A strand of white hair tucked into a shabby almanac on the shelf of a college library in upstate New York has been revealed to be from one of the nation's Founding Fathers.
Union College, located in Schenectady, said in a news release that the lock of hair belonging to George Washington was found during a recent inventory review of the facility, inside a leather book titled "Gaines Universal Register or American and British Kalendar for the Year 1793.”
“This is a very significant treasure,” said India Spartz, the head of the college's special collections and archives. “It’s a tremendous testament to history and our connection to some of the most important historical figures.”
The almanac is believed to have belonged to Philip J. Schuyler, the son of Gen. Philip Schuyler, one of the college’s founders and a close friend of Washington who served under him during the Revolutionary War. Schuyler was also Alexander Hamilton's father-in law.
Spartz told NEWS10 that the two families were close, and it wasn't uncommon during that time period to give away a strand of hair as a token.
"They were well connected, they had a good social standing," she said.
Researchers at the school said the almanac had several handwritten notes from Schuyler inside, including the slender envelope that was inscribed “Washington's hair, L.S.S. & (scratched out) GBS from James A. Hamilton given him by his mother, Aug. 10, 1871.”
The six strands of hair in the book were still held together by a single delicate thread. College officials said that "contrary to popular lore, Washington did not wear a wig."
"His hair was originally reddish-brown and he powdered it regularly to achieve the fashionable white color. By the time of his presidency, however, the reddish-brown had faded to the gray-white color seen in Union’s strands," the school said.
Officials from the Schuyler Mansion, a state historic site in Albany, told researchers from the college that James Hamilton, the third son of Alexander Hamilton, gave the lock of hair to his granddaughters, Louisa Lee Schuyler and Georgina Schuyler, whose initials are on that yellow envelope.
While DNA testing makes it difficult to verify the hair at Union College is from the nation's first president, researchers said the handwriting on the envelope is similar to that of another note that accompanies strands of Washington's hair at the Massachusetts Historical Society.
“Without DNA, you’re never positive, but I believe it’s 100 percent authentic,” John Reznikoff, a manuscripts and documents dealer in Connecticut, told the colege.
College officials plan to display the newfound locks for the public at some point in the future .