Since the official opening of the Hamilton musical to rave reviews last week, the internet has been providing us with some gems of Hamilton fan art, memes, and gifs inspired by the show. Here are some of my favorites from what I’ve seen so far! If you’ve seen (or made) others that I should add to this list, hit me up in the comments section or on Twitter @itshamiltime!
Twitter user @drpeccidesign shared some awesome images, juxtaposing lyrics from the show with images of Hamilton. These two were my favorite.
Last week, Publius-Esquire published this sketch of Thomas Jefferson (Daveed Diggs) and Alexander Hamilton (Lin-Manuel Miranda) from the show. (They both look too smiley here to be mid-rap battle!)
She also did this one of Aaron Burr (Leslie Odom Jr.) and Alexander Hamilton (Lin-Manuel Miranda) back-to-back with duel pistols. (This makes me wish that I had some artistic ability!)
On February 18, Twitter user @corellianjedi2 published this image, juxtaposing lyrics from the show against an unfocused backdrop of Hamilton’s face.
Of course, a short Hamilton montage is now available from the Public Theater with some highlights from the show!
Tickets to Hamilton on Broadway go on sale March 8th via Ticketmaster!
The week before their fateful/fatal interview in Weehawken, Hamilton and Burr both attended a 4th of July dinner meeting of the Society of the Cincinnati at Fraunces Tavern. The Society was a group of Revolutionary War officers and Hamilton was president general, succeeding George Washington after his death. During the dinner, Burr and Hamilton reportedly sat at the very same table! While Burr seemed silent and serious, Hamilton was in seemingly high spirits and accepted a request to entertain his fellow former officers with a military song.
John Trumbull (who painted some of my favorite portraits of Hamilton and was also a member of the Society) wrote in his memoirs:
“On the 4th of July, I dined with the Society of the Cincinnati, my old military comrades, and then met, among others Gen. Hamilton and Col. Burr. The singularity of their manner was observed by all, but few had any suspicion of the cause. Burr, contrary to his wont, was silent, gloomy, sour ; while Hamilton entered with glee into all the gaiety of a convivial party, and even sang an old military song. A few days only passed, when the wonder was solved by that unhappy event which deprived the United States of two of their most distinguished citizens.”
Historians have disputed what song Hamilton actually sang, with some suggesting he sang “The Drum,” and others “How Stands the Glass Around.”
“At first, Hamilton could not be induced to sign, then submitted. ‘Well, you shall have it,’ he said, doubltess to cheers from the veterans. Some have said his valedictory song was a haunting old military ballad called ‘How Stands the Glass Around,’ a song reputedly sung by General Wolfe on the eve of his battlefield death outside Quebec in 1759. Others said that it was a soldiers’ drinking song called ‘The Drum.’ Both tunes expressed a common sentiment: a soldier’s proud resignation in the face of war and death.”
In his lecture on Hamilton’s military career, James Edward Graybill published a letter from Hamilton’s grandson Schuyler Hamilton regarding the song Hamilton sang prior to the duel which stated:
“I have always been of the opinion, from what I have heard from my father and uncles, that the song sung by my grandfather at the dinner of the Cincinnati where Colonel Burr was present, was General Wolff’s famous camp song, which begins with the words ‘How stands the glass around?'”
The first two stanzas of How Stands the Glass Around are reprinted below and express the brotherhood and solidarity of soldiers facing the threat of imminent danger and possible death.Listen to a rendition of the song in the embedded video from YouTube!
How stands the glass around?
For shame you take no care, my boys,
How stands the glass around?
Let wine and mirth abound;
The trumpet sound,
The colors they do fly my boys;
To fight, kill or wound;
As you would be found,
Contented with hard fare, my boys
On the cold ground
O why, soldiers why?
O why should we be melancholy boys,
O why soldiers why?
Whose bus’ness is to die;
What? sighing? Fye!
