Five U.S. presidents wore beards, but it’s been more than a century since anyone with facial hair served in the White House. The last president to wear a full beard in office was Benjamin Harrison, who served from March 1889 to March 1893. Facial hair has all but disappeared from American politics. There are very few bearded politicians in Congress. Being clean-shaven wasn’t always the norm, though. There are plenty of presidents with facial hair in U.S. political history. Where did they all go? What happened to the beard?
At least 11 presidents had facial hair, but only five had beards.
1. Abraham Lincoln was the first bearded president of the United States. But he might have entered office clean-shaven in March 1861 were it not from a letter from 11-year-old Grace Bedell of New York, who didn’t like the way he looked on the 1860 campaign trail without facial hair.
2. Ulysses Grant was the second bearded president. Before he was elected, Grant was known to wear his beard in a manner that was described as both “wild” and “shaggy” during the Civil War. The style did not suit his wife, however, so he trimmed it back. Purists point out the Grant was the first president to wear a full beard compared to Lincoln’s “chinstrap.” In 1868, author James Sanks Brisbin described Grant’s facial hair this way: “The whole of the lower part of the face is covered with a closely cropped reddish beard, and on the upper lip he wears a mustache, cut to match the beard.”
3. Rutherford B. Hayes was the third bearded president. He reportedly wore the longest beard of the five bearded presidents, what some described as Walt Whitman-ish. Hayes served as president from March 4, 1877 to March 4, 1881.
4. James Garfield was the fourth bearded president. His beard has been described as being similar to that of Rasputin’s, black with streaks of gray in it.
5. Benjamin Harrison was the fifth bearded president. He wore a beard the entire four years he was in the White House, from March 4, 1889, to March 4, 1893. He was the last president to wear a beard, one of the more notable elements of a relatively unremarkable tenure in office. Author O’Brien Cormac wrote this of the president in his 2004 book Secret Lives of the U.S. Presidents: What Your Teachers Never Told You About the Men of the White House: “Harrison may not be the most memorable chief executive in American history, but he did, in fact, embody the end of an era: He was the last president to have a beard.”
Several other presidents wore facial hair but not beards, these were:
- John Quincy Adams, who wore mutton chops.
- Chester Arthur, who wore a mustache and mutton chops.
- Martin Van Buren, who wore mutton chops.
- Grover Cleveland, who wore a mustache.
- Theodore Roosevelt, who wore a mustache.
- William Taft, who wore a mustache.