CONCORD, N.H. (AP) – He’s remembered as one of the country’s worst presidents, but No. 14 had some memorable – if tousled – presidential hair.

Now, just in time for Presidents Day, the New Hampshire Historical Society says a letter written by Franklin Pierce’s wife suggests that his somewhat unkempt-looking hair was that way on purpose.

The evidence, posted on the society’s Web site, is a December 1857 letter in which wife Jane described the then ex-president resting on a sofa while her maid brushed his hair.

Peter Wallner, director of the society’s library, has written a two-volume biography of the only New Hampshire native to become president. Wallner says portraits and photographs of Pierce, who was president from 1853-57, show a shock of unruly hair flowing over his forehead. “Written descriptions of Pierce by contemporaries frequently mention his elegant appearance, immaculate dress, and courtly manners,” Wallner says. “Why, then, didn’t he comb his hair?”

The letter, recently purchased by the society, isn’t conclusive, Wallner acknowledges. But he says it “leads one to suspect that the vanity Pierce showed for his appearance extended to his hair as well.”

Jane Pierce wrote the letter to her sister after a day in which Pierce spent time meeting and greeting people in Norfolk, Va.

“Today, Mr. Pierce has met the citizens of Norfolk and after the fatigue is quietly lying on the sofa by a bright fire with Miriam (the maid) brushing his hair soporifically,” Mrs. Pierce wrote.

Pierce still had his flowing locks when he died in 1869, according to a newspaper story Wallner found about people viewing his open casket at the New Hampshire Statehouse.

Some wept, but others commented on “his mass of curly black hair, somewhat tinged by age, but which was still combed on a deep slant over his wide forehead,” the article said.


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