As I sit here on a rainy President’s Day Monday, a local news story has really piqued my interest…and, believe it or not, the story is about hair! Well, not just any old hair, but a lock of hair from none other than the first president of the United States of America—George Washington.
As you may know from some of my past blogs, I am captivated by the significant place Albany, NY, occupied during the founding of the United States. Just recently, as an inventory of objects was conducted at Union College’s Schaffer Library in an area filled with old books and manuscripts, a red leather almanac was found containing an envelope labeled “Washington’s Hair, L.S.S & GBS from James A Hamilton given by his mother, Aug. 10, 1871.”
That James A. Hamilton just happens to be the third son of Alexander Hamilton (yes, the one who is presented in the wildly popular musical Hamilton) and his wife Eliza who was a daughter of Major General Phillip Schuyler (whose statue stares up Washington Avenue from in front of City Hall in Downtown Albany)!
The L.S.S and GBS seem to be the initials of James A. Hamilton’s granddaughters who were given the lock of hair by their grandfather. The hair has been authenticated and is the real hair of George Washington who did not wear a wig as many men did in the 1700’s. Click here to read the whole story.
By today’s standards, giving someone a lock of hair as a memento may seem a bit strange, but the custom was common in Washington’s time. “Often found in family and personal papers prior to the mid-20th century, locks of hair can have many meanings: commemoration of a person’s life, tokens of friendship or love, or tangible reminders of a life passed. Hair does not decompose, and because of this, many people cherished it as a symbol of eternal life. Families often passed down keepsakes of hair from generation to generation even after those touched by the person’s life were no longer living.” Click here to read full article.
I have to say that I think I would be awed to be in the real presence of a lock of George Washington’s hair. I mean, I have been looking at pictures of President Washington and hearing about him for as long as I can remember. Imagine being in the presence of something that was actually a part of him!
I remember a while back finding an old baby book that my mother had kept for me—I was the second of four children, and the baby book only contains a few pages which isn’t surprising considering my younger sister was born just fourteen months after me. My Mom had her hands full.
In my baby book was an envelope that contained a lock of my hair that my mother had snipped and saved when I was about two years old. I was a late bloomer in the area of hair having very little until I was about that age!
Taking the strawberry blond lock out of the envelope and knowing that it was mine from such a young age that I have very few memories of was a unique experience indeed. Well, I guess I am going to have to stop teasing my husband about his wisdom teeth that he stowed away in an envelop in the back of a desk drawer.
Until next time . . .