Abraham Lincoln was the tallest president in the US of the 19th century. At 6 feet and 4 inches (1.9 meters), he would stand out even today, and he certainly towered over the men and women of his era.

The top hat he habitually wore in public made him taller still. You couldn’t miss him in a crowd. The 16th president wore the top hat in war and peace, on the stump and in Washington, on occasions formal and informal. He wore it the night he was assassinated. No other president is so firmly connected in our imaginations with an item of haberdashery. We remember Franklin D. Roosevelt’s cigarette holder and John F. Kennedy’s rocker, but Lincoln alone is remembered for what he wore.

Harold Holzer, a Lincoln biographer, said that hats were important to Lincoln: They protected him against inclement weather, served as storage bins for important papers he stuck inside their lining, and further accentuated his great height advantage over other men.

Lincoln’s taste for hats also gave us a remarkably durable image of our most remarkable president. Lincoln remains a giant in our memories, and looms even taller in his stovepipe hat.

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