Locket containing George Washington's hair
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Dr. John Collins Warren (1778-1856) gave this locket containing strands of George Washington's hair, to Simon Greenleaf (1783-1853) in commemoration of the president's death.
In the winter of 1799, after Washington had inspected his plantation on horseback during foul weather, he fell ill. His doctors bled him, a common medical practice at the time, but to no avail: he died on December 14 at Mount Vernon in Virginia. He was 67 years old.
Washington's death 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:
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. Pious, just, humane, temperate and sincere-uniform, dignified and commanding-his example was as edifying to all around him as were the effects of that example lasting...Correct throughout, vice shuddered in his presence and virtue always felt his fostering hand. The purity of his private character gave effulgence to his public virtues...Such was the man for whom our nation mourns.
The above description is from In Death Lamented: The Tradition of Anglo-American Mourning Jewelry. By Sarah Nehama. Prefaces by Sarah Nehama and Anne E. Bentley. University of Virginia Press. 2012.