Ulysses S. Grant: A very "masculine" President

Joined
Jan 24, 2017
It has been said recently that U.S. Grant was a "masculine" President. I had never thought of Grant as being masculine per se, but did a little digging around to see what others thought.

Facial hair seems to tip the balance for some:

"It has been over a century since we had a president with beards. The last bearded president was Benjamin Harrison. In the 1840s, the Victorian Style for men was to have a beard. It was a symbol of masculinity and male courage." There is a lovely colorized image in this link which declares that Grant, the 18th President of the United States, was the first with a "rocking full beard".

https://beardstyle.net/presidents-with-beards/
Another commentary on political beards gives a description of Grant's beard by a staffer and also quotes a recent study on the phenomenon:

"In 1863, six years before Grant became president, a Union Army staffer wrote a description of the general's facial hair: "The beard was worn full, no part of the face being shaved, but, like the hair, was always kept closely and neatly trimmed."

In a study this year, Oklahoma State University political science professor Rebekah Herrick ran an experiment which found that “pictured members of Congress with facial hair were perceived by our student subjects as more masculine.”

President Abraham Lincoln's beard also goes under the microscope with a neat little tale about how he came to grow it:

"Perhaps the most famous example is Honest Abe, who first grew his beard in response to a letter he received in 1860 from an 11-year-old girl named Grace Bedell suggesting the idea. She wrote, in part: “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. All the ladies like whiskers and they would tease their husband's to vote for you and then you would be President. Several months later when stopping by her home town in New York, Lincoln made a point of meeting Bedell in person—now with a full beard.

https://www.politico.com/magazine/gallery/2015/12/politicians-with-beards-000559?slide=1
There is also the suggestion that winning the Civil War and writing his memoirs while dying of throat cancer make Grant a stand out in terms of his masculine qualities.

Personally, although I have never thought of him as "masculine", I think of him in many ways which endear me to him including his humility.

I wonder what other people think of Grant and the notion of his masculinity. There's no doubt he was a man among men. Was it just his beard?
 

J C J Barefoot

Private
Joined
Sep 10, 2019
Assuming a person's presence often reflects the inner person, there would be good reason to think Grant was a man's man in terms of the 19th cent. view of manhood and honor.
Grant was an outstanding horseman, the best in his class at West Point. When he was growing up he was what one would now call an outdoorsman, being well experienced with hunting and fishing. He experienced failure and set backs before the war and showed fortitude and belief in himself that took him in twelve years from a no-body to war hero and to the Presidency. He was utterly tenacious. He loved his cigars which surely contributed to his throat cancer. His toughness in recovering from his horse falling on him and his ability to endure pain was well documented. He was single minded and resolute. He could be out in ugly weather for days at a time and not ***** about it. One person was quoted as saying he had a look like he was ready to smash his head through a wall. He was a man of action. He was tender, loving and loyal to his wife and children and he showed kindness and mercy to his former enemies.
 
Grant was an outstanding horseman, the best in his class at West Point. When he was growing up he was what one would now call an outdoorsman, being well experienced with hunting and fishing.

Author W. E. Woodward in his 1928 biography entitled "Meet General Grant" wrote that "[o]ne of his taboos was an aversion to firearms and to the killing of animals.

In southern Ohio, during his youth, every man was an occasional hunter of game, whatever else his occupation happened to be. Men gave pet names to their shotguns, and when they met in groups they discussed the merits of their respective firearms as earnestly as a country club group of our day discusses golf balls and automobiles. Even ten-year-old boys became expert executioners of birds and rabbits.

Ulysses, with his horror of game-hunting, must have seemed somewhat ridiculous to that community of shotgun experts. His aversion to shooting animals lasted all his life. He never attempted to explain it, perhaps because he did not know there was an explanation."

Grant wrote in chapter 5 of his Memoirs that "I had never been a sportsman in my life; had scarcely ever gone in search of game, and rarely seen any when looking for it. On this trip there was no minute of time while travelling between San Patricio and the settlements on the San Antonio River, from San Antonio to Austin, and again from the Colorado River back to San Patricio, when deer or antelope could not be seen in great numbers. Each officer carried a shot-gun, and every evening, after going into camp, some would go out and soon return with venison and wild turkeys enough for the entire camp. I, however, never went out, and had no occasion to fire my gun; except, being detained over a day at Goliad, Benjamin and I concluded to go down to the creek—which was fringed with timber, much of it the pecan—and bring back a few turkeys. We had scarcely reached the edge of the timber when I heard the flutter of wings overhead, and in an instant I saw two or three turkeys flying away. These were soon followed by more, then more, and more, until a flock of twenty or thirty had left from just over my head. All this time I stood watching the turkeys to see where they flew—with my gun on my shoulder, and never once thought of levelling it at the birds. When I had time to reflect upon the matter, I came to the conclusion that as a sportsman I was a failure, and went back to the house. Benjamin remained out, and got as many turkeys as he wanted to carry back."
 
