Originally posted Feb. 11, 2010.
As far as I’m concerned, this nation’s Golden Age came from 1861-1913.
Now I recognize that the Civil War and plenty of other terrible, horrible things happened in that span, but I also know that, across those years, nine of the 11 presidents had facial hair. Never before and never since has this great country seen such an explosion of glorious whiskers.
And though he may not have been the greatest Presidentially of the mustachioed and bearded Presidents, one man stands head and shoulders — nay, neckbeard and sideburns — above the rest in terms of facial-hair magnificence: Chester A. Arthur.
I’m convinced that Chester A. Arthur was born with his muttonchops. Seriously. Probably this has something to do with how few likenesses there are available online of Chester A. Arthur as a boy, but even the youngest available portraits of the man feature the impressive chops.
At times in life, and indeed, during his presidency, they would grow so wild as to constitute truly freakish facial hair, like something you’d see at a Korn concert in 1998. The dude had shoulder-length mutton chops. Unreal.
Another fun fact about Chester A. Arthur — which is decidedly not a fun fact for James Garfield — is that Garfield’s assassin shot him specifically so that Arthur, his vice president, could take over. That’s the only time that’s happened. The Wikipedia says this has something to do with rival factions within the Republican party at the time, but I’m unwilling to rule out the idea that assassin Charles Guiteau was just showing some horribly misguided and overzealous respect for Arthur’s awesome muttonchops.
Anyway, here are various likenesses depicting Chester A. Arthur’s muttonchops:
I actually just spent my last 10 minutes making a terrible photoshop rendering of what it might look like if Barack Obama brought back awesome Chester A. Arthur muttonchops, but then I grew concerned that there might be some sort of law in place about drawing facial hair on pictures of sitting Presidents or something. But he should do it, believe me. It’d make politics so much more interesting.