In the Long Winter, Laura makes a cardboard hair receiver for her mother when she was trying to make gifts for her family using only materials and supplies that the family already owned. However, Laura never fully explains exactly what a hair receiver is, leaving many readers believing it is something to do with a hair accessory rather than a vanity table accessory.
A hair receiver is a small container, typically made of porcelain or glass – although Laura made hers out of cardboard – that was used in the 19th century to collect loose hair that was combed or brushed from a person’s head. The collected hair would then be used to make items such as wigs, dolls’ hair, or even fishing lures.
Hair receivers were often decorated with intricate designs or patterns, and were considered a decorative item as well as a functional one. They were a common feature in Victorian-era homes and were often used in the bedrooms of women as a way to keep the hair from getting all over the place.
Hair receivers fell out of fashion many decades ago, leaving many to not know exactly what Laura was talking about, as hair receivers were still somewhat in use at the time the Little House books were originally published.