Holy History: A Piece of George Washington’s Hair Has Been Hanging Out in Schenectady at the Union College Library

Even our founding fathers needed a little trim back in the day, am I right?

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Upstate New Yorkers often take for granted the heap of history we sit on. I mean, there’s the Albany Plan of Union, the American Revolution, the house of general Phillip Schuyler, the first ever Stewart’s, and now…George Washington’s haircuts.

John Meyers of the Schaffer Library at Union College in Schenectady recently discovered a lock of George Washington’s hair (yeah, the $1 bill George Washington…the first President of the United States George Washington) in Phillip Schuyler’s red leather almanac. Right here in our own backyard! Holy history, people.

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Photo: Paul Buckowski, Albany Times Union

For all you local Hamilton fans out there, our first U.S. prez frequently stayed with Schuyler in his humble abode (the historic Schuyler mansion in Albany) and the strands of hair were a nice little gift to his slumber party pal. I’d rather take a gift card, but I guess gift giving was a little different back in 1871.

A little more on the discovery from the Albany Times Union’s article:

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.

According to the history books, Alexander Hamilton wed Eliza Schuyler at the Schuyler Mansion in 1780, and the Schuyler Mansion was even a common place for Hamilton and Aaron Burr (the guy who killed Hamilton in a duel) to study law.

The envelope that the hair was in was inscribed “Washington’s hair, L.S.S. & GBS from James A Hamilton given by his mother, Aug. 10, 1871.” which, scholars say is enough to prove the legitimacy of the hairy memento. Apparently it was found amongst a crowded shelf during an inventory check of the library. A pretty rare find –I would expect to find an empty bag of Dorito’s hiding between some old encyclopedias or something.

Upstate New York truly is a hotbed for history and culture –the Rensselaer County Historical Society holds onto Aaron Burr’s headboard, a letter from Washington in his own handwriting, and President Abraham Lincoln’s bloody pillowcase he died on after being shot. Let’s just add an old AF piece of hair to the collection and keep piling on some very memorable historic moments here in NYS history.



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