Site search

Site menu:

Find Out More

Archives

Categories

Contact Us

Subscribe to Email Updates

Tag: beard

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: Two names and almost two beards

Col. David H. Strother, ca. 1860-ca. 1865 (ARC 530168)

Today’s featured facial hair is a fan find! Thank you to Paul H. for alerting us to this wonderful forked beard.

In fact, this beard really looks like there’s enough hair to be two beards. Perhaps Colonel Strother had a beard for each of his names?

Before his stint in the Army during the Civil War, David Hunter Strother had toured Europe to study art and was a successful magazine illustrator and writer. He published his artwork under the delightful nom-de-plume of “Porte Crayon.”

When the Civil War began, his artistic talents meant he was assigned as a topographer in the Army, but by 1864, Colonel Strother was chief of staff to his cousin Gen. David Hunter. He was involved in the shelling of the Virginia Military Institute and later promoted to colonel of the Third West Virginia Cavalry.

He wrote about his wartime experiences for Harper’s Monthly as “Personal Recollections of the War.”

After the war, he continued to work as an artist until 1879, when he was appointed by President Hayes as General Consul to Mexico City, a post he held for the next six years.

In 1940, the “Porte Crayon Memorial Society” lobbied to have a mountain in  Monongahela National Forest in West Virginia named after Strother.  Mount Porte Crayon is not for casual day hikers, however. … [ Read all ]

Facial Hair Friday: The Death Mask of Walter Q. Gresham

Pat Anderson, archivist, holds the death mask of Walter Q. Gresham.

Today’s featured facial hair is especially appropriate for the approaching Halloween weekend. It’s the plaster cast of a beard, taken of the deceased Walter Q. Gresham, who was Secretary of State at the time of his death in May of 1895.

This  death mask—complete with a few beard hairs stuck in it—may seem like an oddity now, but at the time it was a mark of reverence for a beloved official. The cast was made so that sculptors could later create a permanent likeness of the deceased.

And Walter Q. Gresham seemed a likely candidate for a commemorative statue. He was enormously popular.

Gresham held several important positions, serving as a general in the Union Army during the Civil War, U.S. Postmaster General, a Federal appellate court judge, Secretary of the Treasury, and finally, President Grover Cleveland’s Secretary of State in 1893.

An article in the May 29, 1895, edition of the Washington Post covered the events in detail. Gresham was the first member of the Cabinet to have a funeral in the East Room of the White House and the second man to have the troops ordered out for his funeral. The Government Printing Office was ordered closed as a mark of respect. Flags across the city—including foreign embassies and consulates—were lowered to half mast for 10 days.

After … [ Read all ]

Facial Hair Friday: Prisons, Potatoes, Pipe Cleaners

You may have seen some of these beards and mustaches before! The mug shots of prisoners at Leavenworth Penitentiary have been featured here and here.

But the images above take facial hair to a whole new level! Staff at the National Archives at Kansas City got together and created Potatriot dioramas (inspired by this post). They kept the prisoners’ jumpsuits simple with black and white paper, but then took pipe cleaners and pens to interpret the facial hair, from beards to handlebar to stubble. Truly impressive! Click on the picture to enlarge, or admire the set on Flickr.

You can check out our full set of historic Potatriots dioramas on Flickr. And if you create your own Potatriots scene, send it to volunteer@nara.gov, and we will add it on Flickr!

Why do we hold the records of prisoners at the U.S. Penitentiary at Leavenworth, Kansas? Find out in this Prologue article!… [ Read all ]

Facial Hair Friday: Shiloh and Sideburns

Grant, Lt. Gen. Ulysses S.; three-quarter-length, standing. ARC 558720

Grant, Lt. Gen. Ulysses S.; three-quarter-length, standing. ARC 558720

There’s something appealing about this pensive photograph of Ulysses S. Grant, from his somber clothes to his wistful gaze. He doesn’t seem like someone who saw  some of the bloodiest fighting at Shiloh.

Unlike many of our other featured Facial Hairs of the Civil War era, Grant’s beard is not a runaway avalanche of hair, nor is it attempting to creep out from under his collar and up his face.

Grant’s beard is neatly trimmed, and his hair tidily slicked back. It’s an oddly timeless look.

When I go to museums and look at portraits of Americans, I like to imagine them in modern clothes. Some people, like the Leavenworth inmates, seem firmly rooted in thier time. But I can imagine Grant in modern-day clothes, perhaps headed off to teach a college history class.

This month marked the sesquicentennial anniversary of the Civil War. For Grant, April would be an important month. On April 9, 1865, Robert E. Lee surrendered his 28,000 troops to Grant, ending the Civil War.

Of course, General Grant went on to other things after the Civil War. He was the 18th President of the United States, from 1869-1877.

But this picture seems even more poignant considering the end of his life. After the Presidency, Grant was a partner in a financial firm that went bankrupt. He … [ Read all ]