Sloane Parker ’22, Winter 2021
Hairwork memorializes connections through an organic medium, acting as both a historical object to represent past sentimental attachments and as a piece of art designed to immortalize a given relationship. Nineteenth-century ladies’ magazines were filled with accessible patterns and directions for women to engage in hairwork crafts, popularizing it among those with leisure time. Importantly, the use of hair in these time-consuming crafts highlighted the cultural significance of sentimentality and the ways in which notions of love and mourning were expressed. Indeed, analyzing Victorian hair art complicates the concept of art versus artifact, as we can only imagine outside of hair’s historical cultural significance how important the act of clipping a lock of a loved one’s hair and carefully winding it into intricate designs must have been for the creator. In this way, the family album of Ursula S. Kenyon Hatch vividly illustrates a kinship network through the medium of Ursula’s loved ones’ hair, which she artfully glued onto pages and decorated with thick paper designs. Like a modern-day family photo album, Ursula’s hair album celebrates close loved ones in her life and materially demonstrates her familial relationships. It is no wonder that at a time when photography was only recently invented, highly cumbersome, and inaccessible, that hair would be used as a way to commemorate loved ones in an album or in small trinkets. As a woman who likely had little leisure time on account of her rural location and large family, the album must have had held deep sentimental value to Ursula Hatch. While I could uncover few specifics about her life, this album presented a special insight into the life of a woman from over 150 years ago.
FAMILY HISTORY OF URSULA S. KENYON HATCH
Born in 1816, Ursula S. Kenyon grew up on her family’s farm in Hinesburg, VT, surrounded by her seven other siblings. In the year 1840, when she was 24 years old, Ursula left the farm in Hinesburg to marry the recently widowed 40-year-old Isaac Hatch who lived in Ferrisburgh. Life must have been difficult for Ursula as not only did she move away from her childhood home, but she also took on a new role as mother to Isaac’s five children from his previous marriage with Maria Mills. This departure likely influenced Ursula to begin collecting the hair of those she loved, as she adjusted into her new life in Ferrisburgh. Her pregnancy with her first child may also have catalyzed the production of the family album as a way of celebrating and memorializing her family.
I have created an image of Ursula S. Kenyon Hatch’s extended family tree for ease of reference (Figure 1). Beneath the later images of the family album, I have transcribed the names in the album and included their relation to Ursula.
URSULA’S FAMILY HAIR ALBUM
Ursula’s album spans a total of eleven pages with the name and age of each individual inscribed under their hair, adorned by a paper craft, affixed to the page with wax. The cover page is inscribed “Ursula S Hatch/Pherisburgh. Vt./1842” in dark pen, with decorative lettering (Figure 2). Pasted onto the lower half of the paper is an image of a well-dressed woman in a blue gown with ornately done hair. Ursula likely cut this image from a ladies’ magazine to decorate her album. Each subsequent page features several locks of hair looped and entwined into an almost flower-like shape partially obscured by a small paper craft attached to the page with wax. The hair of males is often less elaborately curled, potentially due to the shorter length of their hair. Most of the included individuals have some familial relation to Ursula through either blood or marriage; however, some are of unclear relation. Ursula used many different colors of hearts and alternated layering the hearts on top of each other, in many cases using color and style to denote married couples or families.
Interestingly, she did not use a heart craft to decorate the locks of hair for only two individuals: her eldest brother Heman and her husband (Figure 3 and 10). The hand that Ursula used to decorate her brother Heman’s hair may have symbolized her deep connection to him, as the use of hands in Victorian symbolism indicated a loved male figure. She also attached holly on top of the hand, which symbolized wisdom. Heman, nearly ten years older than Ursula, stayed close with the family and even moved to a nearby farm when he married his wife Eliza. I believe that through her work, Ursula expresses how Heman was a source of strength in her life, offering her meaningful advice and direction. Ursula also used a hand-shaped craft to affix her husband Isaac’s hair to the album, as she did with Heman. The hand symbolized a deep and meaningful connection and the blue heart within the palm of the hand could mean Isaac metaphorically “held” Ursula’s love. Ursula’s own craft to adorn her lock of hair is comprised of entwined black and white hearts with delicate fringed edges. She repeats a pink heart motif for the children of her husband’s deceased former wife, Maria Mills (Figure 10). For the boys, she uses blue and pink, and for the girls she uses pink and white, lining all of the harts with gold edges along the top. The gold paper could not have been easily attainable for a rural farmer’s wife, so the use of the material symbolized her love and high esteem for her stepchildren, and the delicacy of the hearts only emphasizes the care Ursula must have taken when crafting.
On the next page, Ursula included Nancy Hatch, another daughter of Isaac and Maria (Figure 11). The change in the color of the lettering and stylistic differences in the heart shapes of the next two children, however, clearly indicate that time had passed before Ursula added more to her album. She took over ten years to update the pages with additional hair. She presumably saved the baby hair of her sons Isaac and Giles, who were aged 13 and 8 respectively in 1856. Their hearts lack the elaborate entwined pattern of the previous children’s hearts but are also banded with gold. She also added the family of her husband’s brother who would later move to Ontario, Canada, perhaps as a way to commemorate their time together (Figure 12).
