With support from the University of Richmond

History News Network

History News Network puts current events into historical perspective. Subscribe to our newsletter for new perspectives on the ways history continues to resonate in the present. Explore our archive of thousands of original op-eds and curated stories from around the web. Join us to learn more about the past, now.

Hamilton a hit off-Broadway too

Sotheby’s, the Manhattan auction house, is the latest to profit from the rage for things Hamilton since the opening curtain of Lin Manuel Miranda’s musical. On Wednesday, Jan 18, 2017, enthusiasts coughed up almost $2.6 million for samples of his writing, featuring numerous letters to loved ones.

All the documents came from one unidentified Hamilton descendant, the auction house told us before the feverish bidding began. A 1795 letter to sister-in-law Angelica Schuyler Church, with whom many think Hamilton had an affair, went for $62,500.  That was seven times more than Sotheby’s had predicted.  Several people must have read the longing letters Angelica exchanged  with Hamilton – and taken a good look at her uninspiring British husband.

A tender letter to Hamilton’s wife, Elizabeth, emptied another set of pockets  to the tune of $40,000,  Another letter relied on its news value more than its personal significance. In it Hamilton told Elizabeth that they had caught General Benedict Arnold trying to sell West Point to the British. A headline hunter paid $81,250 for that one.

But the evening ended in a disappointment.  Sotheby’s offered an original essay by Hamilton under the pen name Pacificus. It was part of the debate he had with James Madison about whether the United States should stay neutral in the  looming war between Britain and France. Sotheby’s had predicted it would sell for $500,000 dollars. But they had to settle for $262,500. Apparently the buyers were more interested in the personal letters and were not as enthusiastic about Hamilton’s political activities. All things considered, the owners of the letters had little to complain about.

Read entire article at The Newsletter of the New York American Revolution Round Table