Springfield, Illinois — Early portrait of Abraham Lincoln.
He would look better if he wore whiskers,
and I mean to write and tell him so.
11-YEAR-OLD GRACE BEDELL TO HER MOTHER, 1860
Abraham Lincoln became president of the United States in October 1860 at the age of 51. But a few weeks earlier he had been judged unequal to the task by 11-year-old Grace Bedell. Young Grace wrote to Lincoln pointing out what was, in her eyes, a serious defect: his lack of facial hair.
Half figure seated portrait of Abraham Lincoln, sixteenth president of the United States.
Oct. 15, 1860
Grace Bedell’s letter to Abraham Lincoln.
IMAGE: DETROIT PUBLIC LIBRARY, BURTON HISTORICAL COLLECTION
You would look a great deal better for your face is so thin. All the ladies like whiskers and they would tease their husbands to vote for you and then you would be President.
FROM GRACE BEDELL’S LETTER TO ABRAHAM LINCOLN, OCT. 15, 1860
Lincoln wrote back to Grace in the letter below.
(Some experts believe the letter’s spots are from snowflakes landing on the paper, as Grace hurriedly read the letter on her way home from the local post office.)
Oct. 19, 1860
Abraham Lincoln to Grace Bedell.
IMAGE: BENJAMIN SHAPELL FAMILY MANUSCRIPT FOUNDATION
Having never worn any whiskers, do you not think people would call it a piece of silly affection if I were to begin?
FROM LINCOLN’S REPLY TO GRACE BEDELL, OCT. 19, 1860
Beardstown, Illinois — Believed to be one of the last photos made before Lincoln grew a beard.
Less than a month after receiving Grace’s letter, Lincoln had a beard.
Nov. 25, 1860
The first photograph to show Lincoln’s beard.
IMAGE: LIBRARY OF CONGRESS
On his inaugural train journey from Illinois to Washington D.C., Lincoln stopped in Westfield, New York (Grace’s hometown) and asked to meet her.
There was a momentary commotion, in the midst of which an old man, struggling through the crowd, approached, leading his daughter. Mr. Lincoln stooped down and kissed the child, and talked with her for some minutes. Her advice had not been thrown away upon the rugged chieftain. The young girl’s peachy cheek must have been tickled with a stiff whisker.
EDITION OF THE NEW YORK WORLD, FEB. 19, 1861
Nov. 8, 1863
“Gracie,” he said, “look at my whiskers. I have been growing them for you.” Then he kissed me.
I never saw him again.
In 2009, almost 150 years later, a Liz Bedell, then a 23-year-old staff member in the U.S. House of Representatives, was exploring the Library of Congress’ Lincoln bicentennial exhibition. She saw the original letter from Grace, and Lincoln’s reply, in a display case.
In the exhibition’s visitor log, she wrote: “I cried my eyes out when I saw the letter from Grace Bedell to Abe Lincoln — she’s my great-great aunt, and I grew up with the story not really believing it.”
“In fifth grade, I wanted to be president of the United States. My Grandpa used to tell me, ‘You can do anything you want. You can be president. Why, just look at your great-great aunt Grace Bedell. She couldn’t vote, but she put pen to paper.’”
‘Surely there must be a couple of new Ada Lovelaces lurking in this land?” exclaimed digital doyenne Martha Lane Fox last month, as she issued a call for women to turn their hands to tech – part of her new plan, dubbed Dot Everyone, for an internet-savvy nation.
It’s little wonder that the enigmatic daughter of Lord Byron has been put, posthumously, on a pedestal. Brought up to shun the lure of poetry and revel instead in numbers, Lovelace teamed up with mathematician Charles Babbage who had grand plans for an adding machine, named the Difference Engine, and a computer called the Analytical Engine, for which Lovelace wrote the programs. Then tragedy struck – Lovelace died, aged just 36. They never built a machine.
But now the mother of computing might finally have the chance to realise her own potential. As the eponymous stars of a new graphic novel The Thrilling Adventures of Lovelace and Babbage, the pair have been resurrected to finish what they started. “I guess it just seemed like a really stupid ending, that they didn’t build the machine,” says author Sydney Padua, a London-based computer animator. “Plus I really wanted to draw comics … and you can’t draw very good comics about dead people and their machine they didn’t build!” Having first illustrated the duo some years ago to mark Ada Lovelace Day, the annual celebration of women in science and tech, the comic’s huge popularity spurred Padua to develop the cartoons on her blog and ultimately unleash the book.
