial Hair Friday: Gideon Welles, Bearded and Bright

Not only is Hon. Gideon Welle’s beard pretty fabulous—look at that head full of luscious curls! Circa 1860–1865, ARC Identifiers 525398 (left), 526505 (right).

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 … [ Read all ]

Facial Hair Friday: A Liberal Arts Education

Hon. Josiah B. Grinnell, Iowa, ca. 1860-1865 (ARC 526530)

Among our extensive collection of Mathew Brady photographs is this one of Josiah Bushnell Grinnell, whose sideburns appear to slide down his cheeks towards his cravat.

The Honorable J. B. Grinnell’s name may seem familiar if you have ever browsed college catalogs, or if you are an alum of Grinnell College, located in Grinnell, Iowa.

Although Grinnell was born in Vermont,  he packed up his sideburns and went West in 1854 to set up a Congregational church out in the wilds of the Iowa terrriroty. The town and college that he helped set up both bear his name.

After Iowa became a state, Grinnell served as a state senator and was a delegate to the Republican National Convention that nominated Abraham Lincoln for President. In 1862, Grinnell was elected to Congress.

Grinnell crossed paths with Horace Greely, whose neard has been featured on Facial Hair Friday before. Grinnell, along with “Liberal Republicans” and Democrats, supported  Greeley for President—presumably for political reasons rather than a shared love of sideburns.

Gen. Lovell H. Rousseau, ca. 1860-1865 (ARC 528580)

But not all was peaceful in the world of politics and facial hair. On June 14, 1866, Grinnell was assaulted by fellow Representative and sideburn-lover Gen. Lovell H. Rousseau. The Kentucky man beat the unarmed Grinnell with an iron-tipped cane after an incident on the House floor … [ Read all ]

Medal of Honor is now on display at the National Archives

The Medal of Honor for Sgt. James Hill in its presentation box.

 

The Medal of Honor is the highest honor in recognition of “gallantry in action.” Yet when President Abraham Lincoln signed “An act to further promote the efficiency of the Navy” into law on December 21, 1861, the creation of this honor is just a paragraph in section seven.

Only 200 “medals of honor” were authorized by Lincoln to be awarded to enlisted members of the Navy “during the present war.”  Over the years, the medal has changed, going through revisions to the design, the rules under which it was awarded, and the inclusion of officers and members of the other branches of service. 

It has been awarded fewer than 3,500 times.

One medal is currently on display through January 17, 2012, in the Rotunda of the National Archives.

This Medal of Honor was awarded to Sgt. James Hill, 14th New York Artillery, for extraordinary heroism on July 30, 1864, at Petersburg, Virginia, for capturing a flag and shooting a Confederate officer who was rallying his men.  Hill died in captivity at Andersonville, Georgia, before the medal could be presented.  The medal was designed by William Wilson & Sons, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, in 1862.

The display also includes a letter of recommendation to another soldier. After the Civil War ended, the historian of the 37th Massachusetts Regimental Association, … [ Read all ]

Reverse the (Zero) Curse

President Reagan looking at "Get Well Soon Mr. President" photo while at George Washington Hospital. 4/8/81. (Reagan Library)

President Reagan looking at "Get Well Soon Mr. President" photo while at George Washington Hospital. 4/8/81. (Reagan Library)

When Ronald Reagan survived the attempt on his life on March 30, 1981, and went on to serve two full four-year terms, he broke what some people call “the year-ending-in-zero” curse.

It goes like this: Every President elected in a year ending in zero since 1840 had died in office.

William Henry Harrison, elected in 1840, died after one month in office of pneumonia; he also was our shortest serving President. On his inauguration day, then on March 4, he gave a two-hour speech without hat or topcoat, then rode through the streets of Washington. He was succeeded by John Tyler. (Remember Tippecanoe and Tyler too!)

Abraham Lincoln, elected in 1860, was assassinated a month into his second term, on April 12, 1865, by John Wilkes Booth. He was succeeded by Andrew Johnson.

President Harrison was the first President to be stricken by the Zero-Year Curse (111-SC-92615; ARC 530961).

President Harrison was the first President to be stricken by the Zero-Year Curse (111-SC-92615; ARC 530961).

James A. Garfield, elected in 1880, was assassinated in 1881 after only 199 days in office, succeeded by Chester A. Arthur. William McKinley, elected in 1896 and reelected in 1900, was mortally wounded in September 1901 and died eight days later, succeeded by Theodore Roosevelt.

Warren G. Harding, elected in 1920, died in 1923 of a heart attack … [ Read all ]

Facial Hair Friday—Edward Bates

Edward Bates, Attorney General in the Lincoln administration. (ARC 528314; 111-B-4168)

Edward Bates, Attorney General in the Lincoln administration. (ARC 528314; 111-B-4168)

Edward Bates was living quietly and comfortably in 1860. He had been out of public life for two decades but now was being courted by backers for the highest office in the land. The new Republican Party’s nomination for President of the United States was wide open, and a number of contenders were vying for the prize.

Those who urged Bates to put his hat in the ring considered his standing as an elder statesman of Missouri (he’d arrived in St. Louis in 1814 and been a delegate to the state constitution convention) and his previous public service (state legislator, U.S. Representative, judge). Perhaps they were also swayed by his impressive whiskers, which give him a patriarchal air.

Bates did not win the nomination—a beardless lawyer from Illinois won the party’s backing and the Presidency. When the newly be-whiskered Abraham Lincoln was filling his Cabinet, though, he called on Bates to be his Attorney General. Bates was part of the unlikely “team of rivals” brought together by Lincoln. Two other former Presidential candidates, William Seward and Salmon P. Chase, were brought into the Cabinet as Secretary of State and Secretary of the Treasury. (Another member of the Cabinet, Secretary of War Edwin Stanton has been a Facial Hair Friday honoree.)

President Lincoln himself remarked on Edward … [ Read all ]