Ursula never updated the album again, not even to include the hair of her two daughters. Indeed, Ursula used hair from when her sons were much younger and never added the hair of her other children, indicating that life must have been extremely busy for Ursula post-1842. Whatever the reason, the album remained neglected after the small update in 1856, and as such, she never expanded the album to include all of her close family.
Eventually, Ursula passed away in 1894 by which time all of her children were married adults. The album is a fascinating peek into the experience of a woman whose life otherwise remains a mystery. I could not find many mentions of Ursula or her husband Isaac in nineteenth-century Vermont newspapers, leaving Ursula’s album the best record of their lives. Ursula likely created the album for her own use since she did not finish it and labeled the cover page with her own name. Thus, despite Ursula’s busy life, the care and level of detail she took in creating a beautiful album for her own purposes, with delicately looped hair and intricate symbols of affection, demonstrate her strong love and devotion toward her family. While we may not know much about Ursula Hatch’s life, the careful artistry in her personal hair album allows us to glimpse into her life and immortalizes the deep connections with her loved ones.
Cite this essay: Sloane Parker, “A Kinship Network Through Hair: The Family Album of Ursula S. Kenyon Hatch,” in Perspectives on Hairwork: Historic Vermont, ed. Ellery Foutch (Winter 2021): https://elleryfoutch.middcreate.net/hairwork/ursula-s-kenyon-hatch-family-hair-album/ [date accessed]
Ursula S. K. Hatch, “Ursula Hatch Friendship Album.” Henry Sheldon Museum of Vermont History, 2011.001.011. Gift of Karen L.H. Allen.
Readings on Victorian fancywork:
Lutz, Deborah. “The dead still among us: Victorian secular relics, hair jewelry, and death culture.” Victorian Literature and Culture 39, no. 1 (2011): 127-142. doi: https://doi.org/10.1017/S1060150310000306.
Zebuhr, Laura. “The Work of Friendship in Nineteenth-Century American Friendship Album Verses.” American Literature 87, no. 3 (2015): 433–454. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/00029831-3149321.
Readings on Victorian symbols:
Ockenga, Starr. On Women & Friendship: A collection of Victorian keepsakes and traditions. New York: Stewart, Tabori & Chang, 1993.
“Dictionary of symbols & meanings of antique, vintage, & Victorian jewelry.” Nicabrac Jewelry, accessed February 2, 2021: https://feelthejewelsnews.wordpress.com/2013/05/11/dictionary-of-symbols-meanings-of-antique-vintage-victorian-jewellery/.
Lome, Erica. “Victorian By Design: Parlor Crafts and the Age of Refinement.” Journal of Antiques and Collectibles December 22, 2016: https://journalofantiques.com/features/victorian-by-design/
Peggy McClard Antiques. “Tokens of Love & Friendship.” Accessed February 2, 2021: https://www.peggymcclard.com/justforfun/details.asp?action=view&cid=&iid=6#1_
Resources on the Kenyon family:
“Alzina Rebecca Curtis Kenyon.” Find A Grave. Accessed February 7, 2021: https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/17247911/alzina-rebecca-kenyon.
Hayden, Chauncey H. The history of Jericho, Vermont. Burlington: The Free Press Printing Co., 1916. https://archive.org/details/cu31924028838039/page/n89/mode/2up?q=stimson.
“Heman A Kenyon 1807-1900.” Family Search. Accessed February 8, 2021: https://ancestors.familysearch.org/en/LZGV-TLB/heman-a-kenyon-1807-1900.
“Obituary for Giles Kenyon (Aged 94).” The Cincinnati Daily Star October 6, 1879: https://img3.newspapers.com/clip/43433590/obituary-for-giles-kenyon-aged-94/.
“Mary Palmer 1786-1879. Family Search. Accessed February 8, 2021: https://ancestors.familysearch.org/en/LCFV-637/mary-palmer-1786-1879.
“Norman O Kenyon.” Find A Grave. Accessed February 7, 2021: https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/17247871/norman-orlo-kenyon.
Resources on the Hatch family:
“Giles T. Hatch.” Find A Grave. Accessed February 2, 2021: https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/32179812/giles-t.-hatch.
“Isaac Hatch 1801-1878.” Family Search. Accessed February 8, 2021: https://ancestors.familysearch.org/en/LWB9-7GD/isaac-hatch-1801-1878.
“Isaac Hatch in the United States Census, 1850.” FamilySearch. Accessed February 9, 2021: https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:S3HT-DZ8Q-66S?i=47&cc=1401638&personaUrl=%2Fark%3A%2F61903%2F1%3A1%3AMC2W-THR.
Smith, H. P. History of Addison county Vermont, with illustrations and biological sketches of some of its prominent men and pioneers. Syracuse, N.Y.: D. Mason & co., 1886. https://babel.hathitrust.org/cgi/pt?id=yale.39002015091557&view=1up&seq=887&q1=hatch.
“Timothy Hatch.” RootsWeb. Accessed February 8, 2021: https://wc.rootsweb.com/trees/120099/I00093/timothy-hatch/individual.
“Ursula S. Hatch.” Find A Grave. Accessed February 2, 2021: https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/32177990/ursula-s.-hatch.