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Friday, September 24, 2010

Philip Brand, the Man Who Shaved Lincoln

In March and April of 1860, Abraham Lincoln was in Chicago attending sessions of the United States District Court, as counsel for the defendants in the "Sand Bar" case, which involved rights over sand bars along the Lake Michigan coast. By then, Lincoln was frequently mentioned as a possible candidate for the presidency, and it was thought he would be nominated at the Republican convention in May.

Lincoln received frequent invitations to speak, and accepted one from the citizens of Waukegan as presented by his friends and fellow attorneys, Elisha Ferry (also Mayor of Waukegan) and Henry Blodgett.

The day of the speechApril 2, 1860Lincoln rode up to Waukegan on the Chicago and Milwaukee Railroad, accompanied by Illinois Senator, Norman B. Judd.

View of Brand's barber shop at 57 Genesee Street, Waukegan. Circa 1870. 
Miltimore family photo,

That afternoon, Lincoln got a shave at Philip Brand’s barber shop on Genessee Street. In 1860, Brand's shop was new, since he had just immigrated from Germany the year before. How Lincoln came into Brand's shop is not known, but his patronage certainly increased the shop's business thereafter.  
Philip Brand, circa 1860. Miltimore family photo.

Brand (1840-1914) was a German immigrant from the Hesse region and came to Waukegan in 1859. His sense for business and a visit by Lincoln did a good deal to making his clientele grow. In the years to come, Brand's shop served Waukegan's elite businessmen. He eventually built a three-story building for his business interests, which included a bath house complete with bathtubs, shaving and hairdressing facilities.  

Brand was rightfully proud that Abraham Lincoln had come to him for a shave. Brand even stated that he was the last man to shave Lincoln. This claim to fame stuck with him for the rest of his life. However, it would have been more accurate had Brand said he was one of the last to shave him, since Lincoln grew his famous beard months after his visit to Waukegan. 

Lincoln was encouraged to grow a beard by 11-year old Grace Bedell of Westfield, New York. In a now famous letter dated October 15, 1860, Grace wrote: " I have got 4 brother's and part of them will vote for you any way and if you will 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." In his reply of October 19, Lincoln wrote: "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?" 

On the evening of April 2, 1860, hundreds of Waukeganites attended Lincoln's speech at Dickinson's Hall, including Philip Brand, William Besley (brewer), and George Lyon (store clerk). Lincoln spoke of the wrong of slavery, and that the country was half slavery and half freedom, and no government divided against itself in such manner could stand.

J.W. Hull, also in attendance, recalled that "While [Lincoln] was speaking, such was the sledge-hammer force of his logic, that we forgot the humble appearance and the squeaky voice, and were carried away by the man's simple eloquence, his power of reasoning...."

Twenty minutes into the speech, word came that there was a fire at the Case Warehouse at the North Pier. Elisha Ferry rose and said that he believed the alarm was a Democratic plot to break up the meeting. Lincoln in turn said, "Well, gentlemen, let us all go, as there really seems to be a fire, and help put it out." Local legend states that indeed, Lincoln helped to extinguish the blaze, ruining his suit in the process.

It has also been said that Lincoln promised to come back to finish his speech another time, but he never made it back to Waukegan.

A white-haired Philip Brand standing at the front of his shop on Genesee Street, circa 1895. 
Dunn Museum 2010.24

Philip Brand continued as a barber until his retirement about 1900 when he leased his building to the Waukegan Savings Bank Company. Lake County Independent, Libertyville, IL, 16 February 1900.

News of Philip Brand's death on May 11, 1914 made headlines in the Waukegan Daily Sun.

Though it seemed Brand's barber shop was lost to time, in the spring of 1964, the shop was re-discovered during excavation work on Genesee Street. J.W. Peterson plumbers were digging a hole under the street and unexpectedly found barber mugs, bearing the names of former citizens.

J.W. Peterson and Einar Christensen on site of discovery of Brand's barber shop, 1964. 
News-Sun Collection, Dunn Museum.

Brand barber mug for G.P. Fleming, circa 1890. Note cement inside the mug. 
Dunn Museum 70.83.6
Brand barber mug for George R. Lyon, circa 1890. 
Lyon attended Lincoln's speech at Dickinson's Hall and served in the Civil War. 
He took over his father's general store in 1893, served on the county board 1886-1887, and state legislature 1896-1900. 
Dunn Museum 70.83.7

Robert Vogel, the director of the Lake County Museum of History in Wadsworth was notified about the discovery. Vogel managed to dig out other mugs and barber bottles, which became part of his museum's collection. 
Brand barber mug for Chase E. Webb, circa 1890. 
Webb was a Civil War veteran, Lake County Sheriff (1886-1890), and Chief of Police in Waukegan (1891-1897). 
Dunn Museum 70.83.1

The barber shop, which had originally been on the first floor of the building, was moved at some point to the basement. It was filled in when Genesee Street was widened and paved. 

The surviving mugs are in remarkably good condition considering the circumstances, and are part of the permanent collections of the Bess Bower Dunn Museum of Lake County (formerly the Lake County Discovery Museum).

  • Currey, J. Seymour. “Mr. Lincoln’s Visit to Waukegan in 1860.” Journal of the Illinois State Historical Society, Vol. 4, No. 2 (1911): 178-183.
  • "Waukegan: Doings at the County Seat of Interest to Our Readers." Lake County Independent, Libertyville, IL, 16 February 1900. 
  • "City Shocked to Learn of Death of Phillip Brand." The Daily Sun, Waukegan, Illinois, May 12, 1914.
  • "Unearth Shop of Man Who Shaved Lincoln," Chicago Tribune, May 24, 1964. 
  • Collections of the Bess Bower Dunn Museum of Lake County. 

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