Exploring, then rejecting, the sad fate of Lovelace and her plans, Padua turns the tables on history, setting the aristocrat to work building a mechanical behemoth. The upshot is a pipe-smoking, jodphur-wearing steampunk technologist who would startle even Lane Fox. It doesn’t end there. Having built a technological masterpiece, a series of madcap escapades ensue in which Lovelace and Babbage are joined by a host of Victorian celebrities, from the ultimate client from hell, Queen Victoria, who demands the machine be used for fighting crime, to novelist George Eliot, who finds herself lost in its maze-like interior. “It really is very much about my own experiences in the labyrinth of computing,” says Padua.
But if the reborn mathematicians find building a machine something of a handful, they aren’t alone. In trying to present an accurate depiction of the analytical engine for an explanatory appendix (shown here), Padua discovered there was little to go on, and found herself rifling through the work of Babbage scholar Allan Bromley for design clues. “I just sat down, basically, with the Bromley papers and whatever of Babbage’s plans I could get my hands on through fair means or foul,” she says. The result is a shining feat of engineering that her dynamic duo would be proud of. A rip-roaring caper engulfed in footnotes of quotes, quips and illuminating asides (Babbage, Padua reveals, gained notoriety as the scourge of street musicians), the book does more than simply celebrate the genius of the first computer programmer, it encourages us to turn our imagination to technology – just as Lovelace did. And that’s an inspiration to us all.
The thrilling adventures of Lovelace and Babbage – in pictures
Sydney Padua’s new graphic novel, set in Victorian London, tells the story of Ada Lovelace and Charles Babbage’s attempts to invent the first computer, with cameos from George Eliot, Charles Dickens and Isambard Kingdom Brunel.
Photos of American cities from Civil War era to 1912…
Nashville, Tenn., from the statehouse, 1864. Photograph by George N. Barnard. Mathew Brady collection. The statehouse portico
Chattanooga, Tenn. in time of war. Soldiers’ tents and supply wagons beside the city building. 1864. Mathew Brady collection. (Courtesy of the National Archives)
The ruins of Mills House and nearby buildings, Charleston, S.C. A shell-damaged carriage and the remains of a brick chimney in the foreground. 1865. Photograph by George N. Barnard. (Courtesy of the National Archives)
Shells of the buildings of Richmond, Va., silhouetted against a dark sky after the destruction by Confederates, 1865. Mathew Brady collection. (Courtesy of the National Archives)
Store-lined street, Salt Lake City, Utah, 1869. Photograph by William H. Jackson. (Courtesy of the National Archives)
Panorama of Helena, Mont., in 1870. Photograph by William H. Jackson. (Courtesy of the National Archives)
The weatherbeaten wharves between Piety and Desire Streets, New Orleans, La., August 1881. A group of men seated on the wharves, store-lined street in the background. (Courtesy of the National Archives)
Bearded Irish clam diggers and a matronly companion on a wharf in Boston, 1882. (Courtesy of the National Archives)
Oyster fleet in Baltimore Harbor, Md., ca. 1885. Ships’ masts dominate the foreground; buildings, horse-drawn wagons, and carts visible through them. (Courtesy of the National Archives)
Smartly dressed couple seated on an 1886-model bicycle for two. The South Portico of the White House, Washington, D.C., in the background. (Courtesy of the National Archives)
A military parade down the main street of Phoenix, Ariz., ca. 1888. (Courtesy of the National Archives)
Panorama of Portland, Oreg., in 1890. Mount Hood in the background. (Courtesy of the National Archives)
Man with a derby hat stands atop a mound of oyster shells outside the C. H. Pearson & Company oyster cannery, Baltimore. Workers bring wheel- barrows of shells from the factory to the heap. ca. 1890. (Courtesy of the National Archives)
Boston’s fisherman’s wharf jammed with merchants and dock workers, ca. 1890. (Courtesy of the National Archives)
“Terminal,” by Alfred Steiglitz, 1892. Original lantern slide in the International Museum of Photography, New York. (Courtesy of the National Archives)
Horse-drawn wagons and carriages, an electric trolley car, and pedestrians congest a cobblestone Philadelphia street in 1897. (Courtesy of the National Archives)
