Tag Archives: hamilton

Michael E. Newton on “Discovering the Earliest Known Records of Alexander Hamilton” and “A “Jest” Gone Wrong: Nicholas Cruger’s “Supposed Duel” on St. Croix”

My talk today at Liberty Hall Museum about about Discovering the Earliest Known Records of Alexander Hamilton and A “Jest” Gone Wrong: Nicholas Cruger’s “Supposed Duel” on St. Croix.

If you have trouble watching the video here, please see the video on Liberty Hall Museum’s facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/libertyhallmuseum/videos/1803776389648810/

Doctoring Newspapers for PBS’s “Hamilton’s America” Documentary

Like every other fan of Alexander Hamilton the man and Hamilton: An American Musical, I was eager to watch the PBS documentary about the making of the musical, titled Hamilton’s America, which aired on October 21, 2016. I knew that this documentary would be a mix of Alexander Hamilton history and behind-the-scenes footage of the development, production, and staging of the musical. And while I enjoyed most of the documentary, I was sorely disappointed in some of the historical inaccuracies.

Now, we all know that there are historical inaccuracies in the musical. Most of these are perfectly fine as Lin-Manuel Miranda used his poetic license to tell the story. Lafayette being in America and meeting Hamilton before the war even started is one such example. Everyone knows it didn’t happen that way, but it made sense from the musical’s perspective to present it that way. Other inaccuracies were mistakes to which Miranda has admitted, like when Angelica Schuyler said, “My father has no sons,” when he in fact had three sons. Others are errors that have come down through history and which the musical repeats, like the oft-repeated tale of Martha Washington’s tomcat named Hamilton.

As a piece of fiction, Hamilton: An American Musical is immensely enjoyable. Moreover, it gets most of the history right and certainly captures the spirit of Hamilton’s life and of the period. So even when this nit-picky historian points out inaccuracies in the musical, he does not intend to diminish the great work created by Lin-Manuel Miranda and the other producers and performers. It is only done to educate those who would like to learn more about Alexander Hamilton.

However, when PBS produces a documentary, I expect more accuracy and certainly don’t expect them to mislead the viewer. And yet, that is exactly what happens in at least one instance. Talking about Alexander Hamilton’s life on St. Croix in the Caribbean West Indies, the documentary of course discusses Hamilton’s account of the great hurricane of 1772, which was published in St. Croix’s The Royal Danish American Gazette. On screen, they present this image of the newspaper.

hamiltondocnewspaper

Alexander Hamilton’s hurricane account, as published in The Royal Danish American Gazette, as shown in PBS’s Hamilton’s America

According to this image, Hamilton’s hurricane account was published in The Royal Danish American Gazette on Sunday, September 6, 1772. At the top of the newspaper’s first column appeared a preface introducing Hamilton’s account. Hamilton’s writing then appears on the top of columns two and three.

Unfortunately, none of this is true. This image is a complete fake. It was doctored for the purpose of presenting in this documentary.

Here’s what the newspaper featuring Hamilton’s hurricane account really looks like:

hamiltonnewspaper1

hamiltonnewspaper2

First of all, you probably noticed that Hamilton’s hurricane account appears on the second page of the newspaper, not the first. Not only is that less dramatic than having it on the first page, it makes it more difficult to present quickly on the TV screen. And in order to make Hamilton’s hurricane account fit on the first three columns of the first page, they didn’t just copy and paste the original into their desired position, but they actually retyped it. Of course, they styled it to look like it was original to 1772 because they wouldn’t want the viewer to think it was fake.

Second, you might notice that while Hamilton’s newspaper account is dated September 6, 1772, it was not published until October 3, 1772. And yet, in PBS’s version, the newspaper with Hamilton’s account was published on September 6.

Third, there is one part of PBS’s image that is original: the beautiful masthead of The Royal Danish American Gazette. But even here, PBS erred. PBS copied the masthead with volume and issue numbers from Vol. 3, Issue No. 235. You’ll see in the real newspaper featuring Hamilton’s essay that that the issue of October 3 was No. 234. Issue No. 235 was published October 7, 1772.

Fourth, since PBS used the masthead from October 7 and no issue of the newspaper was published on September 6, PBS had no choice but to retype the date under masthead. What’s most amazing is that The Royal Danish American Gazette was published only on Saturdays and Wednesdays. But September 6, 1772, was a Sunday. So, in very large letters, PBS typed “SUNDAY.” Even to the casual eye, that “SUNDAY” stands out as inauthentic.

