Keepapitchinin, the Mormon History blog » The Best Beards in Mormon History: Results Show

The Best Beards in Mormon History: Results Show

By: Ardis E. Parshall - October 19, 2010

SALT LAKE CITY, Oct. 19, 2010. – In an announcement that surprised exactly no one who had seen his campaign poster, apostle-inventor-astronomer-mathematician-pamphleteer-surveyor-poet-editor-missionary-mission president-philosopher-debater-historian-theologian [at this point members of the typesetters’ union went on strike, declaring that setting type for the man’s full resume would require overtime pay and a possible increase in medical coverage for carpal tunnel syndrome] Orson Pratt of Salt Lake City, Liverpool, western New York [here a gentle nudge from the typesetters’ shop steward forced curtailment of a listing of the man’s residences] was today named as the proud possessor of the Best Beard in Mormon History.

“Oh, shucks,” Pratt murmured, his eye cast modestly toward the ground where the toe of his right boot traced the solution to a quadratic equation in the dust. “It wasn’t something I set out to do. My chin was as clean-shaven as the next missionary’s when I went on my first mission, and when I was called to the Quorum. But like most young men, I indulged myself once by not shaving during a fishing trip, and, well, I discovered I could grow whiskers purty fast and purty thick. Before I knew it, all the youngsters were treating me with awe in December, real eager to do their chores and such, and once I caught on to their misunderstanding, well, there was no going back. I had a time of it convincing Sarah that it was a good thing, but even she eventually came ‘round.”

When asked whether he thought his supporters had truly confined themselves to voting for his beard, or whether his overall appearance had won the crown, his eyes twinkled. “Well, I don’t know that that is the case,” he said. “I did take special care when I had this photograph made to brush my hair and fluff out my beard. But it would have been nigh unto impossible to make a picture of my beard without my mustache, wouldn’t it?”

Consolation prize winner Heber J. Grant, also of Salt Lake City, was predictably dignified in his reaction to the news. “Orson is a fine man, with a fine set of whiskers,” he agreed genially. “I voted for him myself, to tell you the truth. My second place showing was a complete surprise – I would have predicted that Joseph F., with his fine double-patriarch, should have taken the second prize. Or Benjamin, maybe – he always had a streak of originality in the tonsorial department.”

Grant quickly denied rumors that he was in hiding as a precaution against Porter Rockwell’s reaction to his own third-place finish. “Oh, no,” he laughed. “Porter is a fine man. He stopped by this morning to congratulate me and to assure me that there were no hard feelings. He has always been very loyal to Joseph Smith and his successors, you know, and I have felt nothing but loyalty from him myself.”

Rockwell, reached at his lodgings above his stable, confirmed Grant’s impression. “Sure, I was a mite disappointed,” he grinned. “We was runnin’ so even-like in the balloting for so long. Truth be told,” and here he gave the reporter a sly wink, “I was hopin’ to sway a few votes by distracting the ladies with my flowing, naturally curly locks. Many’s the time a mother has reached out to stroke my hair, tellin’ me she wished her little girls had hair as fine as mine!”

This reporter sought an interview with Mormon Blogger BHodges to elicit his reaction to the special election held in his district between himself and, well, himself – an election demanded by supporters who had threatened to boycott the entire affair due to BHodges’ failure to take the title in his division at the end of the primary election. We could see BHodges through the window, where he appeared to be reading two books simultaneously, typing the review of one with his left hand and handwriting the review of the other with his right. We didn’t have the heart to disturb such a busy man, so we left our card on the tray in the entryway and quietly slipped out.

The editorial board of Keepapitchinin congratulates the winners and thanks all those who participated, whether as candidate or elector.

The series:

The Best Beards in Mormon History
The Best Beards in Mormon History: Best in Show
The Best Beards in Mormon History: Results Show



  1. Grant quickly denied rumors that he was in hiding as a precaution against Porter Rockwell’s reaction to his own third-place finish.

    Stuff like this is why I love reading this blog!

    Comment by Clark — October 19, 2010 @ 8:54 am

  2. Loved it!

    Comment by Bill West — October 19, 2010 @ 9:22 am

  3. My sense is that of all things, the beard was one of the easier things Sarah struggled to accept (grin).

    Very fun read, Ardis.

    Comment by J. Stapley — October 19, 2010 @ 9:54 am

  4. Dumb but serious question on an admittedly fun thread.

    What prompted the rise of beards? I know what prompted their elimination. But in Nauvoo it seems like most were clean shaven while sometime in Utah it became hip to have beards. What was the trigger?

    Comment by ClarkGoble — October 19, 2010 @ 9:59 am

  5. Congratulations, Orson. Will you be entering the competition next year? Try for a repeat? We’re rooting for you.

    Comment by Steve C. — October 19, 2010 @ 10:01 am

  6. Loved it, Ardis!

    Comment by psychochemiker — October 19, 2010 @ 11:38 am

  7. {bowing} Thanks, all! I’ve been sitting back and laughing through this whole series, enjoying your reactions.

    Clark, if Wikipedia is any guide, it looks like beards became popular in the US and Europe in the 1850s because of a perception that they lent an air of gravitas and hyper masculinity to the wearer. Whether that was spontaneous, or promoted by some period fashionista, I have no idea! Anybody?

