Monday, October 6, 2008

Working on the Railroad

William McCreery, a Washington County native, entered the railroad business around the time of the Civil War, building and running the Ashtabula, Youngstown and Pittsburg Railroad (AY&P), which was eventually leased by the Pennsylvania Railroad. After a disagreement with the PRR, McCreery resigned and built a competative railroad that became the Pittsburg & Lake Erie Railroad (P&LE). By the time he completed his 33rd year in business, he had built seven railway lines and held the presidency in four of them.

McCreery was also Chairman of Pittsburgh's Relief Committee for victims of the Johnstown Flood, on the board of directors for the Pittsburgh Chamber of Commerce, was one of the organizers of Allegheny General Hospital and also worked on the Pittsburgh Association for the Relief of the Poor.

It's difficult to tell from this many time over copied photograph but it looks like Mr. McCreery has a slight smile accentuated by slight curve on the ends of his mustache. A railroad magnate who gave back to the community would certainly have something to smile about.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Engineering a City

Even though a Pennsylvania native, Alexander Hays lived in the City of Allegheny for less than a decade but for that time he was the city's chief engineer and bore responsibility for a number of projects. When the Civil War came, he returned to the military (he had served in the Mexican-American War), leading a charge at the Second Battle of Bull Run and a noted counterattack at Gettysburg. He was killed at the Battle of the Wilderness in Virginia and was buried with honors in Allegheny Cemetery in Lawrenceville.

General Hays was widely regarded as a hero by the residents of the City of Allegheny (annexed by the city of Pittsburgh in 1907).When Ulysses S. Grant was campaigning for the presidency, he stopped by the gravesite of his US Military Academy friend and openly wept.

Friday, August 29, 2008

High flyin

I simply cannot let this photograph go unremarked upon even though it is not actually from the 19th Century. Herein, three fine gentlemen with absolutely spectacular beards are enjoying the spoils of victory in the World Beard and Mustache Championships. The original by dogseat, using the newfangled color-process photography, was modified by Mousewrites into the more vintage and gloriously black and white format you see here.

I am insanely jealous of these gentlemen. Though I am proud of my own beard, it pales to insignificance before their mastery of the art.

It is a great tragedy of the 20th and 21st Centuries that such magnificence has fallen out of fashion yet there is some small comfort that in some small corners of the population a fine tradition of stylish masculinity endures and through the aethertubes, endures for posterity.

Sunday, August 24, 2008


Loading unfinshed iron bars into a furnace for refinement was a difficult job. One needed to be highly skilled in judging the temperature of the bars and, as such, Adam Hart was one of the best paid workers in the Sligo Iron Works, once located beneath the Smithfield Street Bridge.

One might think that working with one's face near white-hot metal would preclude having a beard. Surely, such extravagance would surely burst into flames or singe away and, while this is a distinct possibility, many workers of metal cultivate full beards. Are they defiantly challenging the fates or is there some other, secret method to their madness?

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Beards of Pittsburgh: Andrew Carnegie

In celebration of the 250th anniversary of the founding of the city of Pittsburgh, I will be featuring notable beards and the beards of notables from the Steel City.

The most notable of those notables is, of course, Andrew Carnegie. The teenage Carnegie settled in the city of Allegheny (now Pittsburg's North Side) in 1848. Starting as a telegraph messenger boy in the Pittsburgh Office of the Ohio Telegraph Company, at $2.20 per week he worked his way up to found and command Carnegie Steel Company and become one of the wealthiest men in the world. When Carnegie Steel was sold in 1901, he made $125 million off the deal.

For as much as Carnegie was the industrial heart of Pittsburgh, he also contributed significantly to it's soul. His philanthropy funded some 3,000 libraries, located in 47 states, 19 of them in Pittsburgh. He also founded the Carnegie Institute of Technology (today, Carnegie-Mellon University) and the Carnegie Museum.

"Man does not live by bread alone. I have known millionaires starving for lack of the nutriment which alone can sustain all that is human in man, and I know workmen, and many so-called poor men, who revel in luxuries beyond the power of those millionaires to reach. It is the mind that makes the body rich."

And his beard. . . his finely manicured beard evolved from something fairly mundane into a brilliant and famous white respectability. Many professionally made photographs show a stern demeanor, not unexpected for a multi-national tycoon controlling a massive steel empire, but when he chose to smile, his bead afforded Carnegie a grandfatherly appearance.

Friday, August 1, 2008

Beards of our Forefathers

David Malki, author of the online comic strip Wondermark, has produced this collection of humor entitled "Beards of our Forefathers". For those who do not know his comic, he takes period illustrations and adds captions and dialogue for humerus purposes. And while there are certainly beards to be found within, such as his marginally useful Pocket Guide to Ancestral Beards and Ironic Facial Hair Citation, he focuses very little upon the actual beards of our forefathers.

This is not to say I was disappointed in his book. Assuredly not. Even without beards and mustaches, the the humor is significant.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Moko and beard

This 1880 photograph is of a Māori gentleman with a fine beard. Aside from the feathers, this beard is not unlike beards common throughout the more so-called civilized world, proving that beards are in fact universal. (He could stand to have a run through with a comb, however.) It is unfortunate that the beard may not be his own masculine choice. Some Christian missionaries disapproved of Tā moko (facial tattoos) arguing that they were a heathen practice, so some Maori men let their facial hair grow to cover their tattoos.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Mr. Talcott of Hartford

Clear-eyed Mr. Talcott has a luxurious yet well-managed goatee.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Ambrose Burnside

It was for American Civil War General Ambrose Everett Burnside, that the term sideburns was derived. Originally, he word burnsides was coined to describe this style. The syllables were later reversed to give sideburns.

