March 26, 2021
A lock of George Washington's hair that was supposedly taken from the first president's head while he was in Philadelphia is up for sale.
Lelands, a sports memorabilia-focused auction house based in Matawan, New Jersey, is hosting an online auction that ends April 2 at 11 p.m. As of Friday afternoon, the bidding was up to $1,464.
The lock has been stored inside a handmade brass and glass locket for many years, the listing says. It comes with a handwritten letter describing its Philly origins.
"General Washington's hair — cut from his head in the year 1799 by Mr. John Pierie of Philadelphia, from whom I received it, Fr. Hopkinson, Philada: June 28th, 1836," the letter reads.
The listing says the hair was likely removed from Washington's head "close to or after his death" in 1799, though Washington died and was buried at his home in Mt. Vernon, Virginia, and not in Philly, where he lived at the nation's first executive mansion from 1790 to 1797.
Another lock of Washington's hair, with a similar origin story, is also owned by the State Museum of Pennsylvania. A note accompanying that lock says Washington allowed Pierie, a "barber surgeon," to keep "a pretty good portion" of the hair he had trimmed from the president's head during his final visit to Philly in 1797. Pierie then distributed the trimmings to "a select few of his old customer + friends."
However, the Harrisburg museum says its hard to know how true that story is. There is record that Washington visited Philly during that time, but not much is known about Pierie.
"While verifying the veracity of such a story is difficult, the tale is consistent with historical events," the museum says.
Lelands says Washington memorabilia, such as the lock up for sale, are coveted by museums, history buffs and collectors. The lock could end up being a big-ticket item, though bidding remains low compared to similar items.
Another lock from Washington's head sold for $35,763.60 in 2019, according to the New York Post.