PHILADELPHIA (MCT) His crowning glory, George Washington's hair was a fine, youthful light brown.
One can imagine him running his hand through it admiringly in front of a mirror. Such are the odd musings that can be inspired by an even odder collection of historical ephemera scheduled to be on display at the Academy of Natural Sciences this Presidents' Day weekend:
The hair of U.S. presidents.
In possession of a leather-bound scrapbook of hair from the heads of the first 12 chief executives, the Academy plans to exhibit four samples through Monday: Washington, Thomas Jefferson, John Adams and John Quincy Adams.
The hair was collected by a Philadelphia lawyer and amateur naturalist named Peter Arvell Browne (1762-1860), who filled 12 volumes with samples of human and animal hair from around the world.
Passionate and peculiar, Browne was somewhat hair obsessed, according to Robert Peck, the erudite, white-haired curator of art and artifacts at the Academy.
Still, Browne did successfully study sheep hair, which helped form the principles that guide the wool industry to this very day, Peck said.
And he correctly guessed that some American Indian hair was similar to Siberian hair. This would later be scientifically verified, proof that so-called Native Americans had ancestors in what is now Russia.
With the presidents and with Napoleon Bonaparte, whose brown, baby-fine locks are also part of the Academy's shaggy collection Browne was hoping to learn whether great leaders had common characteristics that manifested themselves in hair, or "pile," as he called it.
Here, Browne was significantly off base, said Peck. "You can't draw any such conclusions about hair and leadership," he said.
And when you think about it, our presidents had such varying tresses.
Bill Clinton was a great-maned president, especially compared with Richard Nixon's Nowhere Man look. Gerald Ford and Dwight Eisenhower were bald, James K. Polk sported a kind of mullet, and Lincoln added a beard.
People say Andrew Jackson had the best presidential hair, as evidenced by its thick and wild appearance on the 20-dollar bill.
Browne, in fact, asked Jackson for hair for his collection, but the president demurred, explaining that he'd just gotten a haircut, Peck said.