Museum of the American Revolution exhibit retraces Philly’s effect on Hamilton.
New York gets much attention in the runaway Broadway smash “Hamilton: An American Musical,” which is in the middle of an area run at the Forrest Theatre through Nov. 17. But did you know that more than just a few im- portant moments in the life and and work of Alexander Hamilton actually happened in Philadelphia?
The whole family can find out what through March 17 at the Museum of the American Revolution, where “Hamilton was Here: Rising up in Revolutionary Philadelphia” highlights fun Alexander Hamilton facts that the musical unfortunately omits, or places in New York instead of Philly. Here’s a sampler:
• Philadelphia’s City Tavern was where Hamilton, George Washington and others celebrated the ratification of the U.S. Constitution. Hamilton was a delegate at the 1787 Constitutional Convention at Independence Hall
• In his Philadelphia office as America’s first Secretary of Treasury, Hamilton laid the financial framework for the new nation.
Said Jim Dever, the Philadelphia market president of “Hamilton was Here” presenting sponsor Bank of America: “As a banker, we view Alexander Hamilton in a special light. Like the Museum of the American Revolution, (the exhibit) will be accessible to people of all ages.”
• It was in the Port Richmond section of the city where Hamilton took part in his first duel. In 1778 Hamilton served as John Laurens’s “second” in a duel with Continental Army Major General Charles Lee. Lee sustained a graze wound, and both men wanted to fire another shot. Hamilton somehow talked them out of it.
• Philadelphia — where Hamilton lived with his wife, Eliza, from 17901795 — was originally the US capital city. Hamilton advised Washington at the President’s House on Market Street and persuaded him to set aside an hour on Tuesdays to meet with members of the public. A few newspapers of the time were critical of the move, saying that it was too much like a king holding court. Hamilton also influenced Washington’s difficult decision to use a militia to put a stop to the 1794 Whiskey Rebellion in western Pennsylvania.
The beginning of the end for the city’s designation as national capital came after a mob of Continental Army veterans gathered at Independence Hall in 1783 demanding payment of IOUs issued for their service in winning the country’s independence. Prior to the ratification of the Constitution, Congress had no direct control of the military, except during wartime. Pennsylvania’s state government refused a request from Hamilton and Congress to send a militia to quell the rebellion. The incident angered Hamilton and was one reason he supported a strong federal government, located in an independent federal district.
• Alexander and Eliza Hamilton assisted refugees from France who had been among that country’s rich and elite, but were fleeing for their lives in the aftermath of the French Revolution.
• When Hamilton lived here, he engaged in a scandalous, career-ending affair with a married woman.
The experience also includes scenic environments, like a recreation of the state dining room of the President’s House; interactive games, such as a block and scale game that shows the differences between the balance of state and national powers before and after the adoption of the Constitution; and playful activities from dressing up in reproduction 1790s clothing to meet President Washington, to loading a full-sized replica cannon and designing a coin inspired by early American symbols — all with a connection to Hamilton’s contributions to the founding of the United States.
Each activity seeks to inspire visitors to think about how they can carry these lessons forward as they face the challenges of citizenship today. “The future of our nation depends on the citizens we create today,” commented Pedro A. Ramos, president and CEO of The Philadelphia Foundation, which is a community partner with the museum in presenting “Hamilton was Here.”
At the conclusion of the exhibition, cast your vote on what you feel was Hamilton’s most important accomplishment in Philadelphia.
The museum’s core exhibition features nearly 30 Hamilton-related artifacts, including objects on loan from the New York Historical Society, the Library of Congress, and the Philadelphia History Museum. Among them are letters written by Hamilton at Valley Forge and a 1775 edition of one of Hamilton’s first political pamphlets, “The Farmer Refuted.” In the museum’s lobby visitors can pose with life-size bronze statues depicting Hamilton’s fateful 1804 duel with Aaron Burr.
Each visitor to “Hamilton was Here” will receive a “Flat Hamilton” cut-out to take home, as well as a map of locations in the region where Hamilton made his mark. You’re encouraged to follow in Hamilton’s footsteps and snap a picture of Flat Hamilton at the various locations to share on social media with the hashtag #HamiltonWasHere.
The core exhibition of the Museum of the American Revolution temporarily features this portrait of Alexander Hamilton, painted after his death in 1804
Students from the Shipley School in Bryn Mawr use symbols of the early American republic to create a national coin currency in “Hamilton was Here.” During the colonial days each state had its own currency.
Alexander Hamilton was an artillery commander in the Continental Army. Visitors can experience how challenging it was for a seven-person crew to fire one 18th century cannon in “Hamilton was Here.”
Tip the balance of power between the states and the federal government with this interactive from “Hamilton was Here” at the Museum of the American Revolution.
Still wearing a reproduction 1790s hat from the “Hamilton was Here” exhibit, a visitor checks out some details on how Alexander Hamilton came up with how the new United States of America was going to handle its credit, debt, mint and tax revenue.
Alexander Hamilton’s First Bank is directly across Third Street from the Museum of the American Revolution.
Detail of a statue of Alexander Hamilton, temporarily in the lobby of the Museum of the American Revolution, taking aim at Aaron Burr in a duel that ultimately cost Hamilton his life.