Dakota Datebook

Hans Langseth

Thursday, May 23, 2013

 

On this date in 1922, the city of Sacramento California opened the week-long “Days of ’49″ celebration with a “longest beard in the United States” competition. The title of “King of the Whiskerinos” went to Hans Langseth, of Barney, North Dakota, who won the contest easily with his 17-foot-long beard.

 

Hans was born in Norway in 1846, and settled in Kensett, Iowa after immigrating to the United States with his wife, Anne. In 1875, Hans shaved for the last time and started growing his famous beard. The couple had six children in Iowa, but after Anne passed away in the 1880s Hans and his family moved first to Glyndon, Minnesota, and then to Barney, North Dakota, where Hans lived for the rest of his life.

 

Hans had gained attention for his extensive beard well before his visit to Sacramento. He appeared in circus sideshows and even one movie, allowing people to see, and even feel with their own hands, that his beard wasn’t fake. When not on display, Hans kept his beard wrapped up and tucked in a pocket or inside his shirt, to protect it from damage.

 

There were few challengers even approaching the length of Hans Langseth’s beard in Sacramento in 1922. The lengthy beard of Zachary Wilcox of Carson City, Nevada was the closest threat. Wilcox’s beard came in at an official length of fourteen feet, as measured by the “Chief Whiskerino of the Golden West,” who officiated the event. As runner-up,Wilcox was dubbed “Crown Prince of the Whiskerinos,” and Hans Langseth, their King, was awarded an engraved gold medal from the Governor of California.

 

Hans returned to North Dakota a champion, and no person has ever grown a longer beard since. On his death in 1927, a portion of his beard was sent to the Smithsonian Museum, where it remains in their collection today. At the time of his death, the beard of Hans Langseth was over 18 feet, six inches long. The portion in the Smithsonian’s collection measures only measures 17 feet, six inches. The Langseth family left one foot of record-setting beard on his chin, because it wouldn’t be right to send Hans Langseth to his grave clean-shaven.

 

This Dakota Datebook written by Derek Dahlsad.

 

Sources:

“The longest beard in the United States…,” Turtle Mountain Star, 5/11/1922

HansLangseth.com http://hanslangseth.com

“The End Of The Chase,” British Pathe http://www.britishpathe.com/video/the-end-of-the-chase

“Wisdom is in the head, and not in the beard…,” 3/24/2010, The Bigger Picture http://siarchives.si.edu/blog/wisdom-head-and-not-beard

Sacramento’s K Street: Where Our City Was Born, William Burg

“Crown Prince of the Whiskerinos,” Carson City Nevada website http://www.carson.org/index.aspx?page=1802

 

 

This text and audio may not be copied without securing prior permission from Prairie Public.

Dakota Datebook is a project of Prairie Public, in partnership with the State Historical Society of North Dakota, with funding from the North Dakota Humanities Council.

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