Give me a head with hair shoulder length or longer, or just the hair: The Hair Museum

This year I’ve heard about three productions of the 60s musical “Hair.” Given that it’s a love song for the planet and a war protest musical to boot, no wonder. I used to know several of the songs by heart. My parents went to the play in New York City eons ago and we had an album. That’s not what this post is about, however, but when I found out about Leila’s Hair Museum in Independence, Missouri, I made the connection.

The Hair Museum doesn’t have hair displayed in any old way, but in an art form that still has a following. In the early 1900s it was fashionable to make art from hair. People would collect hair when it was cut–or brushed and then tie it into knots and twist it into flowers and curly cues then put those together when there was enough for a wreath. These often were framed. Hair was also made into jewelery, hat pins, bouquets and so forth.

Last year when I was writing a magazine article on historical societies in Ohio, I came across a small hair wreath collection at one of the societies. Years ago, I saw one on the parlor wall of the historical society museum in Delaware, Ohio when I wrote a travel article on this town. Someone wrote a letter into Ohio Magazine after that article was published saying that he still makes hair wreaths. The Hair Museum Web site has a link to the Victorian Hairwork Society devoted to this art. The above picture is of a hair bouquet made with 15 different people’s hair. [Click here for details.]

When you think about how expensive and rare family photographs were in 1900, I wonder if the wreaths were one way to preserve family heritage. I know I have my dad’s hair from his first haircut tucked in a box and when my son had his first haircut I kept a lock of it. Maybe this hair wreath thing is genetic.