A World of Whiskers

Monarchs with whiskers are natural. Why should a man want to look like an Indian or a woman? If face is too wide, beard lengthens it; if too narrow, it expands with the addition of what have been called “mutton chops” or “siders;” if nose projects, almost like a nose trying to escape from a face to which it has been sentenced for life, a pair of large mustaches provide a proper entourage – a nest, so to speak, on which the nose rests contentedly; if nose retreats backward the solution is galways. A stout man can do wonders with his appearance by adopting a pointed beard, and a suit of clothes, shirt, necktie and stockings with pronounced vertical stripes. A thin man, on the other hand, becomes at once substantial in effect, without being gross, if he cultivates side whiskers, and wears clothes, shirt, cravat and stockings with pronounced horizontal stripes. If face lacks fierceness and dynamic force, it needs a brisk, arrogant mustache; or if it has too much of these qualities, a long, sad, drooping mustache will counterbalance them. The soldier is traditionally bearded like the pard. Nor need this fact be explained by the sordid motive of convenience. “If the Rooshians didn’t wear beards,” Mr. Dooley once sagely observed, “we wouldn’t be afraid of them.” A great symbolic principle is involved. Alexander the Great, to be sure, ordered his soldiers to shave lest the enemies seize them by the beards, and Scipio Africanus, a fighter of renown, was the first Roman, according to Pliny, to shave every day. Tacitus says that the Teutonic barbarians who overwhelmed the Roman Empire regarded a shaven face as a badge of servitude. Perhaps it was for this reason that the Romans from the time of Hadrian abandoned the habit of shaving. Yet beardless warriors have overcome bearded, as Achilles overcame. Hector and Caesar Pompey. The mightiest Julius, it is said, could not have raised whiskers had be wished. Phillip V of Spain was in a similar predicament, and his loyal courtiers shaved to keep him company. A tax on beards was imposed by Peter the Great, and even in the last century they were tabooed in some European countries because they were supposed to indicate revolutionary opinions. Neither fashino nor law has been able to banish whiskers forever. When Joao de Castro of Portugal captured Goa he demanded of the inhabitants a loan of a thousand pistoles and gave one of his whiskers in payment. “All the gold in the world,” he declared, “cannot equal the value of this natural ornament, which I place in your hands.” “I found,” said Cuvier, “that my shaving took me a quarter of an hour a day; this makes 7.5 hours in a month, and 90 hours, or 3 days and 18 hours, very nearly 4 days, a year. This discovery staggered me.” Washington, John Adams, Jefferson, Madison, Monroe, were clean-shaven. John Quincy Adams established a precedent for slight side whiskers, which was ignored by beardless Andrew Jackson, imitated by Van Buren, once more set aside by William H. Harrison, Tyler, James K. Polk, again revived by Fillmore, Pierce and Buchanan. Lincoln was clean-shaven at his election, but wore a sparse beard before the end of his first term. Johnson was beardless. Grant was the first President to wear a full short beard, and his successor, Hayes, the first to wear a full long one, a style patronized also by Garfield. Arthur’s Burnside-type of whiskers stand alone of their kind on the presidential record. Cleveland was the first to wear a mustache only. Ben Harrison’s beard was full; McKinley had none. Roosevelt, Taft, mustache; Wilson, clean-shaven. Dr. H. S. Brewer says: “Is it not a fact that all men who die suddenly of apoplexy and so called heart failure are close shaven, and is it not a matter of history that the oldest men, those who passed the ‘span of life’ and lived to great age, were hirsutely adorned? As a physician of nearly 50 years’ experience, I will agree to eat all the microbes and germs that those princes of surgeons, Drs. Murphy and Evans, acquire, and to call for more.” Fitchburg, Mass., in the 1820’s, resented Joseph Palmer’s beard. He was the only bearded man in that part of the country, and he was persecuted for it. When he resisted the attack of several neighbors who proposed to shave him he was put in jail on a charge of unprovoked assault. He far out-stayed his sentence, said his son, because he had to pay for all his food, drink, and coal for heating, and he considered they cheated him, so he refused to go. The sheriff and jailer, tired of having him there, begged him to leave. Even his mother wrote to him “not to be so set.” But nothing could move him. He said that they had put him in there and they would have to take him out, as he would not walk out. They finally carried him out in his chair and placed it on the sidewalk. The neighbors were irritated, not only by Joseph Palmer’s beard, but by his general attitude of mind. He was “so set.”