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.
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.
only would one find tresses in lockets but woven into bracelets,
necklaces, rings, brooches, and other jewelry pieces to keep a loved one
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.
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.
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
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.
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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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.ReplyDelete
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)Delete
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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!ReplyDelete