Every year on All Saints’ Day, New Orleanians head to cemeteries to beautify the graves of the departed. Early Americans took this a step further by holding on to actual pieces of loved ones: their hair.
In the 18th century, hairwork was understated; mourners might preserve locks of hair under glass in brooches or rings. As the 19th-century romantic movement encouraged more dramatic displays of emotion, hairwork became more elaborate.
Whether kept as memorials to the departed or as symbols of affection, objects incorporating hair were popular until the beginning of the 20th century, when photography replaced Victorian trends.
– Sarah Duggan, The Historic New Orleans Collection