Alexander Hamilton (1757-1804)
A virtual orphan in the Caribbean, Alexander Hamilton used his intelligence and determination to start a new life in New York City. Visitors enter Hamilton’s “study,” and explore his personal and professional life, including an interactive station where they can read and decode the first issue of the Federalist Papers. A social-media-type installation, called Federalbook, engages today’s visitors in Hamilton’s personal side (his likes, hobbies, etc.) as well as his social and political circle—both his friends and his enemies.
The “nation” side of the pavilion uses Hamilton’s role as the first secretary of the treasury to consider the early days of the United States, when survival, even in the short run, demanded a staggering number of good decisions on questions of enormous importance. Hamilton is responsible for, among other features of the financial system, the currency and banking system we use today. Children explore these issues through a digital two-player game that explores taxes and tariffs, and coins and paper currency.
Howard Pyle (1853–1911)
Hamilton Addressing the Mob: Study for the Illustration in “Harper’s New Monthly Magazine” (October 1884), 1884
Watercolor, black ink and wash, and gouache on card
The New-York Historical Society, Gift of George A. Zabriskie, 1951.378
Alexander Hamilton grew up in the Caribbean, and when he was 15-years-old he wrote a letter that changed his life. He described a hurricane that had hit many Caribbean islands and this letter was eventually published it in the local newspaper. Some local businessmen were so impressed by this young writer that they donated money to help him go to New York City and enroll in King’s College (now Columbia University). Hamilton packed his bags and never looked back.
But Hamilton did not finish college. He had arrived in New York just as the colonists were moving toward revolution, and he was swept up in the fiery political atmosphere. He left school and joined the continental army. This time, Hamilton impressed General George Washington, and he spent most of the war as Washington’s aide-de-camp, his right- hand man. He was 26 when the American Revolution ended. He had already lived a dramatic life, but he had not yet begun the work that would make him famous—helping to design the government of a new nation, the United States.
Visit the Alexander Hamilton pavilion at the DiMenna Children’s History Museum to find out what he did next!