Drink on, drown fear, be jolly boys;
‘Tis he, you or I, wet, hot, cold or dry;
We’re always bound to follow boys,
And scorn to fly.
On January 2, 1800, the body of a young woman named Gulielma Sands was found in a well in New York that had been developed by Aaron Burr’s Manhattan Company. The chief suspect in the murder was Ms. Sands’ suspected lover, Levi Weeks. Weeks was the brother of Ezra Weeks, a notable architect who had assisted with the construction of Hamilton’s Harlem home. Ezra Weeks was able to retain Alexander Hamilton, Aaron Burr, and Brockholst Livingston as Levi’s defense counsel. The Weeks trial was the first recorded murder trial in American history and people followed it with rapt attention. The grueling trial lasted 44 hours and had approximately 75 witnesses testify with only a single break in between the proceedings. Ultimately, Hamilton, Burr, and Livingston convinced the jury to acquit Mr. Weeks in less than 10 minutes. I’ve spoken in detail about the trial in my talk at Morris-Jumel mansion (the talk will be available online soon and I will post it on this blog) and the full digitized transcript from the Library of Congress is available here.
Although most of the participants of the famous trial have long since perished or disappeared, one remains: the infamous well itself.
The well and its creator were integral components of the murder mystery and subsequent trial. One early newspaper account of the discovery of Ms. Sands’ body is from the January 4, 1800 New York Spectator and states: “Yesterday afternoon, the body of a young woman…was found dead in a well recently dug by the Manhattan Company, a little east of Mr. Tyler’s….Strong suspicions are entertained of having been willfully murdered.”
The Manhattan Well was commissioned by Aaron Burr’s Manhattan Company, which had engendered controversy both for unnecessarily increasing the scope of its powers and for allegedly doing a poor job of delivering water to the citizens of New York. The charter of the Manhattan Company provided that in addition to providing water for New York City, the Company could form a bank and sell insurance subscriptions, among other things. The Manhattan Company eventually morphed into JP Morgan Chase, which is now the largest bank in the United States.
A May 1, 1799 editorial in the New York Gazette bashed Aaron Burr, John Church (Hamilton’s brother-in-law and Angelica Schuyler’s husband), John Watts, and the other founders of the Manhattan Company and stated that they were concerned with speculating and increasing their power rather than furthering the goal of clean water for New York.
“A law my fellow Citizens, more impolitic, alarming and corrupt has not been passed by any legislature since the Revolution. A law every clause of which is stamped with damning proof, that it was intended not to benefit the public; but to raise up an object of speculation to enrich those who were interested in it.”
Brian Phillips Murphy, who is now a history professor at Baruch College, published his 2009 dissertation on the Manhattan Well. The paper is entitled “‘A very convenient instrument’: The Manhattan Company, Aaron Burr, and the Eelection of 1800” and is a fascinating read if you are interested in learning more about the history of the Manhattan Company.
The Manhattan Well was referenced repeatedly during the trial of Levi Weeks. Several witnesses recounted hearing screams come from the vicinity of the well. For example, Catherine Lyon, a neighbor of Sands and Weeks testified:
“About a half an hour or less after I saw Elma, I heard from the field behind the hill at Lispernards a cry in the woman’s voice of ‘murder, murder, Oh save me!'”
Additionally Arnetta Van Norden, who lived 100 yards from the well testified:
“We live about half way from Broadway to the well. About 8 or 9 o’clock in the evening, my husband heard a noise, and he stood up and observed it was from the well. I then looked through the window, and we heard a woman cry out from towards the well, ‘Lord have mercy on me, Lord help me.”
“In 1817, a four-story building was built at 129 Spring Street, just south of the well. An 1872 Harper’s Weekly article stated that the well was located “in the rear of a carpenters shop at the end of an alley, No. 89½ Greene Street, a hundred feet or more north of Spring Street.”
During the years of 1852-1853 and 1854-1855, the Manual of the Corporation of the City of New York lists 129 Spring Street as the location of a pawnbroker named Leah Silver.
