Facial Hair Friday: The Original Adlai E. Stevenson

When most people hear the name Adlai E. Stevenson, they may first think of Adlai E. Stevenson II (1900–1965), the Governor of Illinois, two-time candidate for President of the United States, and ambassador to the United Nations. They may also think of Adlai E. Stevenson III (1930–2021), Senator from Illinois from 1970 to 1981, and two-time candidate for Governor of Illinois. But the subject of today’s Facial Hair Friday is the original Adlai E. Stevenson (1835–1914), who served as Vice President of the United States from 1893 to 1897 under President Grover Cleveland.

While he was a successful candidate for Vice President in the 1892 election, he was also an unsuccessful Vice Presidential candidate. He was unable to secure a nomination in 1896, but in 1900 he was the Vice Presidential nominee as William Jennings Bryan’s running mate.

The election of 1900 was the second of Bryan’s three Presidential runs, and the two men faced incumbent President William McKinley and his new running mate, Theodore Roosevelt (McKinley’s first Vice President, Garret Hobart, had died in 1899). The Bryan-Stevenson ticket lost fairly soundly, receiving 155 electoral votes (of 447) and 45 percent of the popular vote.

After the election, Stevenson went back to practicing law but didn’t fully give up on elected office. This political cartoon by Clifford K. Berryman, which was published in the Washington Post on August 1, 1906, shows the walrus-mustached Stevenson emerging from a cave with butterfly net and harpoon in his hands, hoping to catch the 1908 Democratic Vice Presidential nomination.

Stevenson did not get another Vice Presidential nomination, but he made one last attempt at elected office, albeit unsuccessfully, when he ran for Governor of Illinois in 1908. He died in Chicago on June 14, 1914, at age 78.

When you saw “Adlai E. Stevenson,” did you think we were talking about his son or grandson? You aren’t the only one—in 1962 the Washington Post reported on a couple who were visiting the Capitol and had stopped by Adlai E. Stevenson’s Vice Presidential bust on display outside the Senate chamber. One visitor was overheard saying, “I didn’t know Adlai ever had a mustache.” The other retorted, “I didn’t either, but I sure think he looks better since he shaved it off.”

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