Sunday, December 6, 2015

Hamilton Sights and Sounds from New York

It's time for a bit more about the recent trip to New York City.

A major highlight was seeing the Broadway musical Hamilton. If you don't already know, it's a hip-hop retelling of the life of Alexander Hamilton, written by Lin-Manuel Miranda (creator of In the Heights, which won Tony awards in 2008).

Miranda wrote Hamilton's book, lyrics, and music, and also performs as Hamilton. He's an amazing guy and the show is spectacular; listening to the cast album is a somewhat close second, though, so I recommend that too.

This is the set... the only photo I have from inside the theater, since, of course, you are not allowed to take photos during the performance.

Anyway... I had listened to the album about five times before seeing the show,  and so was pretty familiar with the music and the story as Miranda has framed it. One of the things I learned from the show was that Hamilton was married to a woman named Elizabeth (Eliza), who had a sister named Angelica. They were the daughters of a prominent and wealthy Dutch-descended couple from the Albany area (father: Philip Schuyler and mother: Catherine van Rensselaer). Both sisters play major roles in the show, so that makes a nice contrast with the usual Founding Fathers narrative.

As part of the Hamilton theme of the week, I visited several Alexander Hamilton-related sites in Manhattan. There are quite a number of others that I didn't know about. Maybe some other trip.

This is the marker on Hamilton's grave in Trinity churchyard, visible through a fence along the side street.

If you go into the church yard, you see this inscription on the other side of the base.

Eliza is buried there as well, with her own stone lying at the foot of the larger marker. She lived 50 years after Alexander's death (which features prominently in the final song of the show). Angelica is buried elsewhere in the church yard; her marker, like many other of the marble stones, has worn away to the point of being unreadable. (But she has a town named for her in western New York. It was designed by her son, based on the layout of Paris.)

Other than the church yard, the Hamiltonia I saw was all gathered together at the New York State Historical Society museum.

First are two original documents that carry Hamilton's signature. These are both from payroll documents he managed as George Washington's aide-de-camp.

And a fine calligrapher he was, too.

The portrait at left is Aaron Burr; the one at right is his daughter, Theodosia (subject of another song in the show). The bust in the middle is Alexander Hamilton, done several decades after his death.

These are the pistols used in the duel with Burr; they both belonged to Hamilton, and had been used earlier in a duel that killed Hamilton's young-adult son Philip.

This marble marker was once on the site of the duel in Weehawken, New Jersey. Duels generally took place across the river from Manhattan because dueling was a capital crime in New York, but not in New Jersey.

The blue platter is a rendering of the dueling site in Weehawken; the white head is a death mask of Aaron Burr from 1836.

This letter from Angelica Schuyler Church, writing to her brother Philip Schuyler, describes Hamilton's condition after the duel. Her handwriting is dreadful, revealing her distress, but this is what it says:

at Mr. Bayards Grenwich
Wednesday Morn

My dear Brother

I have the painful task to inform you that General Hamilton was this morning wounded by that wretch Burr but we have every reason to hope that he will recover. May I advice that you repair immediately to my father, as perhaps he may wish to come down – My dear Sister bears with saintlike fortitude this affliction.

The Town is in consternation, and there exists only the expression of Grief & Indignation.

Adieu my dear Brother remember me to Sally, ever yours

A Church
Despite her attempt at a hopeful tone here, Hamilton died the day after the duel.

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