New Hamilton Discoveries 2016
On Thursday, July 7, 2016, the Alexander Hamilton Awareness Society and the Liberty Hall Museum co-hosted an event called "New Hamilton Discoveries." This event, part of the AHA Society's CelebrateHAMILTON 2016 program, shared three new discoveries and findings about Alexander Hamilton that have been recently made.
"New Hamilton Discoveries" Event Recap
The presentations were held in three different segments to cover different discoveries and findings. The speakers included: Director of Liberty Hall Museum Operations, Bill Schroh; Hamilton scholar, Michael E. Newton; and Alexander Hamilton Awareness Society President, Rand Scholet; and AHA Society Vice-President Nicole Scholet de Villavicencio.
During the event, Michael E. Newton was presented with a National Hamilton Scholar award by the AHA Society "for exemplary scholarship, research, and writing to provide accurate, objective, and insightful information to the public about the United States' remarkable Founding Father, Alexander Hamilton."
Following the talks, attendees were invited to view original documents on display that had never been viewed by the public, or yet catalogued in any public database. Attendees were also welcomed to an open house visit of the Liberty Hall home, .
The program was held during the two-day "Young Immigrant Hamilton Tour" in Elizabeth and Union, New Jersey, which highlighted Alexander Hamilton as a young immigrant student to the mainland - view the full 'Young Immigrant Hamilton Tour' itinerary.
About the New Hamilton Discoveries
it has been a treasure-trove of historic artifacts that have not been previously documented in public archives.
Thanks to interest generated from previous AHA Society events at Liberty Hall as well as the activity of the AHA Society's Hamiltonian Network, the Liberty Hall Museum worked to explore its archives for Hamilton-related documents, which led to several of the discoveries that were shared during the July 8th event.
Please note that the AHA Society is working to get the video recording of the "New Hamilton Discoveries" talk up on the AHA Society YouTube channel so that the complete stories of the discoveries and how they came about can be shared with the public.
Discovery #1: The Will of Hamilton's Half-Brother, Peter Lavien
During the "Discoveries' event, AHA Society President Rand Scholet shared the story of how the AHA Society's Hamiltonian Network, including the Liberty Hall Museum, came together to discover the location of the original will of Peter Lavien, Alexander Hamilton's half-brother, in the archives at Liberty Hall. John Kean, who would later work closely with Alexander Hamilton in Kean's role as Cashier of the Bank of the United States, had served as the executor of Lavien's will in the 1780s and retained an original copy in his records. Though letters existed in Hamilton's correspondence showing that Hamilton knew he had received an inheritance from his half-brother, the will itself had not been found and was thought to have been lost. With the discovery of the will at the Liberty Hall Museum, the contents can be seen in its original form.
Discovery #2: Kean Correspondence on the Yellow Fever Epidemic of 1793
Among the correspondence of the Kean family still preserved at Liberty Hall Museum are letters between John Kean and his wife Susan during the height of the Yellow Fever Epidemic of 1793 in Philadelphia. In those series of letters, John Kean updates Susan on the condition of Alexander and Elizabeth Hamilton as they both contracted and then miraculously recovered from yellow fever. The discussion of this discovery was led by Bill Schroh, Director of Liberty Hall Museum Operations, who talked about how he recently discovered the letters, and Nicole Scholet de Villavicencio, Vice-President of the AHA Society, who gave historical background on the Hamiltons' experience during the yellow fever epidemic.
Scholarly Finding #3: "Alexander Hamilton: Tomcat Fully Refuted"
Michael E. Newton, author of Alexander Hamilton: The Formative Years, presented his findings after researching the oft-repeated story of Martha Washington naming a tomcat after Alexander Hamilton, supposedly in reference to Hamilton chasing after women in the military camp. Through an in-depth historiographical approach, Newton's conclusion is clear: the story is completely debunked. Though, as Newton shared, the tomcat story has used and continuously embellished in various Hamilton biographies, the anecdote originates from a satirical poem written in 1780 that states that "Mrs. Washington has a mottled tom-cat, (which she calls, in a complementary way, 'Hamilton')." On top of that, the satirical poem, which also states that George Washington had grown three extra toes since the US declared independence, had been written in a private diary that was not published anywhere until 1860. And even though the anecdote is not true at all, Michael Newton further showed that even the original diarist was not referring to Hamilton as a womanizer, because the use of tomcat with a sexual connotation did not first appear until 1927.
Michael Newton has published the slides that he shared during the "Discoveries" talk on his website, and they can be viewed in their entirety here.
Related News Articles
- "A Hamilton tale too tall? Group disputes tomcat story" - Associated Press
- "Did Martha Washington really name a cat after Alexander Hamilton?" - Boston Globe
- "Get up close with Alexander Hamilton in New Jersey" - Asbury Park Press
- "New Alexander Hamilton Discoveries to be revealed at Liberty Hall" - NJ.com
- "Celebrating Alexander Hamilton in New Jersey" - BestofNJ.com
- CelebrateHAMILTON 2016 - Crossroads of American Revolution