To summarize, PBS changed the layout of the newspaper, retyped the text of Hamilton’s hurricane account, retyped and changed the date of publication, and had the wrong issue number. The only original things about it were the words written by Hamilton and the masthead, which was taken from a different issue.

Perhaps it’s just the historian in me caring too much about historical accuracy, but I expected more from a PBS documentary.

Now available on CSPAN3 (online): Michael E. Newton talking about “Hamilton and Washington’s Wartime Relationship”

Alexander Hamilton scholar Michael Newton and Alexander Hamilton Awareness Society Founder Rand Scholet talked about George Washington and Alexander Hamilton’s wartime relationship. Hamilton joined the Continental Army in 1776 and was appointed Washington’s aide the following year. He would later serve as President Washington’s Secretary of the Treasury. Despite the differences in their temperaments and personalities, the two men forged a long military and political partnership.

Watch at http://www.c-spanvideo.org/program/314099-1

Michael E. Newton on CSPAN 3 this Sunday talking about “Hamilton and Washington’s Wartime Relationship”

Alexander Hamilton scholar Michael Newton and Alexander Hamilton Awareness Society Founder Rand Scholet talked about George Washington and Alexander Hamilton’s wartime relationship. Hamilton joined the Continental Army in 1776 and was appointed Washington’s aide the following year. He would later serve as President Washington’s Secretary of the Treasury. Despite the differences in their temperaments and personalities, the two men forged a long military and political partnership.

Sep 1, 2013 08:30 (C-SPAN 3)
Sep 1, 2013 19:30 (C-SPAN 3)
Sep 1, 2013 22:30 (C-SPAN 3)
Sep 7, 2013 15:30 (C-SPAN 3)
Sep 8, 2013 02:30 (C-SPAN 3)

Show will be available online as well (live and on demand) at:
http://www.c-spanvideo.org/program/314099-1
http://www.c-span.org/History/Events/The-Presidency-Alexander-Hamilton-amp-George-Washington39s-Relationship/10737441073/

Alexander Hamilton memorial events: July 13–The Museum of the City of New York.

On July 11, 1804, Hamilton had his famous duel with Aaron Burr. On July 12, Hamilton died. His funeral was on the 14th. Nothing occurred on July 13, so The Alexander Hamilton Awareness Society had no official events on July 13, 2012. Nevertheless, like Hamilton’s belief in a “steady and vigorous exertion,” we did not let the day go to waste.  Rand Scholet, President of The Alexander Hamilton Awareness Society,  and Mariana Oller, New England Chapter President, arranged a couple of private events for the Hamilton experts who traveled to New York for the week.

On the morning of July 13, we went to the Museum of the City of New York, where they had a temporary exhibit (it runs until October 21) about how New York City was and still is the Capital of Capital.

Credit: Capital of Capital: New York’s Banks and the Creation of a Global Economy at the Museum of the City of New York, 1220 Fifth Avenue at 104th Street, closing October 21st.

The exhibit was extremely well done. The exhibit was chronological and demonstrated the growth of the financial industry in New York and how it helped spark the economic development of the United States and the world.

Before heading to some photos of the exhibition, I would like to thank our fantastic tour guide, Daniel London, whose knowledge and enthusiasm for New York history added tremendously to the great exhibition.

Now, some photos of the exhibition.

One unique piece of history included in this exhibition is a “Savings Bank Machine” from 1922. This could be considered one of the earliest Automated Teller Machines (ATM) in history.

You can’t talk of the financial or economic history of New York City and the United States without also talking about Alexander Hamilton. As The Alexander Hamilton Awareness Society, that’s why we went in the first place. To our great surprise and delight, the Museum of the City of New York has perhaps the greatest portrait of Alexander Hamilton ever painted. This John Trumbull 1804 portrait is so bright and colorful that it looks like it was painted yesterday. I hope my photos do it justice.

Credit: 71.31.3 Alexander Hamilton, ca. 1804-1808, oil on canvas, by John Trumbull (1750-1831)

Additionally, there is a statue of Hamilton out in front of the museum.

Thanks again to The Alexander Hamilton Awareness Society and the Museum of the City of New York for providing us with a great experience.

Alexander Hamilton memorial events: July 12–Downtown NYC.

