The towering height of Abraham Lincoln is one of the most recognizable features associated with him. Despite the fact that he was 6 feet 4 inches (193 cm) tall without the top hat, his hat made him appear even more towering at almost 7 feet (213 cm) in height. The “stovepipe hat” he sported was a common fashion choice for men at the time since it was meant to be worn high on the head and give the wearer the illusion of greater stature. Despite the lack of known head-to-toe dimensions on how tall Abraham Lincoln was with his hat, we can deduce from archival sources that his top hats were between 7 and 8 inches (18-20 cm) in height which means Lincoln was 6 feet 11 inches (211 cm) tall with his hat. Lincoln’s towering black hat has become a recognizable symbol of him in paintings, photographs, and other historical representations.
Abraham Lincoln’s Height With His Hat
We know for a fact that all of Abraham Lincoln’s stovepipe hats were between 7 and 8 inches in height. Thus, Abraham Lincoln’s height with his hat was between 6 feet 11 inches and 6 feet 12 inches, or 7 feet (211 and 213 cm) tall. Considering the likelihood that most of his hats were probably only 7 inches (18 cm) tall, the most likely measurement for Lincoln’s height with his hat is 6 feet 11 inches (211 cm).
For instance, the National Museum of American History reportedly has one of Lincoln’s hats, also measuring 7 inches in height. Washington hatmaker J. Y. Davis sold Lincoln this silk stovepipe. Lincoln’s hat was a black silk top hat with a broad brim, stiffened felt, beaver fur, and a fur crest. One of Lincoln’s top hats had an official head circumference of 7-1/8 inches (or 57 cm), and that is the only thing known about it regarding its measurement.
Did Lincoln Try to Look Taller With His Hat?
During his early days in politics, Lincoln simply favored top hats without any specific motivation. But President Abraham Lincoln’s massive top hat was more than just a stylish accessory. Lincoln, who was 6 feet 4 inches tall, really seemed much more towering in his big hat. In an era when physical stature was still associated with status, Lincoln’s 7-inch-tall hat likely contributed to his public perception as a confident and strong leader. But there is also more to that:
Abolitionists at Lincoln’s time often wore tall hats; therefore, Lincoln’s choice of this style may be seen as evidence of his commitment to the abolitionist cause. The fact that Lincoln wore a tall hat also indicated his humble beginnings in the expanding 19th-century middle class, when such headwear was popular among them. Lincoln’s almost 7-foot stature with his hat always made him stand out and appear taller than those around him.
Assessing the Height of 19th-Century Top Hats
During the Victorian Era (1837–1901), a top hat would typically sit at a height of 6.3 to 6.7 inches (16–17 cm). Abraham Lincoln wore a hat that was at least 7 inches tall during this time period. In fact, by the turn of the 19th century, it had become usual to sport a hat that was 7 or 8 inches in height. So, Lincoln’s top hat was not particularly remarkable. Around 1890, the crown of the top hat was widened to give it a more refined, tailored look. The height of the top hat was reduced to 4.7–5.0 inches by the 1920s (12–13 cm).
In Lincoln’s day, precise height measurement was not as common as it is now. Abraham Lincoln’s autobiographies, rather than real measurements, are used in many of the earliest biographies and reports of Lincoln’s height. Wearing top hats was also widespread in the 19th century, and the increased height they provided would have varied according to the hat style. Abraham Lincoln’s hat was designed to always sit upright while worn, emphasizing his already slender physique.
How Lincoln’s Tall Stature and His Hat Risked His Life
The high stovepipe hats Lincoln favored made him a target for assassination. A sniper’s bullet pierced the top of his hat as he rode his horse to his summer retreat (“Soldiers’ Home”) a few miles from the White House in 1864. Many also think that Lincoln’s survival was due to his hat hiding his head.
Once again, Lincoln’s life was in jeopardy due to his massive stovepipe: During the Battle of Fort Stevens in July 1864, Lincoln wore a hat that made him a perfect target for Confederate fire as he surveyed Union positions. Captain Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. shouted at Lincoln, “Get down, you stupid idiot!” as he rescued the president. And Lincoln did not wear his tall hat on the night he was murdered. To this day, there is no other president more intimately linked to a piece of clothing than Abraham Lincoln.