A Tale of Two Hair Books

Lockets are perhaps the most well-known form of hair memorial: a slip of hair tucked in a piece of jewelry or perhaps framed next to a photograph. But there is another medium, especially if one needed to preserve and display a large quantity: the hair book. I know of two examples, one in the possession of the Lancaster Mennonite Historical Society, and another in a private collection.

The first belonged to Elizabeth Eby, born in 1835 to Sem Eby and Anna (Frantz) Eby in Leacock Township, Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. She married Milton Shertzer in 1860 and had five children. She died in 1922 at the age of 87 and is buried in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania.

In 1866, at the age of 31, Eby made the hair book–or at least the cover. The cover is Berlin-work glued to paper. Stitched on are a border of roses and the text “hair B[o]ok/ ma[de] by /Elizabeth/ Eby AD/1866.” The back cover is an arrangement of five flowers. Those in the corner are two shades of green, red, and pink. The central flower arrangement shows three blossoms in the same colors, but includes yellow, orange, and blue.

Inside Eby’s book are seven used pages, but only one side is used per leaf. Arrayed on each page are lockets of hair, fifty-two in total, and all but one are neatly labeled in the same hand–albeit with different inks. Picture a photo album–but with lockets of hair, instead of photographs.

Each lock, braided or unbraided, is secured with a ribbon–similar to the Hershey hair poster I discussed previously. While most are attached directly to the paper, four have an additional backing. The locks are attached to the page mainly by glue, but others are stitched to the paper.

The second hair book is in a private collection in Fayette, Fulton County, Ohio, and has no Mennonite connections. The book dates to 1871 and was made in Wright Township, Hillsdale County, Michigan. It was made for Rachel (Lickley) Woods by her Sunday School Students at Lickley’s Corners Baptist Church.

The cover is card stock, embellished with cutouts from a box, and features fruits and baroque flourishes. It is bound by two ribbons, red with gold trim.

The book contains locks of hair from each of her twenty-nine pupils, arrayed on pages similar to the Eby book. Each locket is looped and secured with a ribbon–either blue or red–and stitched to the page.

In my next post, I will examine how artifacts like these served as totems of memory in connection to the broader Victorian cultural context, as well as how they might be read in Mennonite-specific settings.

I am still looking for hair memorials, in any form, that have Mennonite connections to provide comparative analysis. If you know of one, please contact me.

This entry was posted in Collections and tagged by JoelHNofziger. Bookmark the permalink.

About JoelHNofziger

Joel Horst Nofziger is director of communications for the Lancaster Mennonite Historical Society. He also serves as the coordinating editor for Anabaptist Historians, a collaborative blog dedicating to bringing the Anabaptist past into the digital future. A native of Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, his research interest lies in understanding how Mennonites in the United States have constructed and perpetuated their identity through the stories they tell themselves. He has a B.A. in History and Peacebuilding and Development from Eastern Mennonite University. He and his wife, Eileen, attend Pilgrims Mennonite Church in Akron, Pennsylvania, and Keystone Friends Monthly Meeting (Ohio Yearly Meeting Conservative).

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