On July 12, 2012, the 208th anniversary of Hamilton’s death, the Alexander Hamilton Awareness Society organized a series of events in downtown New York City. Much of Hamilton’s work and life was spent in downtown Manhattan. He lived downtown for a number of years and had offices there as well. Even more, downtown New York became the financial capital of the United States (some would say the world, but that would take another century) thanks largely to the various projects of Alexander Hamilton. There could be no more appropriate place to celebrate Hamilton’s life and mourn his death than in the heart of capitalism and wealth.

We started with a tour of downtown, led by Arthur Piccolo, Chairman of the Bowling Green Association. Mr. Piccolo took us the sites where Hamilton trained his troops during the War for Independence, where he lived, where he worked, and where he socialized. In addition, Mr. Piccolo raised the flag of St. Kitts-Nevis, Hamilton’s place of birth, and read a letter from the Prime Minister of that nation.

After a short break, we met again at Federal Hall where Alexander Hamilton, as portrayed by William G. Chrystal, author of Hamilton by the Slice: Falling in Love with Our Most Influential Founding Father, greeted us, said a few words, and posed for photographs with some of his fans:

We then proceeded to the cemetery of Trinity Church, where a memorial service was held for Alexander Hamilton. As a kohein, I am forbidden to enter cemeteries, but I took pictures from the outside looking in:

After the memorial service, Rand Scholet, President of the Alexander Hamilton Awareness Society,  spoke briefly and Alexander Hamilton, as portrayed by William G. Chrystal, author of Hamilton by the Slice: Falling in Love with Our Most Influential Founding Father,  answered questions about his life and achievements:

Trinity Church then invited us into their archives to see some of their documents related to Alexander Hamilton. Most impressive was the baptimsal book that listed Hamilton’s children. Equally impressive were the names of the sponsors for Hamilton’s children: Schuyler, Church, Van Rensselear, and the Baron von Steuben:

That evening, we gathered together at the Museum of American Finance where Rand Scholet, President of the Alexander Hamilton Awareness Society,  presented “The Essence of Alexander Hamilton’s Greatness”:

Before Mr. Scholet’s presentation, I was honored to be invited by the Mr. Scholet and David J. Cowen, President and CEO of the museum, to see a pair of the official copies (only 100 were produced) of the Hamilton-Burr dueling pistols:

Alexander Hamilton memorial events: July 11–Weehawken.

Last month, the Alexander Hamilton Awareness Society organized a series of event to commemorate the anniversary of the famous duel between Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr on July 11, 1804, Hamilton’s death on July 12, and his funeral on July 14. As you already know, I am currently writing a book about Alexander Hamilton. I figured that these events would be a great way to learn even more about Hamilton and to meet other Hamilton experts. I was not disappointed on either account.

In a series of blog posts, I’ll share with you some of my experiences at these events.

As you’ve probably figured out from some of my recent posts, I also enjoy photography. I took hundreds of photos as these Hamilton events. Don’t worry, I’ll only share a few of the best photos.

On July 11, we gathered in Weehawken, New Jersey, the location of the famous duel between Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr. Aaron Burr was the sitting Vice President at the time and Alexander Hamilton was possibly the country’s greatest lawyer after serving his country so admirably for a quarter of a century as a soldier in the army during the revolution, as a representative in New York’s Assembly, as a delegate to the federal Congress, as a delegate to the Constitutional Convention, as the nation’s first Secretary of the Treasury, and as Washington’s second in command during the Quasi-War. America had seen many duels before, but no duel before or since saw such two illustrious men face each other.

I got to Weehawken early–very early–due to the uncertainty of taking the subway and then a bus to a location I had never been to before. This enabled me to wander around Weehawken for a short period. Weehawken is a beautiful small town just across the river from New York City. Here’s a picture I took while wandering around Weehawken:

This is Hamilton Park, near the site where the duel took place:

And a view from the park to the Big Apple:

Here are some photos of the Alexander Hamilton Memorial at the park:

Rand Scholet, President of the Alexander Hamilton Awareness Society, spoke briefly about  Hamilton and the duel:

Some of the attendees took a ferry to New York City and back to Weehawken to experience the boat trips that Hamilton (and Burr) took to and from New York to fight their duel:

That evening, William G. Chrystal, author of Hamilton by the Slice: Falling in Love with Our Most Influential Founding Father, spoke about Hamilton’s greatness at the Weehawken Public Library:

Before leaving Weehawken, we returned to Hamilton Park and the Hamilton Memorial, where we were greeted with the most beautiful view of New York City:

Well, that was day one (July 11, 2012) of the Alexander Hamilton events organized by the Alexander Hamilton Awareness Society. A lot more to come…