Dimensions: 10 3/4 × 7 1/4 × 2 in. (27.3 × 18.4 × 5.1 cm)
Other (Wreath): 7 1/2 × 4 1/4 in. (19.1 × 10.8 cm)
Marks: Written on the back of frame "Donated by Gertrude Cookingham Smith. Flower made fromm family members' hair."
Classification: Household, Kitchen, Miscellaneous
Credit Line: Gift of Gertrude Cookingham Smith. In the Farm House Museum Collection, Farm House Museum, University Museums, Iowa State University, Ames, Iowa.
Exhibited in a shadow box frame, this work of art depicts a brown flower wreath, consisting of a single center stem with side stems, flowers and blossoms attached. According to an
inscription on the back of the frame, the wreath was made with hair from family members of the donor, Gertrude Cookingham Smith.
While seemingly macabre to many modern viewers, jewelry and art made of woven
human hair was very popular in America in the late 19th century. In the age before
digital cameras and videos, hair work began as a way of memorializing loved ones who
had died. By the 1870s, women could find instructions for hair weaving as a pastime in
the popular magazine Godey’s Lady’s Book, and the look eventually became so popular
that ready-made commercial hair jewelry was widely available.