Preserving Hair History with Passion

A museum in Independence, Missouri dedicated solely to the celebration and preservation of hair art? Believe it.

In 1956, hairdresser Leila Cohoon walked into an antique dealer in Kansas City, Missouri. What did she see? No, it wasn’t a velvet Elvis or a carefully preserved collection of stamps. It was a small, 6×6 gold frame with a blue background that held a small wreath made of human hair. She knew right then and there she simply had to have it. And it was at that very moment Leila’s life as a hair aficionado would change forever.

Currently, Leila’s Hair Museum is the only hair museum in the world. It has over 600 hair wreaths and well over 2,000 pieces of jewelry containing human hair. And what makes this place extremely unique and special is most of the pieces on display have a story to be told. For instance, the oldest brooch in the museum was made in 1680. It came to the States in the 1800s and the gentleman whose family it belonged to sold it to Leila so that his family’s history could continue on and so that future generations could admire it. Also on display are postcards, bookmarks, buttons and other unique items that you’re going to have to see for yourself!

You may be wondering, “How does Leila obtain all these pieces?” Well, it’s been quite an expensive endeavor to say the least. Her husband, Don Cohoon, jokes that the first piece she purchased, that 6×6 gold frame back in 1956 “is the most expensive piece, because look at what it started.” I’ve never met Don, but I can imagine him sitting there, saying this, smirking and quickly sipping his beverage as if his comedy routine was over for the night.

When Leila is not visiting antique dealers or attending estate/garage sales, people donate items to keep her efforts going. Leila and the museum both have a huge following and have received an incredible amount of support, press and coverage. The passion for hair history is real!

If you’re planning on paying Leila’s Hair Museum a visit, make sure you check out these top attractions:

  • The Friendship Wreath (this features hair from 86 people)
  • Hair from Abraham Lincoln, Michael Jackson and Elvis
  • The hair wreath from the League of Women Voters, dated 1865

For more information about Leila’s Hair Museum visit their website.

Photos courtesy of Leila’s Hair Museum and The Missouri Division of Tourism.