RCL Exclusive

Philadelphia Museum Offers Rare Look Inside the Private Life of Alexander Hamilton

Exhibit includes never-before-seen heirlooms from the Founding Father’s fifth great-grandson.

History By

Hamilton Was Here, the current exhibit celebrating Alexander Hamilton at the Museum of the American Revolution in Philadelphia through March 17, is about to get even better.

Two never-before-seen heirlooms of the famous Founding Father are undergoing conservation ahead of going on display. The treasured keepsakes, previously unseen by the public, include a handkerchief and a mourning ring belonging to Alexander Hamilton’s wife Elizabeth, and they are among other Hamilton heirlooms featured in the “Year of Hamilton” celebration at the Philadelphia museum.

Alexander Hamilton, a United States Founding Father and one of General George Washington’s top aides, has recently become a cultural phenomenon thanks to the blockbuster Broadway musical Hamilton, created by the Emmy, Tony, and Grammy Award-winning actor and composer Lin-Manuel Miranda.

Year of Hamilton Exhibit

Douglas Hamilton, the fifth great-grandson to Alexander Hamilton, in ‘Hamilton Was Here.’ Credit: MoAR

Douglas Hamilton (above), visited the Hamilton Was Here: Rising Up in Revolutionary Philadelphia exhibit at the Museum of the American Revolution, where nearly 30 items belonging to Alexander and Elizabeth Hamilton are on view. Other items from that era on display in the museum are George Washington’s tent as well as his headquarter flag.

According to the Associated Press: “The 67-year-old Ohio man said their famous distant relative wasn’t something the family focused on. He said a cardboard box containing the heirlooms was passed quietly from generation to generation, and stowed away until it passed on again.”

Society of Cincinnati Medal and Ribbon

A Society of the Cincinnati medal with eagle insignia. The Society of the Cincinnati was formed after the Revolutionary War. The medal is part of the “Year of Hamilton” celebration at the Museum of the American Revolution. Credit: MoAR

Hamilton spoke about the Society of Cincinnati medal in a recent statement: “For me and my family, the Eagle insignia represents Hamilton’s service to his country… The Society of the Cincinnati was created after the Revolutionary War so that people didn’t forget this ‘vast event’—the war that was just fought against the empire of Great Britain. Putting the badge and other family treasures on display at a museum devoted to the American Revolution is a perfect match, and we’re very excited that the Museum is committed to helping us remember what they achieved.”

Baby Dress Made By Elizabeth Hamilton

A baby dress made by Elizabeth Hamilton currently on loan to the Museum of the American Revolution. Credit: MoAR

A baby dress, made by Alexander’s wife, Elizabeth Hamilton, is currently undergoing conservation efforts prior to its display at the Museum of the American Revolution. Elizabeth Hamilton, sometimes known as “Betsy” or “Eliza,” was born in Albany, New York in 1756 and married the Founding Father in 1780. She later had 8 children by him. Elizabeth was also a co-founder and deputy director of an orphanage in New York City.

Elizabeth Hamilton’s Handkerchief

Elizabeth Hamilton’s never-before-publicly-seen handkerchief will be on display at the Museum of the American Revolution. Credit: MoAR

This handkerchief, a rare heirloom never seen by the public, has Elizabeth Hamilton’s name embroidered into the fabric. It, along with the baby dress, are undergoing preservation before being displayed at the museum. The items should go on display in early 2019, joining close to 30 other heirlooms featured in the “Year of Hamilton” celebration, in addition to the Hamilton Was Here experience.

Mourning Ring Worn By Elizabeth Hamilton

Elizabeth Hamilton’s mourning ring. The ring, worn by the widow of Alexander Hamilton contains a lock of the Founding Father’s hair. The ring is part of the “Year of Hamilton” exhibit at the Museum of the American Revolution. Credit: MoAR

Containing a lock of Alexander Hamilton’s hair, this “mourning ring” was worn by the wife of the Founding Father. Mourning rings date as far back as the 14th century. The jewelry had a resurgence in popularity in the 1930s and 1940s. Elizabeth was said to wear the ring after Alexander, the first-ever Secretary of the Treasury, was killed in 1802 during a duel with then Vice President Aaron Burr.

Hamilton Was Here: Rising Up Experience

Dr. Philip Mead and Douglas Hamilton, the fifth great-grandson to Alexander Hamilton, at the Museum of the American Revolution’s ‘Hamilton was Here’ exhibit. Credit: MoAR

Dr. Philip Mead, the museum’s chief historian and director of curatorial affairs stated: “These items give us a glimpse into the personal lives of Alexander and Elizabeth Hamilton and we’re honored and delighted that Doug and his family have chosen to loan them to us.”

When Douglas reached out to the museum about the Hamilton heirlooms, Mead was shocked: “He just called me one day out of the blue and introduced himself and I said, ‘Boy, this doesn’t happen every day that a Hamilton calls you and offers to loan national treasures.'”

Most Hamilton heirlooms are currently on display at the museum through March 2019.