A Hairy Christmas

This week, in honor of the list maker rumored to be coming to town, I decided to have a look at beards.

First lets get some hard data. In 1976 an economist at the University of Washington, Dwight Robinson, made a study of the facial hair shown in published images from 1840 to 1972. Here’s what he found:

Sideburns were tops in the 1840s and 50s, when 60% of men sported them. But they went into steep decline after the mid 1850s as beards gained favor. From 1860 to 1900, over 40% of men were bearded.

Then dawned the age of the mustache. 60% of men had them in the years leading up to the first world war. The War to End All Wars may not have lived up to its billing, but it sent the popularity of facial hair into a tailspin. By 1970 nearly 90% were clean-shaven.  

Here’s Jim Bowie in the 1830s wearing the sideburns of the day.

Same with Congressman Crockett of Tennessee.

And Sam Houston in the 1840s.

I never realized it, but Sam Houston provided a record of facial fashion all by himself.

Here is clean-shaven Senator Sam in 1849. Portrait made in Washington DC by the great Mathew Brady.

By 1856 he is contemplating a presidential run, and wearing a fashionable full beard.

In 1859 he is back home running for governor. He only made one speech during the campaign. The mustache said it all.

The following year he is in the Governor’s Mansion an wearing the sideburns of his younger days. In trying times we revert to familiar ways. Another Mathew Brady portrait.

Here are the last remaining San Jacinto veterans in 1906. William P. Zuber, J. W. Darlington, Asa Hill, Stephen F. Sparks, L. T. Lawlor, and Alfonso Steele. Bearded all.

Confederate vets at the capitol in 1902. Sticking with the styles of their younger days.

But by 1940s, the last Confederate veterans have changed with the times.

In contrast, here is a group of WWI flyboys visiting General Dynamics in Fort Worth sometime in the 60s. Not a whisker to be seen.

Back to the thing that started me thinking about beards…

This is the earliest mention of Santa Claus I could find in a Texas publication. From the South-Western American (Austin) in 1853.

But there was an earlier mention for St. Nicholas in December of 1849. This is from the Houston Telegram:

In case you don’t know, Laudanum was 90% grain alcohol and 10% opium.

Speak Your Piece: