Lincoln’s Barber

Matthew Bell ponders the impact of the almost unknown historical figure:

The wealthy, including the American President, had valets to keep them presentable and act as personal barbers — a highly coveted role for free blacks of the era. And of those valets, perhaps none was more important than William Johnson, the man in the service of our 16th president (and responsible for his famous quiff). It's conjecture, but it's not entirely out of line to venture that Johnson and Lincoln had the same kind of rapport you have with your barber today. In fact, it could well have been more intimate, given the expanse of Johnson's duties. Regardless, this much is clear: Johnson served as Lincoln's most personal and direct connection to black America at the time. And though there's few records of the conversations between the two … it doesn't take too much of a leap to understand that Lincoln's personal valet may have influenced more than Honest Abe's looks. A theory? Absolutely. But one to consider, nonetheless.