According to Angela Serratore of the Paris Review the area around the well was home to a brothel and an anti-tobacco shop:
In a small town, the well might’ve become a legendary destination, frequented by tourists and sulky, rebellious teenagers, but lower Manhattan refused to stay put, and soon the only physical reminder of Elma Sands was covered up. In the 1820s, the once-bucolic meadow became a neighborhood full of upper-middle-class row homes, including one at 129 Spring Street, which is today the legal address of the well. By midcentury, it was a destination for shopping, entertaining, and sinning.
Just half a block down from the well, at no. 111 Spring Street, there existed a brothel kept by a Mrs. Hattie Taylor, described in an 1870 guide to whorehouses as “a third class house, where may be found the lowest class of courtezans. It is patronized by roughs and rowdies, and gentlemen who turn their shirts wrong side out when the other side is dirty.” During this period, 129 Spring was a shop run by a Mr. O. Spotswood, the peddler of an antidote to tobacco addiction, leading the modern reader to ruminate upon the kind of person who, in 1862, is both hooked on smoking and desperate (one dollar for a packet of five remedies!) to quit.
On April 18, 1869, the New York Times published a paragraph about the well (containing some inaccurate statements about the trial):
“The old well, known as the Manhattan Well, down which was thrown the corpse of Gulielma Sands, murdered, as is believed, by her lover, Levi Weeks, some seventy years ago, and the locality of which had been forgotten, has been rediscovered by the occupant of the building No. 115 Spring-street. The well was found while the flower-garden of No. 115 was being dug. It is of large diameter and was covered over with large flat stones.
The supposed murderer invited the girl Sands to take a ride with him one Winter’s evening, and that was the last seen of her alive. Weeks was tried for the murder, and was defended by Aaron Burr, Alexander Hamilton and Edward P. Livingston. The evidence was insufficient to convict, but he found it convenient to leave the City as soon as the trial was concluded. The old well was known to exist, but its precise location had passed from the memory of the ‘oldest inhabitant.'”
On December 4, 1932, Bruce Rae of the New York Times noted in a book review:
“New Yorkers may be interested to know that they can still shout ‘Who killed Elma Sands’ into the very well where her body was found. It stands in an alley off Greene Street just above Spring.”
The Wall Street Journal reported in 2011 that the DaGrossa family, who owned the property at 129 Spring Street and ran it as the Manhattan Bistro, excavated their basement in 1980 and found the well “buried in a dirt-filled area off the basement.” While the Manhattan Bistro was in existence, the well was kept in the basement and was not on public display.
Several websites mention the well and discuss the murder mystery. In 2013 Curbed NY named the well one of the thirteen most haunted places in New York City (along with Morris-Jumel Mansion, St. Mark’s Church in-the-Bowery, and others).
Currently, the well is open to the public in the men’s department of the COS clothing store. I visited the store during my visit to New York last month. The well now has some stylish mannequins around it and seems to be doing quite well. Talk about living history!
On Wednesday, January 21, I had the opportunity to watch the second showing of Hamilton at the Public Theater. Alternately hilarious and tragic, the show took a rapt audience on an emotional roller coaster ride through Hamilton’s life. While the show took some artistic liberties with Hamilton’s story, I was impressed by how much history was squeezed into the production. The show clocked in at just under three hours, and I was on the edge of my seat the whole time.
