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All the presidents' hair is on display at Philadelphia science museum

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  • All the presidents' hair is on display at Philadelphia science museum

    All the presidents' hair is on display at Philadelphia science museum

    Published: Monday, February 11, 2008 | 11:09 AM ET
    Canadian Press: Joann Loviglio, THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

    PHILADELPHIA - It might be the strangest way to spend Presidents Day.

    For the first time, The Academy of Natural Sciences is displaying a scrapbook that has locks of hair from the first 12 U.S. presidents.

    This is a lock George Washington's hair at The Academy Of Natural Sciences in Philadelphia. THE ASSOCIATED PRESS/Matt Rourke The presidential "hair album" was assembled by Peter Browne, a Philadelphia lawyer and scholar of the natural sciences who collected thousands of samples of animal fur and human hair in the 1840s and 1850s.

    Browne also wrote to presidents still living during his lifetime - 1762-1860 - and to the families of those who had died.

    His letters and their responses are included in the book along with the strands of hair.

    His requests for hair weren't considered odd, as saving a loved one's locks in a family "hair album" was popular in the 19th century.

    Because of the scrapbook's age and delicate contents, it will be displayed under glass and opened only to the page featuring George Washington's brown-and-grey locks. Photographs will be shown of the other presidents' hair, from John Adams to Zachary Taylor.

    Thomas Jefferson's hair was reddish with gray when he died and James Monroe had dark curls.

    In his first letter to Brown, Andrew Jackson's son apologized that he could not immediately send a lock from the seventh president, noting that his father recently had a "close cut" that would take a fortnight to grow out.

    "There's something very human and touching about it," longtime academy curator Robert Peck said of the collection. "It gives you a sense of who they were as people."

    Browne also acquired hair samples from Napoleon Bonaparte, Daniel Webster, many Pennsylvania governors, signers of the Declaration of Independence and other political figures.

    © The Canadian Press, 2008

  • #2
    Useful source of DNA samples?

    Does anyone know how useful hair is, as a store of DNA for analysis?

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    • #3
      Don't have the reference, but a researcher recently presented a means of extraction of mitochondrial DNA from hair.

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      • #4
        Originally posted by derinos
        Does anyone know how useful hair is, as a store of DNA for analysis?
        From what I've read, it requires sometimes a lot of hair and luck to successfully extract, isolate and replicate enough DNA to be able to run the tests. It is possible, but it depends on the hair sample. There might also be a possibility of contamination.

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        • #5
          Prez Hair

          12 President's hair sounds really touching.But I've never been overly obsessed with or in love with a US president - I sware. But it is historically significant as proof they existed, for those of us who don't believe something until they see proof.

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