Smithsonian Beard Survey presents: “Who Had the Best Civil War Facial Hair?” — a gallery of twenty-four incredible face-coifs, with voting privileges. Click on each photo for a neat little bio of each person, as well as wonderful examples of Civil War-era photography, which still looks amazingly crisp even today.

Thanks to Christy, Scott, Frank, Clint, folks on Twitter and the million others who sent this my way! I am glad to have people instantly think, “I know who needs to see this.”


“A Beard’s Eye View of Nineteenth-Century U.S. Politics,” sent in by faithful Marksman Will H., is a description of a Penn State grad student project:

Why did millions of American men begin sprouting facial hair in the 1850s? And why did most of them cut it off by the early decades of the twentieth century? […] To investigate that question, and with some indispensible technical support from my father, I’ve begun putting together a database of nineteenth century politicians and their facial hair.

More here.


Some answers to the questions posed above. Here is a new transcript of my interview with the world’s foremost beard expert, Dr. Christopher Oldstone-Moore. I’ve linked the audio from this interview before — but now I’ve also textified it for greater readability! Since you cannot read audio. Like, at all.

In the interview, we discuss:

• The birth of the Victorian beard — and how its emergence can be traced precisely to 1848
• Both beards and clean-shavenness as signifiers going back to the Greeks
• The reasons for the decline of beardedness around 1900
• What the current Renaissance of beards could mean

“…I do think that we’re in an exploratory era. I don’t really know where that exploration is going to go, but I do think you’re right. There is more freedom, more interest in looking for a new style of facial hair than there has been in a long time.”

The full transcript is here! Enjoy!

6 thoughts on “Smithsonian Beard Survey”

  1. I knew immediately who my vote belonged to, and he wasn’t there! THE Gen. Longstreet has been omitted. It’s probably because he would win, and Hiram could not live with the thought.

  2. As a Sikh, I’m going to have to vote for someone other than an American. So much talk about beards here, but no research or mention at all of the beardtopia that is the South and East of Asia!

  3. “It was a hairier day than this. Beards were to the wearers’ fancy, and things as strange as the Kaiserliche boar-tusk moustache were commonplace. “Side-burns” found nourishment upon childlike profiles; great Dundreary whiskers blew like tippets over young shoulders; moustaches were trained as lambrequins over forgotten mouths; and it was possible for a Senator of the United States to wear a mist of white whisker upon his throat only, not a newspaper in the land finding the ornament distinguished enough to warrant a lampoon. Surely no more is needed to prove that so short a time ago we were living in another age!”
    –Booth Tarkington, The Magnificent Ambersons, chapter 1

Comments are closed.

Recent blog posts