Of course, aficionados of facial adornment realize that this particular style of beard already had a name before the Americans came up with the term sideburns in honor of General Burnside. In England, the word mutton chops was first used in 1865 to describe a facial adornment that starts off narrow at the top in front of the ears and widen across the cheek and jawline to the corner of the mouth. When the mutton chops are connected across the face with a mustache, or perhaps described as a full beard with the chin clean shaven, they are called friendly mutton chops. General Burnside has a fine example of friendly mutton chops that became even more distinguished in his later years.

Irish Beard

Irish Beard
While surely not the only reason to cultivate a beard, some men choose to grow a beard to conceal some deficiency or anomaly of the jawline. This gentleman, in sculpting his facial hair as he has, not only has a fine set of mutton chops but also accentuates his manly chin.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Friedrich Schmidt

Friedrich SchmidtThe annals of scientific have produced some fine beards; Hippocrates, Pythagoras, Leonardo da Vinci, Charles Darwin, but even those scientists who are less well known have been able to contribute to the art of masculinity.

Take Herr Schmidt, for example. Surely, you have never heard of him but he was academician extraordinarious of the Russian Academy of Sciences and Director of the Mineralogical Museum in St. Petersburg, he received awards from many institutions and societies, the highest being the Wollaston Medal from the Geological Sociey of London in 1890. He was a prolific writer and his publication list numbers more than 200 titles.

I learned of Herr Schmidt and his fine beard while searching the archives for information of trilobites. The Schmidt Trilobite Collection, housed in several museums in St. Petersburg and Moscow, amount to 1408 specimens representing what when he collected them were 255 different species of which 120 were new.

Does he not look filled with the joy of discovery?

Hurrah for Friedrich Schmidt! Hurrah for trilobites! Hurrah for science! Hurrah for beards.

Monday, May 5, 2008


Other venues have played on a perceived deep philosophical divide between those gentlemen with only mustaches and those with full beards. It is our assertion that an abundance or dearth of facial hair is part of a broad spectrum of masculinity and there is no reason for the bearded and the beardless not to be friends.

Here then is proof of such comradery. Two fine gentlemen sharing a lunch on a country ride, dressed identically, their matched velocipedes waiting to carry them on their brotherly way once their repast is complete.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Jamestown Gentleman

Here, then, is a not too closely cropped beard overtopped with a fine mustache. Had he chosen the mustache without the beard or the beard without the mustache he would have lost the gentlemanly effect entirely. No, in this case the one must have the other.

Friday, April 18, 2008

A Man and His Dog

A fine gentleman and his faithful companion pose before a painted backdrop in a studio. His cheerful expression, highlighted with the cheerful upturn of his mustache is in contrast to the slightly intent expression of his dachshund.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Man w/Beard, ca. 1854-1860

Man w/Beard, ca. 1854-1860
Here is a right gentleman with a fine beard. And while one might be tempted to think that he was emulating emancipator Abraham Lincoln, in point of fact, this man's facial adornment predates the growth upon Lincoln's chin. Perhaps it was Lincoln who was emulating this man.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Abraham Lincoln

I begin with a most famous example of what the proprietor of Mustaches of the Nineteenth Century declares “the most foolish of facial hair: the mustacheless beard.”

Abraham Lincoln, November 8, 1863In the fall of 1860. Abraham Lincoln was the Republican nominee for president of the United States. A lifelong beardless man, he received a letter written by Grace Bedell, an 11-year-old girl from Westfield, New York, wherein she said:

“I have got 4 brother's and part of them will vote for you any way and if you let your whiskers grow I will try and get the rest of them to vote for you you would look a great deal better for your face is so thin. All the ladies like whiskers and they would tease their husband's to vote for you and then you would be President. My father is going to vote for you and if I was a man I would vote for you to but I will try to get every one to vote for you that I can I think that rail fence around your picture makes it look very pretty I have got a little baby sister she is nine weeks old and is just as cunning as can be.”

In his personal reply to young Miss Bedell, Mr. Lincoln said:

“As to the whiskers, having never worn any, do you not think people would call it a piece of silly affection if I were to begin it now?”

Nevertheless, by February 16th 1861, the now president-elect stepped from the train in Westfield, New York, bedecked with his now famous beard, calling out to Miss Bedell that he had indeed, taken her advice.

Lincoln was the first American president to sport a beard and is generally regarded as one of America's finest presidents.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008


While I have been a frequenter of the Mustaches of the Nineteenth Century establishment and in many ways agree with the proprietor as to the style and manliness of such facial adornments, I fear I must take exception to his rather low opinion of beards. The proprietor often uses descriptives such as “madness” and “shameful.” His posting of the first of April declaring bearded men the “Fools of April” was finally too much for me to continue suffering in silence.

I therefore announce the opening of this establishment; Century of the Beard.

This is, of course, in no way meant to belittle mustaches or the fine menagerie presented by the neighboring Mustaches of the Nineteenth Century. I, too, once had a mustache when I was young and just growing into my identity. But as I matured, I merely found it to be an inadequate expression and evolved into something more substantial. Many other fine gentlemen also took that path less traveled to grow beards, refusing to be deterred by gangs of raucous and clean shaven youths mocking their elders and betters.

I also beg your pardon, gentle readers, in that I do not have the extensive archives of the University of Kentucky at my disposal. I will begin my journey by accessing public sources and perhaps, should providence smile upon me, I shall have opportunity to present new, exotic, mysterious and heretofore unseen beards for previously untapped sources.

Welcome to the Century of the Beard