Tag Archives: New York City

Treasures Hidden in Plain Sight: Two Alexander Hamilton Clocks

Alexander Hamilton is everywhere! He’s in books. He’s on our currency. He’s even on Broadway. Of course, Hamilton can also be found in the numerous museums that display his portrait and curate exhibitions about him (for examples, see here, here, here, and here).

Perhaps you even saw some pieces of Hamiltonia in these museums without noticing them. For example, how many you saw the recent Battle of Brooklyn (Long Island) exhibition at the New-York Historical Society? Did you see the copy of Rivington’s New-York Gazetteer from April 20, 1775? Here’s their description and a photo I took of the newspaper (sorry for the quality):

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Rivington’s New York Gazetteer, April 20, 1775 [New-York Historical Society] (© Michael E. Newton)

Did anyone notice this advertisement in the above newspaper?

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Rivington’s New-York Gazetter, April 20, 1775 [New-York Historical Society] (© Michael E. Newton)

Here we have A.W. Farmer (Samuel Seabury) replying to an essay entitled The Farmer Refuted. I’m sure you all know who penned that essay—the one and only Alexander Hamilton. With no mention of Hamilton in the description, few people probably paid any attention to this. (For those who are curious, Seabury’s Republican Dissected was never published.)

Much more interesting, in my opinion, are a pair of clocks directly connected to Alexander Hamilton on display at two different museums not far from each other.

In the lobby of the New-York Historical Society, not far from Hamilton’s writing desk, a portrait of Hamilton by John Trumbull, and exact replicas of the dueling pistols used by Hamilton and Burr in 1804, is a clock attributed to Robert Joyce:

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Robert Joyce, Tall Case Clock [New-York Historical Society] (© Michael E. Newton)

The NYHS explains, “According to tradition, Hamilton presented this clock to the Bank of New York in 1797 to commemorate the opening of its Wall Street headquarters… Founded by Hamilton in 1784, the Bank of New York was the center of the city’s financial life and helped the federal government establish a firm economic footing. After four years on its board of directors, Hamilton left to serve as the nation’s first secretary of treasury.” [Note: Hamilton was one of the founders of the bank, not the founder.]

A similar clock with a similar tale is also on display at the Metropolitan Museum of Art:

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Robert Joyce, Clock [Metropolitan Museum of Art] (© Michael E. Newton)

If you didn’t see this clock the last time you visited the Met, I’m not surprised. It can found all by itself at the second-floor entrance to the American Wing in what can best be described as a hallway (technically it’s Gallery 703). I often watch dozens of people walk right by it without paying any attention. Some see me looking and taking pictures of the clock; only then do they take notice of this clock. Robert Joyce produced this clock “circa 1795” (according to the Met website) or “circa 1797” (according to the description next to the clock). According to the description, “This monumental tall clock by Robert Joyce, who trained and worked in London and Dublin before establishing himself in New York, was presented by Alexander Hamilton to the Philadelphia-based Bank of the United States around 1797.”

Thus, we have two beautiful clocks given by Alexander Hamilton in or about 1797 to the two leading banks in the country in two different museums less than a mile from each other. Please do visit these two clocks, enjoy their fine craftsmanship, and connect with everyone’s favorite Founding Father. And if you visit both clocks on the same day, be sure to stop at the statue of Alexander Hamilton as you walk from one museum to the other.

 

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Walking route between Metropolitan Museum of Art and New-York Historical Society with stop at the Alexander Hamilton statue (© Michael E. Newton)

 

Inspiration: Thomas Cole’s The Consummation of Empire and Carle Vernet’s The Triumph of Aemilius Paulus

During my recent trip to New York City, I had the great pleasure of visiting the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the New-York Historical Society. I try to visit the Met every time I’m in New York to see the special exhibits and some of my favorites (Vermeer, Van Gogh, Emanuel Leutze’s Washington Crossing the Delaware). As the Met is so large, I never have time to see everything and am able to see different things each time.

When I’m in New York, I occasionally visit the New-York Historical Society depending on what special exhibits they have. With an exhibit on the Battle of Brooklyn (Battle of Long Island), the NYHS was on my long list of things to do during my brief visit to New York.

I visited the New-York Historical Society first. When I entered Dexter Hall, the main painting gallery of the museum on the second floor, I was pleasantly surprised to and see my favorite paintings: Thomas Cole’s five-painting-series The Course of Empire (1833-1836).

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Thomas Cole’s The Course of Empire [New-York Historical Society] (© Michael E. Newton)

A brief intro for those who don’t know about these paintings. The Course of Empire shows the rise and fall of an empire. Thomas Cole clearly had ancient Rome as his inspiration but painted them as a warning to the United States to not follow the same course. Thomas Cole starts with The Savage State (1834) where the landscape is in its natural state with just a few nomads in view, moves on to The Arcadian or Pastoral State (1834) as farmers move in and start to develop agriculture, jumps to The Consummation of Empire (1836) with the great wealth and power of an imperial city on display, declines into Destruction (1836) as the empire falls and the city is destroyed by barbarians, and concludes with Desolation (1836) where all that remains are the ruins of a formerly great city.

