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Tag: Secretary of State

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: 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 the funeral service at the White House, the coffin was taken … [ Read all ]