Columbia University’s Rare Book and Manuscript Library has opened a public exhibition featuring some of the many treasures from the University’s Alexander Hamilton Collection, including items that Hamilton creator Lin-Manuel Miranda got to see himself when he was on campus earlier this spring.
Before his landmark musical received 11 Tony Awards and a Pulitzer Prize from Columbia, the composer, lyricist, writer and star of the hit show came to campus on April 7 to receive the Edward M. Kennedy Prize for Drama Inspired by American History, which is administered by Columbia Libraries. Alexander Hamilton attended what was then called King’s College, from 1774 to 1776. When the school closed due to the British occupation of New York in 1776, he served in the Continental Army as George Washington’s secretary and aide-de-camp. After the United States won independence, Hamilton was involved in reopening the school as Columbia and was awarded an honorary degree. Hamilton’s first son Philip, killed in a duel three years before his father’s death, also attended Columbia.
Miranda viewed a selection of Hamilton’s papers and personal artifacts with Jennifer B. Lee, curator for performing arts, acting as his guide. Among the archival items in the exhibition are the two-volume first edition of the iconic Federalist Papers (including one volume owned by Hamilton with his bookplate, a decorative label bearing his name), his wife Eliza’s double-band wedding ring, their wedding handkerchiefs, and the 1774 King’s College admission registry showing his enrollment. There is also an early 19th-century manuscript copy of the last letter Hamilton wrote to his wife before his fateful duel with Aaron Burr in 1804 that, Miranda said and later tweeted, brought him to tears: “This letter, my very dear Eliza, will not be delivered to you, unless I shall first have terminated my earthly career,” Hamilton famously wrote, concluding, “With my last idea; I shall cherish the sweet hope of meeting you in a better world. Adieu best of wives and best of women. Embrace all my darling children for me."
Treasures from Columbia's Hamilton collection are now on view through September 2 at the Rare Book and Manuscript Library on the 6th floor East of the University’s Butler Library, Monday to Friday from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm. The closest campus entrance to Butler is at 115th Street and Broadway.
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