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Thomas Cole’s The Savage State [New-York Historical Society] (image courtesy of Wikimedia)

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Thomas Cole’s The Arcadian or Pastoral State [New-York Historical Society] (image courtesy of Wikimedia)

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Thomas Cole’s The Consummation of Empire [New-York Historical Society] (image courtesy of Wikimedia)

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Thomas Cole’s Destruction [New-York Historical Society] (image courtesy of Wikimedia)

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Thomas Cole’s Desolation [New-York Historical Society] (image courtesy of Wikimedia)

I am not sure when Cole’s The Course of Empire returned to the museum but they had been in storage and away on loan for some time. The last few times I visited the NYHS, these paintings were not on display, but I did see them in July 2013 at the Fenimore Art Museum in Cooperstown in an exhibit on The Hudson River School: Nature and the American Vision (no photography was permitted). Prior to that, I saw them at the New-York Historical Society in June 2010 when the museum was closed for renovation but they granted me access to see them in storage because I had used two of the paintings for the cover of my first book, The Path to Tyranny, because that book, like the paintings, detailed the rise and fall of free societies.

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Michael E. Newton with copy of The Path to Tyranny in front of Thomas Cole’s The Consummation of Empire [New-York Historical Society] (© Jay  G. Newton)

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Michael E. Newton with copy of The Path to Tyranny in front of Thomas Cole’s Destruction [New-York Historical Society] (© Jay G. Newton)

After years of not seeing these paintings at NYHS, I had forgotten they were there and was pleasantly surprised to see them. As usual, I stood gazing at them for a few minutes as I soaked in their greatness. Unfortunately, I had other things to do that day and could not stay longer.

A few days later I made my customary trip to the Metropolitan Museum of Art. I was there mainly for their special exhibits on Jerusalem 1000–1400: Every People Under Heaven and Valentin de Boulougne: Beyond Caravaggio, but wandered through my favorite parts of the museum. They recently rearranged some of the European art. One such room (Gallery 613) is now called “The Salon on the Eve of the Revolution.” Here, I happened across a painting I had either never seen before or just never noticed, Carle Vernet’s The Triumph of Aemilius Paulus (1789).

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Carle Vernet’s The Triumph of Aemilius Paulus [Metropolitan Museum of Art]

 I was immediately struck by how similar the triumphal parade in this painting is to that in Cole’s The Consummation of Empire.

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Thomas Cole’s The Consummation of Empire [New-York Historical Society] (image courtesy of Wikimedia)

The similarities of which I speak are more evident after zooming in on the triumphs/parades taking place in the two paintings.

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Detail from Carle Vernet’s The Triump of Aemilius Paulus [Metropolitan Museum of Art]

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Detail from Thomas Cole’s The Consummation of Empire [New-York Historical Society]

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Detail from Thomas Cole’s The Consummation of Empire [New-York Historical Society]

Clearly, they are not identical, but Cole’s triumphal parade with its ostentatious display of wealth to show his imagined empire at its peak and an honored hero holding a scepter in one hand and a tree branch in another is reminiscent of the parade in Vernet’s painting. I have no idea if Thomas Cole saw Vernet’s The Triumph of Aemilius Paulus when he was in Paris in 1831–32 or if the paintings by Vernet and Cole were both inspired by an earlier work, but the two appear remarkably similar in my inexpert opinion. (In my searches, I have been unable to find anyone else comparing these two paintings.)

Art experts, feel free to comment on the similarities and differences between these two painting or to suggest common inspiration for both works.

N.B. Thank you to art historian Dianne Durante for your critique and advice.

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…

Photos from the house of John Jay

While in New York this summer, I am trying to visit some of the sites of historical significance. Two recent trips took me to the houses of two leading Founding Fathers. These houses, much like these two Founders, are not as well known as some of the bigger names and not too frequently visited, as a result.

John Jay, one of the authors of the Federalist Papers and negotiator of the controversial Jay Treaty, lived up in Westchester after his retirement from politics. My friend and I were the only visitors there. We were told by the tour guide and curator (two different people working there) that they only have a few visitors each day.

Like so many other retired politicians, John Jay became a “gentlemen farmer” upon retirement from politics. I could not imagine a more beautiful place to grow crops:

Upon entering the house, to the right is the dining room:

To the left of the entrance way was a parlor for entertaining the family and guests:

The bedrooms are upstairs:

Returning downstairs, John Jay certainly spent a lot of time in his study:

The chairs seen in the above photo and below are not just any ordinary old chairs. These are three of the original twenty-six chairs from the original Senate chamber when the capital was in New York City. When the chairs were shipped to Washington, D.C., three of them were “accidentally” sent to John Jay. I could not figure out how these chairs were sent to the wrong place or why Jay kept them, but these are certainly pieces of history.

But to the Jay grandchildren, these were not important pieces of history. It’s hard to see in the picture, but these chairs have wheels and made perfect engines for racing down the hallway. It is amazing that the chairs are still in such great condition.

My visit to another home of a Founding Father will have to wait for another day…

First they banned sugar, then salt, then fat, then…

With apologies to Martin Niemöller.

First they came for the sugary treats,
and I didn’t speak out because I didn’t eat sugary treats.

Then they came for the salty snacks,
and I didn’t speak out because I didn’t eat salty snacks.

Then they came for fatty foods,
and I didn’t speak out because I didn’t eat fatty foods.

Then they came for my meat and processed grains,
and there was nothing tasty left for me to eat.