Wednesday, September 23, 2020


By Mary Davis


In Independence, Missouri sits a unique little museum dedicated to hair art but not fancy hairdos as one might think. The hair in Leila’s Hair Museum are strands from dearly departed loved ones made into art. Before the advent of photography, people liked to keep a little something of someone who had passed on. We have all seen this type of thing in movies where a small hank of hair is kept in a locket.

People of bygone eras took this to whole new levels by saving a loved ones hair in a keepsake or weaving it into a work of art. This art form has been around since the 1500s and flourished during the Victorian era.

Not only would one find tresses in lockets but woven into bracelets, necklaces, rings, brooches, and other jewelry pieces to keep a loved one close.

Originally, these fancy hair art jewelry pieces were only affordable to the very wealthy being created by master craftsmen. By the mid 1800s, women were creating hair art at home. Books and instructional guides were written on the craft. Popular magazines of the time, like Godey’s Lady’s Book, had printed patterns for hair art and offered starter kits with the tools needed for the craft. This made hair art mementos affordable for the average person.

These memorial tokens weren’t relegated to jewelry only. Wall art was created with hair. Sometimes the hair was incorporated into the art and other times the hair was the art.

Hair wreathes like this one would represent generations of a family. Each time a relative passed away, a piece of that person’s hair would be added to the wreath. Hair was twisted with wire to help it hold its shape.

Can you imagine all the DNA in a piece like this?

Testing on hair cut from Beethoven’s head in 1827 showed his life-long illness was due to lead poisoning.

Unlike a lot of other natural fibers, hair doesn’t decay over time. It can last for hundreds, if not thousands, of years. On the other hand, the gum used to glue the hair together does decay, resulting in the piece loosing its integrity and the hair coming loose or moving within a piece.

On the far right side, you can see in this one where the hair has come loose and is gone now due to degraded glue.

Some famous people whose hair has been saved in some of these hair art pieces are George and Martha Washington, Abraham Lincoln, Daniel Webster, Aaron Burr, Jenny Lind, Queen Victoria, Elvis Presley, and Michael Jackson to name a few.

In this video, you can take a look around Leila's Hair Museum.


Do you think this sort of thing is cool or creepy?

Would you want your hair preserved in jewelry or wall art for generations to come?

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MARY DAVIS s a bestselling, award-winning novelist of over two dozen titles in both historical and contemporary themes. Her 2018 titles include; "Holly and Ivy" in A Bouquet of Brides CollectionCourting Her Amish HeartThe Widow’s PlightCourting Her Secret Heart , “Zola’s Cross-Country Adventure” in The MISSAdventure Brides Collection , and Courting Her Prodigal Heart . 2019 titles include The Daughter's Predicament and "Bygones" in Thimbles and Threads. She is a member of ACFW and active in critique groups.
Mary lives in the Pacific Northwest with her husband of over thirty-five years and two cats. She has three adult children and two incredibly adorable grandchildren. Find her online at:


  1. Thanks for this interesting post. I have seen some hair art in museums. I think it's more creepy than cool, but that's just me. I'd rather just have great memories or maybe a personal item to remember someone.

    1. I can't decide which which side I fall on. At times it's a bit creepy, but I also find it cool and fascinating. And what is more personal than a lock of a loved ones hair? =0)

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  3. Hi Mary, we have a beautiful hair necklace in our hometown historical museum. It is fashioned like a Squash Blossom Indian necklace, very elaborate and intricate. I've studied Victorian ways and find it all interesting; their views on dying, death, and cemeteries is different, for sure! When my mother died, I snipped some of her gray hair in the back to keep in a tiny glass box. Then when my husband passed I did the same thing. I enjoyed this post!