Weird Museum Highlights Victorian Hair Art in Independence Missouri

Exhibits of Victorian Hair Wreaths at the Hair Museum in IndependenceWeird and funky museums are my thing. I knew I had hit gold as soon as I heard the name — Leila’s Hair Museum. It’s in Independence Missouri, Harry Truman’s hometown.

Leila Cahoon, a retired cosmetologist, is the mastermind of this collection that includes more than 200 objects woven from human hair. There’s some horse hair as well, but I can’t tell the difference. It’s considered the largest collection of its kind in the world.

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Hair Art in the Victorian Age

Victorian hair weavingsHair art became popular and fashionable during the Victorian period when Queen Victoria, mourning the death of Prince Albert, wore a bracelet made of his hair. People began making earrings, watch fobs and brooches from their own hair, or from that of their loved ones.

A number of the museum exhibits are mourning wreaths made of the hair of the deceased. Ya, it’s kind of creepy, but rather interesting when you think about how our funeral traditions and remembrances have evolved over the generations.

There’s a section of famous hair — from Marilyn Monroe to Abraham Lincoln to John Lennon and Michael Jackson. Leila says she has hair from Mary, Mother of Jesus, but I’m a little skeptical about that one.


Headquarters of Victorian Hairwork Society

A piece of Abraham Lincoln's hair on display at the hair museumLeila is in the process of writing a book and teaches classes about the nearly lost art of hair weaving. Her little museum is also the U.S. headquarters for the Victorian Hairwork Society. The Society’s annual gathering is celebrated with a formal “Hair Ball.”

That’s giving me just a few ideas for what to do with gifts coughed by our cats. Now that’s worth the price of admission.

Learn More about Victorian Hair Fashions