When he first addresses the audience in Act One, the Foundling Father carries a box of beards with him. these are, of course, the beards for his Abraham Lincoln act, which range from a stunning blonde “fancy beard” and a festive “holiday beard” to a “beard of uncertainty.” He explains that his barber helped him make these beards, and it is even possible that he made them out of Lucy’s hair (in Act Two, she lists “Thuh hair from off my head” as one of the many things the Foundling Father has taken away from her). Notably, as with the bust of Lincoln, the beard box and one of the beards turn back up in Act Two as one of Brazil’s “wonders,” as he reinterprets his father’s junk as real historical treasures.
While the Foundling Father’s various beards point to the way that his character is only knowable through his relationship to Lincoln, and that in this sense he is constantly in disguise, it also shows how history branches apart in this play, with multiple and often inconsistent narratives emerging about the past. Recognizing that “some inaccuracies are good for business,” he intentionally plays Lincoln the character from history, with little interest in how Lincoln actually may have been. Indeed, his creativity with Lincoln’s character suggests not only that single truths are not recoverable in history—or even worth recovering in it—but also that interpreting history is what really brings it to life and makes it relevant and valuable to people in the present day.
The Lincoln Beards Quotes in The America Play
There was once a man who was told that he bore a strong resemblance to Abraham Lincoln. He was tall and thinly built just like the Great Man. His legs were the longer part just like the Great Mans legs. His hands and feet were large as the Great Mans were large. The Lesser Known had several beards which he carried around in a box. The beards were his although he himself had not grown them on his face but since he’d secretly bought the hairs from his barber and arranged their beard shapes and since the procurement and upkeep of his beards took so much work he figured that the beards were completely his. Were as authentic as he was, so to speak. His beard box was of cherry wood and lined with purple velvet. He had the initials “A.L.” tooled in gold on the lid.