Never Be Satisfied: Reminiscences of Mrs. Alexander Hamilton

In 1896, the Atlantic published an article entitled “Reminiscences of Mrs. Alexander Hamilton” as part of its Contributors’ Club series.  The author recalled a childhood summer spent with Mrs. Hamilton when the author was 13 years old.  The whole piece is worth reading, and was quoted by Ron Chernow in his biography of Hamilton. I’ve included a few excerpts below that I found particularly moving.

In the first excerpt, the author describes the tour that Mrs. Hamilton gave visitors to her Washington, D.C. home.

“I remember nothing more distinctly than a sofa and chairs with spindle legs, upholstered in black broadcloth, embroidered in flowery wreaths by Mrs. Hamilton herself, and a marble bust of Hamilton standing on its pedestal in a draped corner.  That bust I can never forget, for the old lady always paused before it in her tour of the rooms, and leaning on her cane, gazed and gazed, as if she could never be satisfied.”

The bust referenced was designed by Giuseppe Ceracchi, and was one of Mrs. Hamilton’s favorite images of her husband.

Figure 15.jpg
Picture from http://www.treasury.gov/about/history/collections/Pages/Treasury%27s-Hamilton-Bust.aspx

In another excerpt, the author describes Mrs. Hamilton’s longing to see her husband at the end of her life:

“…she leaned back in her chair a long time with closed eyes, as if lost to all around her.  I never heard her complain, and I loved her with a reverent love that made me feel awed as the long silence was broken by the murmured words, ‘I am so tired– it is so long.  I want to see Hamilton.'”

http://www.alexanderhamiltonexhibition.org/about/objects/images/g136.jpg

“When Mrs. Hamilton died, at the age of ninety-seven, although an internment in Trinity Church had been for years a forbidden thing, her last request was granted.  Quietly, at night, the frail little form was laid to rest there by the side of her beloved and illustrious husband.”

Image from http://joshblackman.com/blog/2012/11/27/constitutional-graves-trinity-church-cemetery-burial-site-of-alexander-hamilton-and-other-revolutionary-leaders/

“Silent Night:” the Hamilton Connection

On December 2, 2014 Time Magazine published its analysis of the most popular Christmas song ever, and determined that “Silent Night” was “the most popular Christmas song ever.”  The Time article states:

The names Joseph Mohr and Franz Xaver Gruber have largely vanished into the annals of Christmas tormentors, but their greatest triumph lives on. “Silent Night,” which Mohr wrote the lyrics for (in German) in 1816 and Gruber put to music two years later, is the most recorded Christmas song in the modern era of the holiday’s substantial oeuvre.

To determine this fact, TIME crawled the records at the U.S. Copyright Office, which offers digitized registrations going back to 1978, and collected data on every Christmas album recorded since that time. “Silent Night,” it turns out, is not merely the most popular carol; with 733 copyrighted recordings since 1978, it is nearly twice as dominant as “Joy to the World,” a distant second with 391 records to its name.

The origins of “Silent Night” in the United States actually have a Hamiltonian twist.  According to the Silent Night Society:

During a tour of America in 1839, the Rainer Family Singers sang “Silent Night!” during a Christmas day concert held in front of the Alexander Hamilton Memorial by the Trinity Church at the end of Wall Street in New York City. This is the first recorded performance of “Silent Night!” in the United States.

Gage Averill offers more detail in his book Four Parts, No Waiting: A Social History of American Barbershop Quartet.

“At a concert at the Alexander Hamilton Monument near Trinity Church in Manhattan, the Rainers premiered “Silent Night [Stille Nacht] for American audiences.  The Rainers and another singing family, the Strassers, were chiefly responsible for spreading this song…throughout Europe.”

A May 1, 1841 advertisement in the Newport Mercury newspaper announces that the Rainer Family was giving a Farewell Concert at the Masonic Hall in Newport, Rhode Island.

Rainer Family

I have not seen any information on why the Rainer Singers chose Trinity Church/the Hamilton Monument as a concert venue, and would be interested in learning more if anyone is familiar with these details!

Save the Date: Happy Birthday Hamilton 2015 Events!

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 talk is one hour, followed by a Q&A session.

Aaron Burr's strategim at the Weeks [i.e. Levi Weeks] trial

Hamilton Graveside Remembrance at Trinity Church (July 14, 2014)

On July 14, 2014, the AHA Society and Trinity Church, hosted a graveside remembrance in honor of the 210th anniversary of Hamilton’s death.  The event flyer states:

July 14th, 210 years ago, was the day of Alexander Hamilton’s funeral, in which a funeral procession led from his brother-in-law John B. Church’s home to Trinity Church, where he was buried. His funeral was one of the most attended funerals in New York City history.

