PHILADELPHIA – Robert Peck was transferring workplaces at Drexel College in 1976 when he stumbled upon a weird hair assortment.
His colleagues urged him to throw it out, however he was too intrigued to take action.
The Pennsylvania researcher started combing via historical past, strand by strand, till he untangled a previous that went again centuries. He quickly realized the strands of hair, tons of of years previous, belonged to former presidents, well-known scientists and signers of the Declaration of Independence. They included strands from 13 U.S. presidents, from George Washington to Millard Fillmore, 19th century creator James Fenimore Cooper, and even from well-known conjoined twins Chang Bunker and Eng Bunker, Thai brothers who coined the time period “Siamese twins” within the 1800s.
“Every lock and tress rigorously mounted and notated in a 12-volume set of books, so neat and engaging to me, however my colleagues thought in any other case,” mentioned Peck, a historian on the Academy of Pure Sciences at Drexel College, “so I held on to the gathering.”
Peck’s work normally centered on bugs and dinosaurs so his colleagues didn’t see the worth in volumes of hair.
However he insisted on attending to get to the basis of the gathering.
Via cautious digging, he realized he had found the work of Peter A. Browne, a Philadelphia lawyer who devoted his time to accumulating hair samples from luminaries within the 1840s and 1850s. Wrapped with ribbons and string, Browne neatly affixed every lock to ornamental paper, with captions and letters.
“There have been signers of the Declaration of Independence, writers, artists, scientist, explorers – all types of individuals whose lives I had studied,” Peck mentioned.
Peck mentioned it took three many years to persuade his colleagues and different historians of the importance of the findings.
Whereas the lock assortment appeared uncommon, it was truly fairly frequent centuries in the past.
Lengthy earlier than cameras made it potential to seize a snapshot in historical past, collectors from centuries in the past snipped hair to maintain as mementos.
“Hair accumulating was fairly the fad throughout the Victorian Period, they’d take the hair of deceased family members, and should make rings or different types of jewellery,” Arnold mentioned.
However that is the primary time that historians have discovered a group of hair that’s so huge and from such outstanding individuals in historical past.
The strands at the moment are on show from now to President’s Day weekend on the Academy of Pure Sciences in Philadelphia.
“This assortment is priceless,” mentioned Lee Arnold, the director of the Historic Society of Pennsylvania. “You couldn’t even purchase or recreate one thing like this.”