Lincoln Presidential Library tells the story of 'Billy the Barber'
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[February 18, 2014]
SPRINGFIELD — One was a
Haitian-born barber with a flair for self-promotion. The other was a
poor young lawyer with plenty of ambition. They both wound up in
Springfield in the 1830s, developing a friendship that stretched all
the way to the White House.
The Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum will host a free
special event Sunday to explore the little-known friendship between
William Fleurville and Abraham Lincoln. Speakers will discuss
Fleurville's life, the legal system during Lincoln's time and
African-American history in Springfield.
The event also includes a
sketch about Fleurville's life by Glennette Tilley Turner, the
author of an upcoming biography of the man known as "Billy the
"The Barber and the President" begins at 2 p.m. in the library's
multipurpose room. To reserve a ticket, visit
Legend has it that when William Fleurville (or de Fleurville or
Florville — spellings vary) arrived in the little frontier town of
New Salem, he ran into young Abraham Lincoln, who advised him to set
up shop in nearby Springfield.
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Whatever the truth, Fleurville did become a barber in Springfield
and advertised himself as "Emperor and Autocrat of all the Barbers."
He promised to "nullify" beards and to "resuscitate, re-invigorate
and refrigerate" dirty clothes.
Fleurville served as Lincoln's barber for 24 years, and Lincoln
served as Fleurville's attorney in real estate matters. When
Lincoln's son Willie died in the White House, Fleurville wrote a
condolence letter that included a note reassuring Lincoln's other
young son that his dog was alive and well back in Springfield.
Fleurville also was an honorary pallbearer in Abraham Lincoln's
The Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum, a division
of the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency, is dedicated to
telling the story of America's 16th president. For more information,
Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum
file received from the
Illinois Historic Preservation Agency]