Two officials of the New York City Tenement House Department inspect a cluttered basement living room, ca. 1900. (Courtesy of the National Archives)
New York City’s Fifth Avenue bustling with horse-drawn traffic and two motor cars. (Courtesy of the National Archives)
Residents in front of a dilapidated frame house in Kansas City, ca. 1900. (Courtesy of the National Archives)
Children play ball in the street in front of typical housing with five rooms per family for 0 to 2 per month. San Francisco, ca. 1900. (Courtesy of the National Archives)
Shoppers at the outdoor food market, 7th Street at Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W.. Washington, D.C. View looking up 7th Street, ca. 1900. (Courtesy of the National Archives)
Airshaft of a dumbbell tenement, New York City, taken from the roof, ca. 1900. (Courtesy of the National Archives)
Hundreds of wooden barrels covering the docks at the resin yards, Savannah, Ga., 1903. (Courtesy of the National Archives)
The Eighth Avenue trolley, New York City, sharing the street with horse-drawn produce wagon and an open automobile. Downtown, looking north. 1904. (Courtesy of the National Archives)
Three gentlemen pass the time on a park bench in San Jacinto Plaza, El Paso, Tex., 1906. (Courtesy of the National Archives)
The ruins of San Francisco, still smoldering after the 1906 earthquake, taken from the tower of the Union Ferry Building. Market Street between Sacramento and Third Streets. (Courtesy of the National Archives)
Elegantly dressed New Yorkers on Fifth Avenue, Easter morning, 1906. (Courtesy of the National Archives)
Treasury Department official, surrounded by packages of newly minted currency, counting and wrapping dollar bills. Washington, D.C., 1907. (Courtesy of the National Archives)
The Saint Louis, Mo., waterfront crowded with steamboats at the start of President William H. Taft’s inspection trip down the Mississippi River, Oct. 1909. (Courtesy of the National Archives)
Pedestrians on the upper deck promenade of Brooklyn Bridge, New York City, ca. 1910. (Courtesy of the National Archives)
An Indian enclave in Albuquerque, N. Mex. Primitive shelters with modern city street behind. 1912. (Courtesy of the National Archives)
Stevedores on a New York dock loading barrels of corn syrup onto a barge on the Hudson River. Photograph by Lewis Hine, ca. 1912. (Courtesy of the National Archives)
Women assembling dolls on a long worktable at the Shrenhat Toy Company, Philadelphia, Oct. 1912. (Courtesy of the National Archives)
Architects at their drafting tables at the Treasury Department Building, Washington, D.C., 1912. (Courtesy of the National
The Great Expedition of 1851 was one of the greatest events in history. Mankind, on the cusp of the industrial revolution went from man and horse power to machinery and science. It was the greatest change in culture, technology and science in the history of mankind. Queen Victoria, the sovereign whose empire was so vast that the sun never sat upon it, commissioned the Expedition and a huge Crystal Palace was built to house the exhibits. It was in fact, the event of the entire century.
The main aim of The Great Exhibition was for Great Britain to show off, demonstrating its inventiveness and modern industrial designs and ideas to the rest of the world.
The Crystal Palace measured 564 metres by 138 metres and was constructed from thousands panes of glass. After the exhibition, it was moved from Hyde Park to Sydenham in south London, where it was extended. This area of London is now known as Crystal Palace.
Unfortunately, The Crystal Palace was destroyed by fire in 1936.
Over 6 million people visited the Great Exhibition. It was a massive success and the money it raised was used to set up the Natural History Museum, the Science Museum and the Victoria and Albert Museum in London.
Over 100,000 objects were on display in The Crystal Palace – half of these were from Britain.
Some of the exhibits included: a massive hydraulic press (designed by Stevenson), a steam hammer, counting machines, carpets, ribbons, printing machines, musical instruments, carriages, early versions of bicycles, agricultural machines, guns and watches.
The famous Koh-i-Noor diamond was on display at the Great Exhibition.
In the centre of the glass building stood a fountain constructed from pink glass. This was 27 feet high.
The Crystal Palace featured the first public toilet cubicles. The inventor of these, George Jennings, charged a penny. This is where the expression ‘spend a penny’ comes from.