A lock of President George Washington’s hair was recently found in a book inside an envelope labeled “Washington’s hair.”
The book was an old leather almanac, found clasped closed on a backroom shelf of the library at Union College near Albany, New York. The school’s catalogue librarian, John Myers, came across it while going about his work this past December. He opened the book titled “Gaines Universal Register or American and British Kalendar for the year 1793” when the he first saw the tiny paper packet.
“At which part I paused,” Myers told The Washington Post. “No,” he thought. “Not the Washington Washington’s hair.”
He opened the envelope and discovered a “very curious yellow-gray hair,” as he called it, tied in a neat loop by a piece of string. Meyers and his colleagues then tracked down George Washington hair experts — there are, surprisingly, several — to confirm what he found.
“It’s not hugely valuable, maybe $ 2,000 to $ 3,000 for the strands you have, but it’s undoubtedly George Washington’s,” professional hair collector John Reznikoff told the school.
Reznikoff said the hair is too delicate to be tested for DNA and would be destroyed by the process.
The theory of how the college came into possession of the almanac containing “Washington’s hair,” closely resembles a game of telephone. Back in the 1700s, it wasn’t uncommon for friends and relatives to give each other a locket of hair as a symbol of their relationship. It’s supposed that Washington gave the locket to his friend and treasury secretary, Alexander Hamilton. The book is believed to have belonged to Philip Schuyler, one of the college’s founders, whose grandson was Hamilton’s son.
Union college is currently working on properly preserving and displaying the hair — one of 16 known locks that Washington handed out.