The multi-talented cast had great chemistry. Every cast member truly embraced his or her role. As Hamilton’s crew of friends before and during the Revolution, Daveed Diggs (Marquis de Lafayette), Anthony Ramos (John Laurens), and Okierete Onadowan (Hercules Mulligan) captured the upstart ambitions of young revolutionaries on the precipice and in the throes of war. Brian D’Arcy James (who originated the role of Shrek on Broadway) made a hysterical King George and the audience was in stitches every time he came on stage. Phillipa Soo was incredibly moving as Eliza Hamilton, and brought me to tears with some of her numbers towards the end of the play. Leslie Odom Jr. played Aaron Burr with a captivating combination of moral ambiguity, insecurity, ruthlessness, and charisma. Lin-Manuel Miranda, who was incredibly battling a sinus infection during the performance, truly inhabited the role of Hamilton and brought his sense of ambition. Renee Elise Goldsberry brought an elegant pathos to the role of Angelica Schuyler, and her voice was amazing. In a brief, but memorable role as Maria Reynolds, Jasmine Cephas Jones (who also played Peggy Schuyler), brought to life Hamilton’s femme fatale. Christopher Jackson played George Washington as a reluctant but committed leader, and the dynamic between Jackson and Miranda was fascinating. Daveed Diggs brought a hilariously cocky energy to his role as Thomas Jefferson, and the rap battles between Miranda and Diggs (MC’d by Jackson’s George Washington) over key issues of the day were both enlightening and uproarious.
The orchestra was off-stage, but the music was breathtaking and set the pace of the alternating emotions of the show (cannot wait to buy the soundtrack). The set was elaborate, and the venue at the Public Theater was intimate. The crowd rose to its feet after the three hour production, and the emotion exuding from both the cast and audience was palpable.
Props to the entire cast and crew for creating theater magic! I am torn between wanting everyone in America to see this play immediately and wanting to preserve the magic of this cast, in this venue, in Hamilton’s city. I’m already excited to see the January 23rd Friday performance before heading back to Los Angeles.
If you get a chance to see Hamilton during its run at the Public Theater, post your impressions in the comment section below!
The Alexander Hamilton Awareness Society is putting on its annual program of Hamilton events in New York City on January 9-11, 2015. The flyer with a description of all the events is available here. The schedule of events is citywide and open to the public. All of the programs are extremely interesting and offer some new perspectives into Hamilton’s life.
I will be presenting two talks on January 9 and 10 (descriptions below). The first talk will be at the Museum of American Finance about Hamilton’s experience as a young lawyer fighting discriminatory laws directed at the Tories of New York. The second talk will be at Morris-Jumel Mansion in Harlem and discuss the high-profile criminal trial for which Hamilton and Burr teamed up to defend accused murderer Levi Weeks.
A ‘Bar Fight’ That Changed America: Alexander Hamilton, the Trespass Act, and the Case of Rutgers v. Waddington
When: Friday, Jan. 9th 2015 at 2-3:30pm
Where: Museum of American Finance, 48 Wall St, New York, NY
Pooja Nair, Esq. speaks on Hamilton’s role in opposing the Trespass Acts and upholding the rule of law in New York City and the United States. As a newly-minted lawyer after the Revolutionary War, Hamilton stepped into a firestorm of controversy by defending a Tory merchant in his firsthigh profile case. This case, Rutgers v. Waddington, took on the Trespass Act, whichhad been enacted at the end of the Revolution to strip Tories of their property. The results of the trial shapedthe development of New York City and was foundational tothe development of key principles of the American legal system.The talk is one hour, followed by a Q&A session.
The Manhattan Well Murder
When: Saturday, Jan. 10th 2015 at 3-4:30pm
Where:Morris-Jumel Mansion, 65Jumel Terrace, New York, NY
Pooja Nair, Esq. will speak about the Manhattan Well murder trial, the first fully recorded murder trial in the United States. Aaron Burr and Alexander Hamilton teamed up for this dramatic case in 1800 for the defense of Levi Weeks. Weeks was accused of the murder of a young woman whose body was found in the bottom of a well built by Aaron Burr’s Manhattan Company. Come learn about this mysterious murder and the intense trial Burr and Hamilton worked together on four years before they met on the dueling grounds.
The Bowery Boys have a popular podcast series on New York history and recently released their 168th podcast on the duel between Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr, entitled “Aaron Burr vs. Alexander Hamilton: The duel at Weehawken and the terrible consequences of an ugly insult.”
Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr met at a clearing in Weehawken, NJ, in the early morning on July 11, 1804, to mount the most famous duel in American history. But why?
