It’s the birthday in 1809 of Abraham Lincoln.
The 16th President’s face is on our penny and our five dollar bill, you can see it at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington DC or on plenty of statues and busts all over the country.
But those are just representations.
If you want to see a small bit of the man himself, you might head to Syracuse, New York, where there’s a bit of Abe Lincoln’s hair in a very unusual decoration known as the Hairy Eagle.
(It’s a name that sounds like a movie about a moon landing run by hippies, but anyway.)
So yes, they made art out of Lincoln’s hair.
But it’s important to note here that people made art out of a lot of people’s hair during the Victorian Era of the 19th Century.
You could use hair to mourn and remember a friend or a loved one.
Not everyone had access to a camera or money for a photographer, and even if you did, a picture wasn’t the same as having an actual lock of someone’s hair.
Sharing a lock of hair was also a popular way to seal a friendship, and of course, a lot of people loved seeing hair from famous people.
That’s how the Hairy Eagle came about.
It was part of a fundraising effort for a quasi-official group known as the US Sanitary Commission.
They worked to advance the health and safety of Union soldiers during the Civil War, and they were trying to raise money toward that end when they came up with the idea of creating a piece of hair out in the shape of a national symbol.
They asked President Lincoln for a lock of hair, the bigger the better.
Honest Abe answered the call.
So did First Lady Mary Todd Lincoln, Vice President Hannibal Hamlin, members of Lincoln’s cabinet and their wives, the speaker of the House, Senators… there’s a lot of prominent hair in there.
It was all woven together into a classic American eagle shape, by two barbers in Washington.
They even added an index so viewers could see whose hair was whose.
The finished work was put on display at the US Sanitary Commission’s big fundraising fair in New York City in 1864.
It wasn’t the only attraction, but it was definitely a big attraction, and it helped raise over a million dollars over the three weeks of the fair.
At one point the Hairy Eagle was intended to go to the Lincolns at the White House, but instead it ended up in the barbers’ shop window.
Then it passed to one of the barbers’ families as a kind of heirloom, and stayed out of site for decades.
Eventually one of the barbers’ widows moved to Syracuse and donated the Eagle to the Onondaga Historical Association.
It’s been in their collection now for about a century, but it’s only been on display a handful of times in their facility since then, and curators say it’s never been loaned out to any other.
So if you’re thinking of putting on a three week fair to raise money for Union soldiers, don’t count on the Hairy Eagle as your top attraction.
Fans of the hit TV show WKRP in Cincinnati have a whole new way to enjoy the show.
There’s a website that’s taken all the clips of Howard Hesseman’s character, Dr. Johnny Fever, as a DJ, and turned them into a single three hour airshift.
(But when are they gonna do one for Venus Flytrap?)
Hair (Amusing Planet)
Guest DJ: Dr. Johnny Fever (Aw Phooey)