Come join together in remembering Alexander Hamilton on the anniversary of his funeral in the Trinity Churchyard. This special program will include participation by the US Coast Guard, Sector New York, which was founded by Alexander Hamilton, and remarks by Peter Dodge, the President of the New York State Society of the Cincinnati. Mr. Dodge will speak on the history of the Society of the Cincinnati (of which Alexander Hamilton was a member and second President-General), plus the role the Society played in coordinating and leading the 1804 funeral procession for Alexander Hamilton.

The below video, created by Arthur Piccolo, a long-time Hamilton supporter and Chairman of the Bowling Green Association, is a great documentation of the events.

The Trinity Church webcast, containing the full talk by Dr. Joanne Freeman on Alexander Hamilton: Man of Honor is available here.  Dr. Freeman’s talk focused on the importance that Hamilton placed on honor throughout his life, from his childhood in the West Indies, to his conduct during the Revolution, and to the decisions that led to the duel with Aaron Burr.  Freeman has a very interesting perspective on Hamilton and is an engaging speaker, so I encourage you to listen to the whole lecture if you have an hour to spare.

January 11th- Happy Birthday Hamilton!

Today, January 11th, marks Alexander Hamilton’s 256th (0r 258th) birthday!

I find it amazing to think about where Hamilton came from and what he accomplished.   Hamilton was born in Nevis, 1,3000 miles from New York and worlds away.  He was born out of wedlock at a time where illegitimacy was considered a moral failing, and was shunned by other children because of his status.   Hamilton’s father James became bankrupt and abandoned the family.  Hamilton’s mother died of yellow fever in 1768, and the Hamilton brothers were taken in by a cousin, Peter Lytton, who committed suicide 17 months later.   Hamilton had all the odds stacked against him, but with a combination of brilliance and luck, he not only made his way to America, he helped make America.

 

 

Hamilton’s own words in Federalist No. 36 seem fitting:

“There are strong minds in every walk of life that will rise superior to the disadvantages of situation, and will command the tribute due to their merit, not only from the classes to which they particularly belong, but from the society in general. The door ought to be equally open to all…”

 

If you happen to be in either Nevis or New York, check out the birthday events that the AHA Society has organized.  The events include a blessing at Trinity Church, a simultaneous cake cutting in New York and Nevis, and events at Hamilton Grange and the Museum of American Finance.  Looks like a great program.

Hamil-Swag: The Bizarre

An introduction to some of the more unusual Hamilton products available:

1) Hamilton plush doll/stuffed animal: I bought mine at the Trinity Church gift shop, but it is also available online.  My roommate in law school found this doll incredibly creepy, and as much as I love all things Hamilton, there is something a little unnerving about this particular piece.  I’d suggest sticking to the Bobblehead if you want a more accurate Hamilton.

 

    

2) Commemorative strands of Hamilton’s hair: History for Sale  has ten strands of Hamilton’s hair available from the “largest collector of famous hair,” as listed in the Guinness Book of World Records.  For just under $8,000, you can own ten strands of Hamilton’s hair, collected from various points of his life.  If you’re just looking for one or two strands, Ebay has deals ranging from $99-$495.  While I do love collectible Hamilton items, I’ve never found the appeal of collecting hair strands from two centuries ago. 

3) Alexander Hamilton Revolutionary Action Figure– The Alexander Hamilton American light infantry command action figure commemorates Hamilton’s position as Lieutenant Colonel of the Light Infantry Division that fought at Yorktown in 1781.  Hamilton’s heroic conduct in Yorktown brought him to Washington’s attention and Hamilton had extremely close relationships with Marquis de Lafayette and John Laurens, fellow commanders in the division.  The figure is available on Amazon, Sierra Toy Soldiers, and  The History Store 

Hamil-Swag: Office Supplies for Your Favorite Hamiltonian

This morning, I got into the office, looked at my desk, and realized how many awesome Hamilton accessories I have in my office.I’m sharing reviews of my three favorite Hamilton accessories since the holidays are coming up!  [Note: I am not getting advertising revenue for these reviews and all pictures are from my personal collection.]

1) Hamilton History Cube– Nifty picture cube featuring nine images from the New York Historical Society.  Great to play with on your desk.  Comes in a gift box.  Warning- the pictures will wear out if you play with the cube constantly.  I’m currently on my second one and I bought both from the Trinity Church gift shop.  {Available online from the NY Historical Society and sold at the Trinity Church Gift Shop}

              

2) Hamilton Bobblehead– My bobblehead is by far the coolest thing in my office.   Royal Bobbles has done a brilliant job with the detail on Hamilton’s face and clothes.  At under $20, I thought this was a steal.   However, Hamilton’s walking stick slipped out of his hands after a few months and I had to superglue part of his wig back together.   {Available from the History Channel and Amazon}

3) Mini-Hamilton Bust– This 6-inch bust works as a great paperweight or just a guard for your desk.  The detail on the face is pretty neat.  When I bought it, I expected it to be bigger, and at almost $30 it is a bit expensive for the size.  {available from Amazon}