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The Easton Hair Wreath
Hanging quietly over the Sudds Parlor Organ is something known as a "hair wreath" or "hair flowers." This hair flower wreath was made about 1850 and belonged to Emma Sheldon Easton. These are formed by "stitching" the hair with fine wire over a rod which forms a series of loops which could be formed into flower shapes.
This art was practiced by Victorians as a memorial for lost loved ones. The Victorians saw hair as something tangible to remember someone dear to them. Friends would even exchange hair, with locks of hair kept in jewelry.
But not all hair wreaths were made as memorials. Some were community projects that might contain the hair from an entire group, a school, family etc. These wreaths could get quite large.
Our hair wreath is typical of this art form. Most were horseshoe-shape, framed inside a shadow box. When memorial wreaths were made, hair was collected and added to the wreath whenever any one died.
The top of the wreath was always kept open...."ascending heavenward." The newest hair would be placed in the center and slid to the side as it became part of the large wreath when the next person passed away.
This wreath was donated by Ruth Gertrude Easton (1892-1982). Ruth was a teacher in Gouverneur for 43 years and a tireless volunteer for the Gouverneur Historical Association. Her obituary says Ruth was "noted for her creativity. It showed in original poems and teaching materials she used with her young charges and also in her leisure time hobbies of painting, pottery and jewelry making. Other hobbies included her beautiful gardens, her stamp collection, crossword puzzles and other interests that kept her busy after her retirement."
Ruth's father, Seymour Easton, had married Emma Sheldon, after her mother (Sarah Drake) died in 1906. Emma became a "friend and advisor" to Ruth during her teenage years. Emma was the originator of this hair wreath and the sister of James Sheldon, who was a Bank of Gouverneur President and the boy who wore the green "dress." Their sister, Julia Sheldon Neary was one of the founders of the Gouverneur Reading Room.