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March 17, 2005

CW reproduces 18th-century wig for New York's East Hampton Historical Society

Colonial Williamsburg
Colonial Williamsburg wigmakers created a replica of the Buell wig for New York’s East Hampton Historical Society. The curly white horsehair wig is the only 18th-century wig known to exist in the United States.

Colonial Williamsburg’s wigmakers Elizabeth Myers, Regina Blizzard and Terry Lyons formally presented New York’s East Hampton Historical Society with a replica of a rare 18th-century wig. Sue Craun, a native of York, Penn., who hand-knotted the netting for the base of the wig, also was present. The original curly white horsehair wig is the only 18th century wig known to exist in the United States and once belonged to Rev. Samuel Buell, a Presbyterian minister who was East Hampton’s only clergyman from 1746 to 1798.

"We had been searching for an authentic 18th-century wig in the United States for years,” said master wigmaker Myers. “Then, in 1999, the director of the Historical Society called to say she had the ‘Hope Diamond’ of wigs. We were so excited at the possibility that at long last we might have found an 18th-century wig.”

The wig replica, which took nearly five years and more than 500 hours to reproduce, involved not only Colonial Williamsburg’s researchers and trades people, but also work with an international team that included Context Weavers of Lancashire, England, and Anping Bristles and Tails Group Genera of Hebi, China. The replica was presented to the Historical Society March 1 in New York.
"The process was so lengthy because we had to do an in-depth analysis of the wig that included dating the horsehair, silk and linen, and comparing its construction with wigs used in England during the same period. We also had to count every fiber and thread down to the millimeter,” said Myers. “Then we went to England for period fabrics, to China to match the horsehair and to other sources to obtain all of the needed materials. And finally we were ready to construct two wigs.”

The second replica is displayed at the Colonial Williamsburg Wigmaker Shop while the original Buell wig is on extended loan to Colonial Williamsburg and is being preserved in a climate-controlled vault.

“As an 18th-century living history museum, it is so exciting that we finally have an 18th-century wig replica to display and help educate our guests about wig making on the eve of the American Revolution,” said Myers. “Although it was a lengthy and very involved process, it was definitely well worth it for our guest experience.”

Media Contact:
Lorraine C. Brooks
(757) 220-7280