Joined
Jan 24, 2017
Assuming a person's presence often reflects the inner person, there would be good reason to think Grant was a man's man in terms of the 19th cent. view of manhood and honor.
Grant was an outstanding horseman, the best in his class at West Point. When he was growing up he was what one would now call an outdoorsman, being well experienced with hunting and fishing. He experienced failure and set backs before the war and showed fortitude and belief in himself that took him in twelve years from a no-body to war hero and to the Presidency. He was utterly tenacious. He loved his cigars which surely contributed to his throat cancer. His toughness in recovering from his horse falling on him and his ability to endure pain was well documented. He was single minded and resolute. He could be out in ugly weather for days at a time and not ***** about it. One person was quoted as saying he had a look like he was ready to smash his head through a wall. He was a man of action. He was tender, loving and loyal to his wife and children and he showed kindness and mercy to his former enemies.
Thank you for sharing your thoughts on this topic. I think the mention of failure and setbacks is one that stands out for me. Grant showed enormous fortitude in some of the circumstances that beset him. That includes right up to and including the time of his death and his perseverance in writing his memoirs in spite of great pain, knowing it was the only way to provide for his family in the end. In that sense he was utterly tenacious, as he was in conducting the war and several surrenders. And being a man of action he took the steps he needed to take to get where he needed to go. Your last sentence encapsulates much of who Grant was as a man for me, and taps into that side of his masculinity which was tender and true. I think he understood other men and what was required, making him a truly masculine man.
 
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Joined
Jan 24, 2017
Author W. E. Woodward in his 1928 biography entitled "Meet General Grant" wrote that "[o]ne of his taboos was an aversion to firearms and to the killing of animals.

In southern Ohio, during his youth, every man was an occasional hunter of game, whatever else his occupation happened to be. Men gave pet names to their shotguns, and when they met in groups they discussed the merits of their respective firearms as earnestly as a country club group of our day discusses golf balls and automobiles. Even ten-year-old boys became expert executioners of birds and rabbits.

Ulysses, with his horror of game-hunting, must have seemed somewhat ridiculous to that community of shotgun experts. His aversion to shooting animals lasted all his life. He never attempted to explain it, perhaps because he did not know there was an explanation."

Grant wrote in chapter 5 of his Memoirs that "I had never been a sportsman in my life; had scarcely ever gone in search of game, and rarely seen any when looking for it. On this trip there was no minute of time while travelling between San Patricio and the settlements on the San Antonio River, from San Antonio to Austin, and again from the Colorado River back to San Patricio, when deer or antelope could not be seen in great numbers. Each officer carried a shot-gun, and every evening, after going into camp, some would go out and soon return with venison and wild turkeys enough for the entire camp. I, however, never went out, and had no occasion to fire my gun; except, being detained over a day at Goliad, Benjamin and I concluded to go down to the creek—which was fringed with timber, much of it the pecan—and bring back a few turkeys. We had scarcely reached the edge of the timber when I heard the flutter of wings overhead, and in an instant I saw two or three turkeys flying away. These were soon followed by more, then more, and more, until a flock of twenty or thirty had left from just over my head. All this time I stood watching the turkeys to see where they flew—with my gun on my shoulder, and never once thought of levelling it at the birds. When I had time to reflect upon the matter, I came to the conclusion that as a sportsman I was a failure, and went back to the house. Benjamin remained out, and got as many turkeys as he wanted to carry back."
Thank you @Copperhead-mi for bringing to light what is probably one of the lesser known facts about Grant. I have read his memoirs, but honestly don't remember the details you shared. Ulysses obviously had a great affinity with animals, and I remember a couple of stories relating to horses and his reaction to poor treatment of the same. I did not realize that his affinity stretched farther than that. Once again a more tender side, though Grant himself seemed to have no explanation for it. Perhaps that can also be a mark of the man and his masculinity, that he was able to stand firm in his conviction. Regardless of what others said and did, Ulysses did Ulysses and no one else. That takes a certain amount of courage.

It just goes to show there are many ways to count masculinity and not all of them are what we might think. I'm glad I opened the topic up for conversation.
 

infomanpa

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Joined
Feb 18, 2017
Location
Pennsylvania
Personally, although I have never thought of him as "masculine", I think of him in many ways which endear me to him including his humility.

