The Presque Isle Historical Society will be giving a free presentation open to the public on “Victorian Hair Work as an Art Form” on Wednesday, June 6.

Hair has played a large role in all aspects of society for centuries and, as a result, has made it into our vernacular as well with expressions such as “let your hair down”, “splitting hairs”, “by a hair”, “pulling his hair out”, “making my hair stand on end”, and many more.

It has long been believed that owning hair from another’s head gave you power over that individual.  Even today, a lock of hair from a baby’s first haircut is kept for good luck.  In 1994, the prestigious auction house Sotheby’s sold a lock of Beethoven’s hair for $7,300; and in 2015, a lock of Mozart’s hair was sold for £35,000 (roughly $42,875).

Hair work is the practice of using human hair to create a piece of art that could be displayed or a piece of jewelry that could be worn.  Although the practice of hair work began as early as the Middle Ages, it was the Victorians who truly raised it to an art form.  The general public copied what was done by the royal family.  When Queen Victoria’s husband, Prince Albert, passed away in 1861, the Queen began to wear a locket of his hair around her neck.

Hair jewelry took many forms and included brooches, pendants, necklaces, bracelets, rings, earrings, cufflinks, and watch fobs.  The hair itself may have made up the actual piece of jewelry or may have been encased inside a piece in an artful way.  The hair may have been woven, painted, or even crushed.

In addition to jewelry, human hair was also used to create wreaths, sculptures, paintings, scrap or “friendship” albums, and historical remembrances usually for a person of some historical significance.  Hair was also kept as a memento such as a baby’s first haircut.

Kim Smith, a board member of Presque Isle Historical Society, will be giving the presentation. The presentation will also discuss the demographics of those who wore this unusual jewelry, how it was made and why no longer seen in today’s cultural mainstream.  Examples of Victorian hair jewelry, a hair wreath, and a reproduction braiding table will be on display.  The presentation will be held at the Hampton Inn at 768 Main Street and begin at 5:30 p.m.

For more information on Presque Isle Historical Society programs or to make a tax deductible contribution, call (207) 762-1151, email pihistoricalsociety@hotmail.com, or visit them on the web at www.pihistory.org.

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