Hair of the Presidents, Washington, D.C., 1855


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

Date Made: 1855

Associated Person: Washington, GeorgeAdams, JohnAdams, John QuincyJefferson, ThomasMadison, JamesMonroe, JamesJackson, AndrewVan Buren, MartinHarrison, William HenryPolk, James K.Tyler, JohnTaylor, ZacharyFillmore, MillardPierce, Franklin

See more items in: Political and Military History: Political History, General History Collection, Government, Politics, and Reform, Souvenir Nation


Exhibition Location:

Data Source: National Museum of American History

Id Number: PL.016157BCatalog Number: 016157Accession Number: 13152

Object Name: hair locks

Physical Description: green (cord color)wood (overall frame material)hair (overall material)Measurements: overall: 18 1/2 in x 13 in; 46.99 cm x 33.02 cm


Record Id: nmah_524091

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