Lock of Washington's hair discovered at Union College

Times Union | 2/14/2018 | Staff
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SCHENECTADY — Six-inch strands of white hair — looped and tied with a piece of thread, folded into a letter and sealed in an envelope — were tucked into a worn red leather almanac published in 1793, and closed with a metal clasp.

The hair went undiscovered for a century.

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This hidden time capsule of ephemera sat unnoticed amid a large archival collection comprising old books and rare manuscripts tightly packed on shelves at Union College’s Schaffer Library.

The hair was found recently during an inventory review. Imagine the archivist’s surprise when the strands turned out to be the hair of George Washington, first president of the United States, whose likeness graces the $1 bill.

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John Myers, catalog and metadata librarian, made the discovery. “He was very excited. It’s not the kind of thing you run into every day,” said Dan Michelson, a historical records project archivist who flagged the well-worn red leather almanac for further examination but did not open the clasp and unlock the mystery.

The hair was given as a keepsake to James A. Hamilton, third son of Founding Father Alexander Hamilton and his wife, Eliza Schuyler Hamilton. The almanac also concealed a folded 1804 Schuyler family letter.

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Alexander and Eliza Hamilton, popularized in Lin-Manuel Miranda’s hip-hop Broadway hit “Hamilton,” were married in 1780 at the Schuyler Mansion in Albany’s South End. Washington was a close friend of the prominent family and spent several nights at the Schuyler Mansion. The envelope was inscribed: “Washington’s hair, L.S.S. & GBS from James A Hamilton given by his mother, Aug. 10, 1871.”

The keepsake Washington locks were later handed down from James A. Hamilton to his granddaughters, Louisa Lee Schuyler and Georgina Schuyler.

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College officials sent photographs of the hair, letter, envelope and almanac to...
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