Sideburns of Note: Donald Grant Mitchell

By Jennifer Snyder
October 11, 2011
Photograph of Donald Grant Mitchell

Blogs across the Smithsonian will give an inside look at the Institution’s archival collections and practices during a month long blogathon in celebration of October’s American Archives Month. See additional posts from our other participating blogs, as well as related events and resources, on the Smithsonian’s Archives Month website.

Photograph of Donald Grant Mitchell
Donald Grant Mitchell, 1883 / unidentified photographer. Charles Scribner's Sons Art Reference Dept. records, Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.

Readers know by now that I am fond of men’s facial hair. therefore, it should be no surprise that I am enthralled with Whisker Wars, the new reality show about facial hair competitions in the U.S. Contestants featured on the show have the ultimate goal of completing in the World Beard & Mustache Championships.

Using photographs at the Archives of American Art I have come up with some contestants for a facial hair competition of my own. For instance, surely Donald Grant Mitchell and his tremendous sideburns have potential to place highly in the Partial Beard or the Sideburns Freestyle categories. Maybe he could enter both! Perhaps Bill Mitchell (no relation to Donald), the 2011 Sideburns Freestyle winner at the World Beard and Mustache Championships, has some pointers for Donald Grant Mitchell?

Donald Grant Mitchell (1822–1908) was an American essayist, often writing under the nom de plume Ik Marvel. His most well-known book may be Reveries of a Bachelor [you can read several editions on Open Library]. Mitchell attended Yale and traveled Europe extensively in the mid-1800s, much of it on foot. A profile from The New York Times in 1893 claims he walked 600 miles in England alone! He was an agriculturalist and landscape architect, living on a 200 acre farm just outside of New Haven, CT known as Edgewood. The farm then became the subject of much of his writing.


Jennifer Snyder works with oral history interviews at the Archives American Art. When not sending interviews out for digitization, she is writing about extraordinary examples of facial hair for this blog.


Talking about Whisker Wars, I love this show. I can’t believe there are a lot of people who can actually grew their moustache and beard that long. Why can’t I do that?

Ha! I didn't know about the World Beard & Mustache Championships! Now I do!
As someone who has to shave every day for work, I simply hate the process. I envy the guy on the photograph here for his ability to grow those sideburns and still be considered stylish and normal. I do that, and I will be totally misunderstood by my friends. The best I can do is to refuse to shave during the weekend! Thanks for the fascinating post!

thanks for the article and photos. There are ways and ways to bring the beard, some people are fine with it and others do not. It is part of the personality.

Sideburns are so rare these days. Pity

Thanks a lot for sharing a very nice wording with us! Please keep it up.

Hey ! that's a rare pic with different beard.Thank u for sharing the pic

Neat photographs to go along with the cool facial hair. Too bad people are so judgemental and we have to refrain from the fun of creating different styles like they did.
I believe the camera used dates back to around the Cival War and is called a Twin Lens Reflex Camera. You could make some outstanding photographs that are so clear. They are still being made and used today.
Good stuff!!