I wonder what other people think of Grant and the notion of his masculinity. There's no doubt he was a man among men. Was it just his beard?
I agree with you that I don't think that Grant was any more masculine than most Presidents. As to the beard issue, it was simply fashionable from the mid to late 19th century and doesn't necessarily indicate masculinity.
 
Joined
Jan 24, 2017
I agree with you that I don't think that Grant was any more masculine than most Presidents. As to the beard issue, it was simply fashionable from the mid to late 19th century and doesn't necessarily indicate masculinity.
I found it very interesting that the beard itself was considered a sign of masculinity even up until more recent times. Obviously women can't grow facial hair, so it makes sense in that respect, but I wouldn't have considered it the outstanding factor in terms of "masculinity". And I have to agree that Grant was not necessarily more masculine than other Presidents, even those with beards. An exploration of the topic is interesting, though, and one way of finding some hidden gems. Like the one @Copperhead-mi offered up.

I also didn't know President Lincoln had been encouraged to grow his beard for the popularity factor. The influence of women can be clearly seen in that little anecdote.
 
Joined
Jan 14, 2018
Location
Adirondacks-New York
I've encountered first-hand descriptions of him noting both masculine and feminine attributes. Attributes such as his physical strength from throwing hides and horseback riding were perceived as masculine while his delicate skin ("as that of a young girl") and his tenderness and compassion were perceived as feminine.

Gen. Sherman's take was simply that, "He was a man - all over - rounded and complete."

I would say he was generally depicted in a masculine way, governed by the expectations of the time. I do not get the impression that people ever perceived him as effeminate, only that he had some traits typically attributed to females at the time.
 
Joined
Jan 24, 2017
I've encountered first-hand descriptions of him noting both masculine and feminine attributes. Attributes such as his physical strength from throwing hides and horseback riding were perceived as masculine while his delicate skin ("as that of a young girl") and his tenderness and compassion were perceived as feminine.

Gen. Sherman's take was simply that, "He was a man - all over - rounded and complete."

I would say he was generally depicted in a masculine way, governed by the expectations of the time. I do not get the impression that people ever perceived him as effeminate, only that he had some traits typically attributed to females at the time.
Thank you for sharing your thoughts. While I never thought of Grant as 'masculine', I did sense a tenderness and sensitivity about his nature. I didn't think of him as being effeminate in having those qualities, and Sherman's take is precisely how I would perceive him, too.
 

J C J Barefoot

Private
Joined
Sep 10, 2019
Author W. E. Woodward in his 1928 biography entitled "Meet General Grant" wrote that "[o]ne of his taboos was an aversion to firearms and to the killing of animals.

In southern Ohio, during his youth, every man was an occasional hunter of game, whatever else his occupation happened to be. Men gave pet names to their shotguns, and when they met in groups they discussed the merits of their respective firearms as earnestly as a country club group of our day discusses golf balls and automobiles. Even ten-year-old boys became expert executioners of birds and rabbits.

Ulysses, with his horror of game-hunting, must have seemed somewhat ridiculous to that community of shotgun experts. His aversion to shooting animals lasted all his life. He never attempted to explain it, perhaps because he did not know there was an explanation."

Grant wrote in chapter 5 of his Memoirs that "I had never been a sportsman in my life; had scarcely ever gone in search of game, and rarely seen any when looking for it. On this trip there was no minute of time while travelling between San Patricio and the settlements on the San Antonio River, from San Antonio to Austin, and again from the Colorado River back to San Patricio, when deer or antelope could not be seen in great numbers. Each officer carried a shot-gun, and every evening, after going into camp, some would go out and soon return with venison and wild turkeys enough for the entire camp. I, however, never went out, and had no occasion to fire my gun; except, being detained over a day at Goliad, Benjamin and I concluded to go down to the creek—which was fringed with timber, much of it the pecan—and bring back a few turkeys. We had scarcely reached the edge of the timber when I heard the flutter of wings overhead, and in an instant I saw two or three turkeys flying away. These were soon followed by more, then more, and more, until a flock of twenty or thirty had left from just over my head. All this time I stood watching the turkeys to see where they flew—with my gun on my shoulder, and never once thought of levelling it at the birds. When I had time to reflect upon the matter, I came to the conclusion that as a sportsman I was a failure, and went back to the house. Benjamin remained out, and got as many turkeys as he wanted to carry back."
I stand rightly corrected. Thank you.
 
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