Dr. John Collins Warren gave this locket, containing strands of George Washington’s hair, to Simon Greenleaf in commemoration of the president’s death.
Washington’s death in 1799 spurred an outpouring of national public mourning. On December 26, Congress held a national funeral in Philadelphia, then the capitol of the United States. The funeral involved elaborate ceremony, including a riderless horse, canon fire, and a pall-bearing procession. Congressman Henry Lee of Virginia, a close friend of Washington’s, gave a eulogy that itself became much beloved, and which began, First in war, first in peace and first in the hearts of his countrymen, he was second to none in the humble and endearing scenes of private life.
The oval locket features gold floral-cutwork with hinged flat glass on one side and stationary flat glass on the other; a watch stem loop at top. Glass sides enclose a scrap of paper which may have been glued to black fabric at bottom, with several strands of white hair sewn to fabric with black thread. Ms. in ink reads "General Washington’s hair (Mr. Greenleaf) by Dr. Warren."