Hair of the Presidents of the United States with other Persons of Distinction, Washington, D.C., 1853

John Varden began to collect these locks of hair in 1850. At the time, he was working as keeper of collections for the National Institute for the Promotion of Science at the US Patent Office, but he considered the hair collection to be his personal property.
Varden presented his first hair display at the Patent Office in 1853, assembled from donations that he personally solicited, purchased, or may have repurposed from existing collections. The presidential locks are now missing from the 1853 collection; Varden moved them to a separate display in 1855. The remaining “Persons of Distinction” include Samuel F. B. Morse, sculptor Clark Mills, Generals Winfield Scott and Sam Houston, Senators Henry Clay and Jefferson Davis, and other luminaries. Varden’s inscription makes a public appeal: “Those having hair of Distinguished Persons, will confere [sic] a Favor by adding to this Collection.”
The 1855 display features the hair of presidents from George Washington to Franklin Pierce.
Transfer from the United States Patent Office, 1883
Object Name
date made
Physical Description
wood (overall: frame material)
hair (overall material)
overall: 22 in x 15 in; 55.88 cm x 38.1 cm
ID Number
accession number
catalog number
Government, Politics, and Reform
Souvenir Nation
See more items in
Political History: Political History, General History Collection
Souvenir Nation
Souvenir Nation
Data Source
National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center
Additional Media

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