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Tag: Grant

Facial Hair Friday: Rising above party politics

Chester A. Arthur, 21st President of the United States (ARC 532289)

Today in 1886, former President Chester A. Arthur died from complications from Bright’s disease. He had not been relected for second term, and he had left office in 1884. He died in New York City, just 56 years old.

Although he sported the facial hair style of the time, Arthur was an unlikely President. He ascended to the office in September 1885 when President James Garfield died three months after being shot.

Arthur did have strong administrative experience with the Federal Government, having worked as quartermaster general in the New York Volunteers during the Civil War. He arranged provisions and housing for hundreds of thousands of soldiers, making a reputation for himself as an excellent administrator.

But Arthur was a crony of Roscoe Conkling, a New York Republican Party boss and U.S. Senator who was well known for using patronage and party connections to gain power. When Arthur was appointed Collector of the Port of New York by President Grant, he supported the political machine of “Boss Conkling” by collecting salary kickbacks. He also augmented his $12,000 yearly salary to $50,000 by sharing in fines that Customs collected on undervalued imports.

When President Rutherford B. Hayes came into office, he began to dismantle Boss Conkling’s empire, and Arthur lost his job. Because Hayes had declared he would be … [ Read all ]

Facial Hair Friday: Happy Birthday, Grover Cleveland!

President Grover Cleveland (ARC 518139)

President Grover Cleveland (ARC 518139)

If Grover Cleveland were alive today, he would need to blow out 174 candles. And of course, he would need to be careful not to set his mustache alight as he bent toward the mighty blaze of his birthday cake.

Grover Cleveland’s election marked a turning point in Presidential facial hair. The beard was going out of fashion, and the mustache was rising to upper-lip prominence.

In fact, Lincoln was the first President to sport a beard (though Martin Van Buren was stiffly bewhiskered by sideburns). But after Lincoln’s death in 1865, his sucessor Andrew Johnson was clean shaven.  Grant, Hayes, and Garfield made their turn through the highest office with fine beards, but the tide turned with the appearance of Chester A. Arthur’s mustache and meager sideburns.

President Cleveland had embraced the look of the clean-shaved face when he entered office the first time in 1885, but he maintained a mustache. When he returned for a second term in 1893, he still had the mustache.

Cleveland is the only President to be elected to two non-consective terms. For his second term, he defeated the incumbent President Harrison, who was the last President to date to have a beard. Did this electoral defeat signal the end of a hirsute era?

Cleveland was also the only President to be married in the White House. … [ Read all ]