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A story about the discovery of a rare lock of hair belonging to George Washington hidden inside a long-forgotten book in Schaffer Library was the most viewed article on the College’s news site in 2018.

The February story generated nearly twice as many page views as a March article about the Class of 2022 being finalized, which was the second most clicked-on article.

The hair piece resonated from Boston to Bombay, with more than 2,500 print and broadcast media outlets reporting on the find, including the Washington Post, USA Today, CNN, Fox News, Good Morning America and NPR. The New York Times ran a story on its front page on Presidents Day with the headline: “Finding a Lock of George Washington’s Hair, and a Link to American History.”

Washington hair

A rare lock of hair belonging to George Washington was found hidden inside a long-forgotten book in Schaffer Library.

The total news reach (potential viewership of online news articles) of media outlets that mentioned the discovery approached a billion.

The news went viral on social media, with nearly 3,000 social posts and more than 40,000 shares, with a potential reach of 251 million, The Smithsonian and other prominent institutions celebrated the school’s discovery with clever tweets and posts. At one point, the news was trending on Facebook, the first time the College achieved that milestone.

A June announcement about new members joining the College’s Board of Trustees was the third most clicked-on article. The discovery of a bracelet buried on campus for nearly 70 years and what became of the students whose names were inscribed on the jewelry was the fourth most popular article. A June story announcing the latest class of Minerva Fellows rounded out the top five most read stories.

On social media, the most popular post on Facebook was a CBS Saturday News story about the lock of Washington's hair.

On Twitter, the announcement of David R. Harris as the 19th president of Union College was the most buzzed about, while a photo of Harris as Union's next president was the most liked photo on the College's main Instagram account. 

Union’s award-winning news site garnered nearly 174,000 unique views during the year, making it one of the College’s most popular websites.

Stories that originated on the site are frequently featured in national, international and local media outlets.

In the past year, Union has been mentioned in the most sought-after media outlets in the country, including the Chronicle of Higher Education, New York Times, Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, Sports Illustrated, U.S News and World Report and the Associated Press.

Content on the site has been honored by the Council for the Advancement of Secondary Education (CASE).

The 10 most-viewed stories of 2018:

1. Washington's hair kept here

2.College finalizing Class of 2022 

3. Union welcomes new Board of Trustees members

4. Buried treasure: Special bracelet lost for 70 years on campus finds its way home

5. Meet the 2018 Minerva Fellows

6. David Harris takes the reins as Union's 19th president

7. Union to welcome Class of 2022

8. Prize Day winners 2018

9. Last chapter: Nearly 500 receive degrees at Union's 224th Commencement

10. David R. Harris named 19th president of Union College