Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)



First Advisor

Joseph Mannard, Ph.D.

Second Advisor

Wang Xi, Ph.D.

Third Advisor

Gary Bailey, Ph.D.


Throughout his life Abraham Lincoln displayed a casual indifference to his personal appearance and deportment that challenged the prevailing standard of what constituted a refined gentleman. This work therefore explores certain questions: How did Lincoln’s exterior appearance break with the gentlemanly standard expected of a national leader? Why was Lincoln able to defy this standard? How did Lincoln change the standard for presidential appearance and behavior? This thesis argues that Lincoln, if never a traditional gentleman in appearance, was before his death accepted as a “gentleman in substance,” and that his successors inherited this new ideal of democratic leadership. The chief sources used in this study were contemporary newspapers, diaries, letters, and interviews which contain personal reactions to Lincoln by people from every walk of life. Etiquette manuals and guides for gentlemen identify the cultural prescriptions that Lincoln transgressed, and the voluminous secondary literature on the 16th President provides context.