Home > Humor/Satire, Politics > Beards: Presidential and Otherwise

Beards: Presidential and Otherwise

For some reason, beards have been a big theme this week. It started Thursday when I attended a Washington Nationals baseball game and my good friend, Walter Ludwig, whom I had invited, noted the very excellent beard sported by right fielder, Jason Werth.

Beard Werth

Exceptionally full and outdoorsy, even woodsman-like, I’d say.

The beard theme continued Friday when I read this article in The Hill about the creation of a political action committee dedicated to the financial backing of bearded candidates, regardless of party affiliation or ideology.

This PAC is for real. The paperwork for the Bearded Entrepreneurs for the Advancement of a Responsible Democracy (BEARD) was filed with Federal Election Commission Wednesday by a Jonathan Sessions, who describes himself on his website as a member of the board of education in Columbia, Missouri.

Sessions notes, as did this fine article on Slate.com nearly a year ago, that Benjamin Harrison was the last U.S. President to fashion a beard and that it’s high time political beards came back into fashion.

As this touches on Presidential history, one of my absolute favorite areas of study and expertise, some cursory research finds there were five American Presidents with actual beards:

Abraham Lincoln
US Grant
Rutherford B Hayes
James Garfield
Benjamin Harrison

This period of 1861 to 1893 was truly the high point for Presidential beards. The only exceptions were Andrew Johnson who had no facial hair at all and was, perhaps not coincidentally-impeached; Chester Alan Arthur, who did sport impressive mutton chops- and Grover Cleveland, one of our four mustachioed Chief Executives (the others: Arthur, Theodore Roosevelt and William Howard Taft). Early Presidents, John Quincy Adams and Martin Van Buren were also mutton chop enthusiasts but did not have mustaches (or beards).

Since Taft, we have had nothing but clean shaven Presidents beginning with Woodrow Wilson who was inaugurated in 1913. The first patent for a safety razor, by the way, was issued in 1880 but even then the early razors still needed to be sharpened by professionals. The point is that about 1916, some 15 years after the release of the first disposable razor, there was widespread adoption of this remarkable tool from Gillette. Politics has not been the same since.

The political beard article in Slate, by the way, points out that recent adoption of beards was significantly stymied by the images of both hippies and Fidel Castro.

(Fidel Castro, Jerry Rubin)

(Fidel Castro, Jerry Rubin)

This trend could have been stopped dead in its tracks had Richard Nixon done a Richard Nixon to China thing with beards (the analogy that’s probably outdated now about how only an anti-communist could escape political peril offering peace to communists).

Beard Nixon

That is, I must say, a pretty cool looking Tricky Dick.

And then, of course, there’s this gentleman:

Beard Uncle Sam

And that, ladies and gentlemen, makes beards as American as:

beard apple pie

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