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2017-11-30

Frontier Lore and Legends

By Rebecca Huffstutler Norton

Did you know the Frontier Times Museum has jewelry made from human hair? During the Victorian era of the 1800s, a popular pastime was weaving jewelry or objects out of human hair. The objects could be simple, like a chain, or as elaborate as large wreaths made into a floral design and placed in a shadow box. The objects made from the hair of a loved one who had died were a way to keep the memory of the person close to one’s heart. Jewelry and objects made from the hair of friends and family still alive were more like sentimental mementos. Patterns for hair jewelry and crafts were even sold in stores and featured in women’s magazines.
Artwork or jewelry made of people’s hair may seem ghoulish today, but not so in Victorian times. When a loved one passed, funerals were often held at home with the body displayed in the parlor rather than at a funeral home. When a child passed, it was not uncommon to have a photograph made of the dead child, if there was not a photograph available of the child alive. Hair jewelry and artwork were a way to show your bond to someone who was dead or to a living friend, child, or spouse. Women would give each other locks of hair as a token of friendship much like children give each other friendship bracelets today.
The hair-work on display at the Frontier Times Museum was created in 1888 and is displayed with the name of the person whose hair was used to create the intricately woven chains, crosses, flowers and even a miniature powder horn. It is unknown whether the loved ones were dead or alive when the jewelry was made, but what is known is the Victorian lady who created these extraordinary works of art was totally blind.