This is the story of two New York lawyers — and two Founding Fathers — that so detested each other that their vitriolic words (well, mostly Hamilton’s) led to these two grown men shooting each other out of honor and dignity, while robbing America of their brilliance, leadership and talent.
You may know the story of this duel from history class, but this podcast focuses on its proximity to New York City, to their homes Richmond Hill and Hamilton Grange and to the places they conducted their legal practices and political machinations.
Which side are you on?
ALSO: Find out the fates of sites that are associated with the duel, including the place Hamilton died and the rather disrespectful journey of the dueling grounds in Weehawken.
An interesting short film has been making its way across the film circuits. Aaron Burr, Part 2, is a 9 minute comedic film that purports to retell the story of Hamilton and Burr’s duel from Burr’s perspective. Much like Gore Vidal’s Burr, the film is filled with inaccuracies, but I think it raises some interesting dialogue points. I’d be curious to know what It’s Hamiltime readers think.
Complete with iPhones, battle reenactments, and a very snarky first person narration, this short film is a hilarious take on the event that tarnished Burr’s legacy. Aaron Bur, Part 2 comes from director Dana O’Keefe. The film has been showcased in film festivals across the country, including SXSW and the Dallas Film Festival where it received the Jury Prize for best short film.
Why Watch?Dana O’Keefe and company take up the task of humanizing Aaron Burr, an incredible figure whose memory has been reduced to one label: the man who killed Alexander Hamilton. In this unconventional take on history, Burr is a man out of time, sliding between his pre-Revolutionary days fighting in Canada and a modern day New York City where hip hop hugeness paints his larger-than life with every slow motion step.
It’s tough to say why this works. Maybe it’s because Burr appears here as a ghost kept alive by the people that remember him, foolishly trying to set the record straight while lamenting what time has done to the world he knew. Maybe it’s the hipper-than-thou attitude it carries. Maybe it’s because it’s the kind of comedy that keeps a straight face. Or maybe it’s just because it’s really damned cool.
The effect is brilliant. Reimagined as a brooding anti-hero, Burr (Alex Kliment) enchants. It’s a crazy comparison, but with the culture obsessed as it is, Burr reminds me of a vampire, a historical Lestat. Beautiful, dangerous, he haunts the modern lanscape, filled with regret, damned by an unforgivable act committed ages ago.
Mirroring the theme, if History is a contested narrative, the narrative of the film is a contest between its various styles. Amazingly the film has been programmed as both a fiction and documentary film, playing reputable venues like SXSW, HotDocs, and being nominated for the Cinema Eye Honors, as one of the best documentary shorts of the year. With its archival images and historical re-enactments, it shares elements of films in the Ken Burns mode, however its playful style is much more in line with modern American fiction directors like Wes Anderson in its dramatic use of music, slo-mo, and on-screen text.
Today, July 12, 2013 marks the 209th anniversary of Alexander Hamilton’s death at age 47. Hamilton died at a significantly younger age than his fellow political luminaries: Jefferson survived until age 83, Madison lived to 85, Adams to 90, and Burr to 80. However, in his 47 years, he fundamentally shaped America’s political and financial foundations. Hamilton rose from obscurity in Nevis and, without a formal education or financial backing, became an influential revolutionary thinker, a military hero, Washington’s most influential aide, the driving force of the Federalist Papers and the push for the Constitution, the architect of America’s financial future as the first Secretary of Treasury, and so much more.
The inscription at Hamilton’s grave site says it well:
The patriot of incorruptible integrity.
The soldier of approved valour.
The statesman of consummate wisdom.
Whose talents and virtues will be admired by grateful posterity long after this marble shall have mouldered into dust.
