The Art of Hair Wreaths
Hair. Everyone has it, although some have more than others do. We do not really think about it until it gets in our eyes, needs cut or we start losing it. However, did you know that people used hair as a way of remembering someone? Often people would cut a lock of their hair, place it in a piece of jewelry, and give it to a loved one as a keepsake. Women would give their sweetheart a lock of hair if he was going off to war or was going to be away for a long period. Parents would cut locks of hair from a child who has passed as a way of remembering them. If a spouse passed away, the widow or widower would have a piece of jewelry made such as a locket or a pocket watch fob. Some women even had necklace and bracelet chains made out of their loved one’s hair.
Another use of hair, known as hair art, became widely popular in the Victorian Era, the time between 1837 and 1901. People would take locks of hair, collected from several different individuals and create elaborate designs with it. Often the hair belonged to members of a family. This form of expression was a way of recording family histories. Designs were usually in a wreath shape and were often floral in nature. The museum currently has two examples of family hair wreaths on display. The first example came from the family of Isabel Sloan, created in 1890. The second example, Mrs. J.F. Reppert created in 1885.
Recording family members was not the only use for hair art. People often created hair pictures to commemorate an event or a group of people. On display at the museum, is a hair wreath entitled “The Soldiers’ Wreath” created in 1865 to commemorate those who served in the Civil War. Jones took locks of hair from soldiers from around the area to create the picture. She used this as a way of recording their service, writing beside each name their unit and any important event associated with that soldier.
While the practice of hair art may seem strange and unusual to us today, it is an interesting link to the customs of the past. I would like to encourage you to come to the museum to see these works of art along with our other displays. Admission to the museum is free, but donations are always welcome.