Throughout history, there have been great characters – heroes, villains, and innocent bystanders made famous along the way. And many of them had facial hair.
Sometimes the facial hair didn’t make the person, and was just along for the ride, like Alfred Dreyfus’s moustache. But sometimes history’s characters had really, really awesome facial hair. Here are the top 5 greatest pieces of facial hair in history, starting with the #5 choice…
5. Rutherford B. Hayes (1822-1893)
Although Benjamin Harrison gives him a run for his money on the presidential facial hair front, as Phineas and Ferb put it, “there’s no beard like a nineteenth-century beard.” Seriously, look at it, it’s pretty gnarly. And while he was the winner of a highly contested election with Samuel Tilden (who, in turn, got a high school), he did a solid with Paraguay, so that’s cool.
Anyway, it begs the question, why aren’t there any beards in politics anymore? I mean, the last governor with a beard (not counting David Paterson’s stubble) was Jon Corzine – who was the last U.S. Senator to have a beard. Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-MS) is one of the few Congressmen with a beard, and I just think that’s terrible. We’re well past the ’60s and ’70s where beards equaled long-haired beatnik hippies.
4. Salvador Dali (1904-1989)
I know it’s not a lot of facial hair, though, but it’s pretty awesome. It’s the absurd that defines Dali, complete with that lion/tiger/ocelot thing he’s holding. (For the record, I used this photo as part of a header, way back in the part of this blog’s history where there were changing headers each week.)
3. Hatshepsut (1508-1458 BCE)
Yeah, I know it’s a fake beard, but I think it’s pretty badass. This was of course back in the day when a beard showed power and awesomeness, and every Pharaoh needed one, because they were powerful and awesome. So Hatsepshut, who obviously lacked the testosterone for a real beard, had to strap on a fake one. But it still looked kind of cool!
2. Grigori Rasputin (1869-1916)
Rasputin’s unkempt beard is pretty crazy, but not as crazy as the story of his death. Quoting directly from the venerable Wikipedia:
On December 16, 1916, having decided that Rasputin’s influence over the Tsaritsa had made him a threat to the empire, a group of nobles led by Prince Felix Yusupov and the Grand Duke Dmitri Pavlovich and the right-wing politician Vladimir Purishkevich apparently lured Rasputin to the Yusupovs’ Moika Palace by intimating that Yusupov’s wife, Princess Irina, would be present and receiving friends. … The group led him down to the cellar, where they served him cakes and red wine laced with a massive amount of cyanide. According to legend, Rasputin was unaffected, although Vasily Maklakov had supplied enough poison to kill five men. …
Determined to finish the job, Prince Yusupov became anxious about the possibility that Rasputin might live until the morning, leaving the conspirators no time to conceal his body. Yusupov ran upstairs to consult the others and then came back down to shoot Rasputin through the back with a revolver. Rasputin fell, and the company left the palace for a while. Yusupov, who had left without a coat, decided to return to get one, and while at the palace, he went to check on the body. Suddenly, Rasputin opened his eyes and lunged at Yusupov. He grabbed Yusupov, ominously whispered in his ear, “you bad boy,” and attempted to strangle him. At that moment…the other conspirators arrived and fired at Rasputin. After being hit three times in the back, he fell once more. As they neared his body, the party found that, remarkably, he was still alive, struggling to get up. They clubbed him into submission. …After binding his body and wrapping him in a carpet, they threw him into the icy Neva River. He broke out of his bonds and the carpet wrapping him, but drowned in the river.
Three days later, Rasputin’s body, poisoned, shot four times, badly beaten, and drowned, was recovered from the river. An autopsy established that the cause of death was drowning. His arms were found in an upright position, as if he had tried to claw his way out from under the ice. It was found that he had indeed been poisoned, and that the poison alone should have been enough to kill him. There is a report that after his body was recovered, water was found in the lungs, supporting the idea that he was still alive before submersion into the partially frozen river.
Now, this story is full of crap – new evidence shows that Rasputin died of a bullet wound to the head – but it’s still a really great story, one that reaffirms how crazy-weird Rasputin was. (Even though, I mean, you could just look at the guy – he was a freak just on face value.)
But the #1 greatest piece of facial hair in history has its own name, as it’s…
1. Ambrose Burnside (1824-1881)
Look, Ambrose Burnside didn’t do a heck of a lot of positive value in history. He had a few (oft-unnoticed) victories in North Carolina in the Civil War before partaking in the disastrous Battles of Antietam (the bloodiest day of the bloodiest war in American history) and Fredericksburg, and after the war he returned to his home state of Rhode Island (yup, the do-nothing state) to be governor and later US senator during the beginning of the Gilded Age. Oh, and he was the first president of the NRA. Wonderful.
But I’ll give Burnside one thing: he had some sick facial hair. For goodness sake, he had a freakin’ variety of facial hair named after him! Without burnside, there would be no sideburns, and I wouldn’t have anything to look forward to when I was 14 and about to hit puberty. (Frankly, I’m still glad I’m able to grow sideburns. Though I’ve never been able to grow them out into mutton chops.)