The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

Local News

October 30, 2007

Her letter changed face of nation

By Debby Woodin

dwoodin@joplinglobe.com

PITTSBURG, Kan. — An alumna of Pittsburg State University who is a historical researcher will unveil the contents of a recently discovered letter written to Abraham Lincoln by his “little correspondent” next week.

The second letter to Lincoln from Grace Bedell, the girl who encouraged Lincoln to grow a beard in 1860 before his election as president, will be revealed in a ceremony at 11 a.m. Monday at PSU.

The alumna is Karen Needles, of Washington, D.C. She has been working for six years as a researcher for the Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum in Springfield, Ill. She also operates an online service for locating historical documents at www.documentsonwheels.com.

Bedell became known as “Lincoln’s little correspondent” when, at age 11, she wrote to the presidential candidate.

“She wrote a letter in 1860 saying he would look more statesmanlike if he wore a beard,” said John Lupton, associate director for the papers of Lincoln at the Lincoln Presidential Library.

At first, Lincoln didn’t take to the idea. He wrote back to the girl and told her it might be regarded as “silly” for him to grow whiskers after not having had them for many years.

But, by the time Lincoln took a train to Washington, D.C., to be sworn into office only a few months after receiving her letter, he sported a full beard.

During that trip to the capital, Lincoln stopped in Bedell’s hometown in upstate New York, near Buffalo. He asked for the girl who wrote the letter to step forward from a crowd of well-wishers at the train stop, and he hugged her, Lupton said.

That part of the story was made into a Hallmark Hall of Fame movie in 1953 and is a topic in some books. But, it was not the last time Lincoln heard from the girl.

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