I also love this excerpt from the Eulogy on General Alexander Hamilton by the citizens of Boston written by Harrison G. Otis:
But in the man whose loss we deplore, the interval between manhood and death was so uniformly filled by a display of the energies of his mighty mind, that this world has scarcely paused to enquire into the story of his infant or puerile years. He was a planet, the dawn of which was not perceived; which rose with full splendor, and emitted a constant stream of glorious light, until the hour of its sudden and portentous eclipse.
If you’re in New York, come join the series of exciting events throughout NYC today to commemorate Hamilton’s passing. If you’re not in the city, check out the live stream of Thomas Fleming’s author talk at Trinity Church here.
Today, July 11, marks the 209th anniversary of the fatal duel between Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr. I think a lot of popular knowledge of Hamilton is shaped by the duel, which is unfortunate considering the far-reaching scope of his legacy, but understandable given the drama surrounding the duel. The duel between prominent politicians captivated the popular imagination and stirred up popular hatred of Burr. Two careers were ruined in the course of the duel- Hamilton’s by an untimely death, and Burr’s by a descent into humiliation and treason.
Here’s the initial firsthand account by the two seconds to the duel, Nathaniel Pendleton and William Van Ness:
Col Burr arrived first on the ground as had been previously agreed. When Genl Hamilton arrived the parties exchanged salutations and the Seconds proceeded to make their arrangements. They measured the distance, ten full paces, and cast lots for the choice of position as also to determine whom the word should be given, both of which fell to the Second of Genl Hamilton. They then proceeded to load the pistols in each others presence, after which the parties took their stations. The Gentleman who was to give the word, then explained to the parties the rules which were to govern them in firing which were as follows:
The parties being placed at their stations – The Second who gives the word shall ask them whether they are ready – being answered in the affirmative, he shall say “present” after which the parties shall present & fire when they please. If one fires before the opposite shall say one, two, three, fire, and he shall fire or loose his fire.
And asked if they were prepared, being answered in the affirmative, he gave the word present as had been agreed on. And both of the parties took aim & fired in succession. The intervening time is not expressed as the seconds do not precisely agree on that point. The pistols were discharged within a few seconds of each other and the fire of Col Burr took effect; Genl Hamilton almost instantly fell, Col Burr then advanced toward Genl H—n with a manner and gesture that appeared to Genl Hamilton’s friend to be expressive of regret, but without Speaking turned about & withdrew….
Aaron Burr…not having the fear of God before his eyes, but being moved and seduced by the Instigation of the devil, on the eleventh day of July in the year last aforesaid, which force and Arms…feloniously wilfully and of his Malice aforethought, did make an Assault, and…Mortal[ly] Wound…the said Alexander Hamilton.
For further reading, check out this article on Dueling as Politics by Joanne B. Freeman in the New York Journal of American History.
Reminder- if you’re in or near New York City, come out to the AHA Society’s series of events in NYC and Northern New Jersey starting today and going through Sunday! Tonight is a debate between Jefferson and Hamilton at the Museum of American Finance. Register here. Hope to see you all there!
I wrote earlier about Philip Hamilton’s untimely death at age 19 in a duel at the Weehawken Dueling Grounds. I came across this letter from Hamilton to his friend Richard Kidder Meade, dated August 27, 1782, describing his seven month old son.
“You reproach me with not having said enough about our little stranger. When I wrote last I was not sufficiently acquainted with him to give you his character…He is truly a very fine young gentleman, the most agreeable in his conversation and manners of any I ever knew–nor less remarkable for his intelligence and sweetness of temper. You are not to imagine by my beginning with his mental qualifications that he is defective in personal. It is agreed on all hands, that he is handsome, his features are good, his eye is not only sprightly and expressive but it is fully of benignity. His attitude in sitting is by connoisseurs esteemed graceful and he has a method of waving his hands that announces the future orator. He stands however rather awkwardly and his legs have not all the delicate slimness of his fathers. It is feared He may never excel as much in dancing which is probably the only accomplishment in which he will not be a model. If he has any fault in manners, he laughs too much. He has now passed his Seventh Month.”
And here’s an illustration of Hamilton and his son from Tumblr