People collect all sorts of things, from stamps and antique dolls to books and perfumes. Those probably all seem pretty standard. What will really blow your mind is a collection of hair.
During the middle of the nineteenth century, a naturalist and lawyer named Peter A. Browne assembled the greatest hair collection the world has ever seen. But what was the reason behind him wanting to collect hair?
Browne believed that he could construct a scientific portrait of humanity by obtaining as many hair specimens as possible. He gathered strands from famous figures and ordinary folks, no matter if they were living or dead. Anyone with a head of hair was desirable for Browne’s purposes.
He collected samples from a 100-year-old man, a fetus, conjoined twins, patients in the Western Virginia Lunatic Asylum, and various celebrities of the time, such as author James Fenimore Cooper and museum founder Charles Willson Peale.
He even took a few strands from the corpse of a woman who had been buried for 32 years and from a convicted murderer before and after his hanging.
Browne also had some tresses of George Washington’s hair, which he acquired from the son of the late president’s barber. He actually had samples from thirteen other U.S. presidents.
Browne used the hair specimens to explain the similarities and differences between humans. Since there was so much variance in humans, he attempted to divide people up into separate species, but his efforts proved to be futile.
Years later, when Charles Darwin introduced the theory of evolution, he confirmed that humans are all from the same origin.
Currently, Browne’s twelve albums of hair are housed in the Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University. However, the extraordinary hair collection was almost tossed in the trash at one point.