Pittsburg State University - Pittsburg, Kansas
PSU Home | PSU Search | GUS / Logins | A-Z Index | Campus Map | Contact Info. | Comments | Help

News @ PSU

News and information from Pittsburg State University, Pittsburg, Kansas.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Pitt State alum discovers second letter from 'Lincoln's Little Correspondent'

History buffs across the nation will recall the story of Grace Bedell – an 11-year-old girl from Westfield, N.Y., who wrote soon-to-be president Abraham Lincoln a letter in 1860 commenting on his thin face and suggesting he grow some “whiskers.”

Amused by her comments, Lincoln wrote her back, engaging in one of the most famous conversations in history between a president and constituent. Soon afterward, when his inauguration train traveled through Westfield, the two met face-to-face, Lincoln hugging his little fan and telling her he grew the beard for her. The media credited Grace with Lincoln’s decision to grow his trademark beard and dubbed her “Lincoln’s Little Correspondent,” a title that has been the inspiration for several books, historical monuments, and two movies.

For years, that’s where the story ended. But now, there is new evidence Grace didn’t forget about their friendship. A Pittsburg State University graduate and documents researcher in Washington, D.C., has uncovered a second letter from the little girl to Lincoln. That letter will be displayed at a ceremony at 11 a.m. on Monday, Nov. 5, at Pittsburg State University in Pittsburg, Kan.

Karen Needles, owner of Documents on Wheels, an online historical documents company, has been researching the National Archives in Washington, D.C. for the past six years, looking for letters related to the Lincoln administration. Last March, she came upon a second letter from Grace written in1864, a year before Lincoln’s assassination. In the letter, Grace asks the president if he remembers her, and requests his help in finding her an entry-level job in the U.S. Department of Treasury.

Lincoln, who was in the midst of the Civil War, didn’t respond (Needles theorizes one of his clerks forwarded it directly to the Treasury without informing Lincoln). Bedell didn’t get a job and instead married and moved to Delphos, Kan., with her husband George Billings, a Civil War sergeant. She died in Delphos in 1936, just before her 88th birthday. Her original letter to Lincoln is in the archives at the Detroit Public Library. Monuments honoring her stand in both Delphos, Kan., and in her birthplace of Westfield. (See the original text at

Bedell’s great-grandson Duane Billings, along with Needles, representatives from the Delphos Public Library, PSU Department of History faculty, and PSU students and staff will attend the ceremony next week.

For more background on the story of “Lincoln’s Little Correspondent,” check out Lincoln’s Little Girl: A True Story by Fred Trump, and A Few Hundred Years by Roger Bishop Billings.

For more information on the ceremony, contact the Office of Public Relations at 620-235-4122.

---Pitt State---