A New York state college said an inventory of its library’s archival collections led to an unusual discovery — a lock of George Washington’s hair.
Union College said archivists going through materials at Schaffer Library discovered the first U.S. president’s hair in an envelope tucked inside a leather book titled Gaines Universal Register or American and British Kalendar for the year 1793.
The envelope was labeled: “Washington’s hair, L.S.S. & (scratched out) GBS from James A. Hamilton given him by his mother, Aug. 10, 1871.”
James A. Hamilton was the son of Alexander Hamilton and his wife, Eliza Schuyler Hamilton. The book was inscribed to Philip J. Schuyler, brother of Eliza and son of Gen. Philip Schuyler, a friend of Washington’s.
“In an era when people frequently exchanged hair as a keepsake, it’s quite probable that Martha had given Eliza some of George’s hair, which in turn was given to their son, James, who later distributed it, strand by strand, as a precious memento to close friends and
family members,” said Susan Holloway Scott, a scholar and author of the historical novel I, Eliza Hamilton.
India Spartz, head of Special Collections and Archives at Schaffer Library, said she is working to preserve the hair, the almanac and a series of handwritten notes from Philip J. Schuyler that were also found inside the book.
“This is a very significant treasure,” Spartz said. “It’s a tremendous testament to history and our connection to some of the most important historical figures.”