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — October 19, 2010 @ 11:45 am

  8. A wonderful way to wrap-up the series, Ardis! Thanks for posting. I needed a good laugh today.

    Comment by Brian Duffin — October 19, 2010 @ 12:25 pm

  9. I had a church history class at BYU from Spencer Fluhman. He mentioned that beards became popular among the Utah saints specifically as a way to distinguish themselves from the world and its prevailing fashion of clean-shavenness. I have no idea what his source was, but I trust Spencer’s facts like I trust J. Stapley’s (or Ardis’!)

    Comment by Dane — October 19, 2010 @ 12:28 pm

  10. Except, Dane, that so many pictures of presidents (Lincoln!) and poets (Longfellow!) and foreign princes (the Tsars!) from that generation (1850s-1900) show bearded men. I wonder what Spencer meant.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — October 19, 2010 @ 12:33 pm

  11. Excellent — Niblet for best announcement of a winner!

    Comment by David Y. — October 19, 2010 @ 1:40 pm

  12. Yes, in the late 19th century, facial hair of all sorts was fashionable, not just in Utah or among the Mormons, but across the United States and Europe.

    Comment by Steve C. — October 19, 2010 @ 2:06 pm

  13. It was great to hear the reactions of the winners, gave us a glimpse into their personality. Thanks for the ride.

    Comment by Maurine — October 19, 2010 @ 3:40 pm

  14. So Pratt won by a whisker?

    They all seemed to be so much more at ease with the gray or white in their beards than I would be now. This whole thing deserves a Niblet!

    Comment by kevinf — October 19, 2010 @ 4:14 pm

  15. What prompted the rise of beards? I know what prompted their elimination. But in Nauvoo it seems like most were clean shaven while sometime in Utah it became hip to have beards. What was the trigger?

    Believe it or not I am in the preliminary stages of looking more specifically into this very question. I am in no hurry though. :)

    Comment by BHodges — October 19, 2010 @ 4:39 pm

  16. I heard somewhere that the rise of the clean-shaven look had it’s roots in the clean-shaven soldiers coming home from WWI (they had to shave to ensure their gas masks fit.)

    Then LDS–or Ernest Wilkinson–turned it into a “hedge around the law” in the 1960s to avoid the very appearance of hippiness. Or so I’ve been told.

    I’m hoping the Great Bearded Blogger of the 21st century reports his research somewhere I can become aware of it!

    Comment by Clark — October 19, 2010 @ 4:49 pm

  17. Maybe the coming and going and return of beards is nothing more than one generation exercising its prerogative to be different from the preceding generation. I know another man who is also in the preliminary stages of a facial hair study — maybe I can pit him and BHodges against each other so that they race to finish in order to preserve their research priority! In any case, I look forward to hearing what either or both turn up.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — October 19, 2010 @ 5:42 pm

  18. My recent foray into facial hair (kind of a George Albert Smith) is partly the result of a Coumadin prescription. Perhaps that’s the same thing that prompted Brother Orson to start his.

    Comment by Left Field — October 19, 2010 @ 7:08 pm

  19. I’m wondering if you will add the “rent is too damn high” category.

    Comment by Morgan D — October 20, 2010 @ 8:38 am

  20. I’m sorry I couldn’t be reached for comment earlier. I would like to thank all my supporters out there and to concede my preliminary loss to Porter Rockwell, although he failed to take best in show. Conceding is easier since I wound up winning the “Special Election” Best-in-Show award anyway.

    For the voter who thought KBarney should have been included, I submit a few more beard pictures for your consideration.

    Here’s me with a guy pretending to be Brigham Young:

    Here’s me with my awesome spouse:

    Here’s me on top of a giant mountain:

    Thank you all, I congratulate the winner.

    Comment by BHodges — October 20, 2010 @ 10:21 am

  21. This has been much fun. The posts about beard/no beard customs intrigued me. I went to my Utah War/Civil War picture gallery and did a visual survey. Of 170 photos of officers and politicians on my hard drive, only two of the officers were unadorned. Most had both beard and mustache, but about one in seven had just the cookie-duster. The most prominent figure with just a mustache was General Albert Sidney Johnston, commander of the Utah Expedition. The most prominent clean-shaven officer was Major Edward R.S. Canby who commanded Fort Bridger during the Utah War. None of the beards would outdo that of Orson Pratt, but Captain John C. Robinson of the 5th Infantry at Camp Floyd would have been a contender. You can see his larger-than-life statue at Getttysburg and read his Medal of Honor citation in the library. Oddly, all the prominent politicians including the new governer, Alfred Cumming; John B. Floyd, Secretary of War for whom Camp Floyd was/is named; and Pres. James Buchanan, instigator of the Utah War, were all clean-shaven. Stephen A. Douglas, for whom Camp/Fort Douglas was named, was also bare-faced. I could not find clear evidence of Brigham Young’s conversion to bearddom.

    Comment by CurtA — October 20, 2010 @ 11:05 am

  22. Some of us felt that you didn’t need a whole beard to look manly. A lush set of sideburns can complement a square jaw and leave a very masculine impression.

    Comment by Parley P. Pratt — October 22, 2010 @ 11:35 am

  23. […] to Ardis Parshall, for her blog “Best Beards” on her website […]

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