Alexander Hamilton, Renaissance Man

04/07/2011 in

Today’s guest post is by Kristin Aguilera, Deputy Director at the Museum of American Finance.


If you live or work in Lower Manhattan, you’re probably familiar with the name Alexander Hamilton.  Perhaps you’ve passed his gravesite at Trinity Church or have visited the Alexander Hamilton U.S. Custom House.  Or maybe you know he was the nation’s first Secretary of the Treasury and founder of American finance whose image is on the $10 bill.

But did you know Hamilton was also an amateur poet?  A soldier?  A founder of the New York Post and the U.S. Coast Guard?  Or that he was involved in the nation’s first major sex scandal?

“Alexander Hamilton: Lineage and Legacy,” which opened this week at the Museum of American Finance, takes an in-depth look at Hamilton’s life, from his humble beginnings as an illegitimate child born on the island of Nevis to his death in an infamous duel with the sitting Vice President of the United States, Aaron Burr.

The exhibit also explores Hamilton’s Scottish lineage (appropriately, it’s opening during NYC’s Tartan Week) and his continued influence on pop culture, including the now famous launch of the “Got Milk?” advertising campaign in which a Hamilton enthusiast tries to win a radio contest by answering the question, “Who shot Alexander Hamilton?”  He is unsuccessful in answering because he has just eaten a peanut butter sandwich and has run out of milk.

Highlights of the exhibit include the first issue of the New York Post, a mourning ring containing a braided lock of Hamilton’s hair, reproductions of the Hamilton/Burr dueling pistols and Hamilton’s Society of the Cincinnati badge.

In addition to objects, Hamilton comes to life in selected videos and an interactive wall.  In a rap about Hamilton filmed at the White House, composer and actor Lin-Manuel Miranda, best known for the Broadway musical In the Heights, notes, “He was so gangsta, I can’t even begin to describe it.”

“Alexander Hamilton: Lineage and Legacy” will be on display at the Museum of American Finance, 48 Wall Street, through July 12, 2011. For more information, visit or follow the Museum on Facebook or Twitter.

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