Treasures from Columbia’s Alexander Hamilton Collection

June 07, 2016

Before his landmark musical, Hamilton, received a Pulitzer Prize from Columbia and a record 16 Tony nominations, Lin-Manuel Miranda 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 Columbia, then called King’s College, from 1774 to 1776 when he quit to serve in the Continental Army.

Miranda viewed a selection of Alexander Hamilton’s papers and personal artifacts with Jennifer B. Lee, curator for performing arts, acting as his guide.

Treasures from Columbia's Hamilton collection are now on view at the Rare Book and Manuscript Library on the 6th floor of Butler Library on Monday to Friday from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm.

Photo by Eileen Barroso.

King's College President Myles Cooper wrote this list of the young men admitted to the school in 1774. Alexander Hamilton's name is second to last. Courtesy of the Rare Book & Manuscript Library.

A portrait of Alexander Hamilton by Charles Willson Peale (1741-1827). Watercolor on ivory, circa 1780. Columbia Office of Art Properties.

From 1777 to 1781 Hamilton served as George Washington’s secretary and aide-de-camp. He handled most of the general’s correspondence and carried out special commissions. This letter lacks the name of the addressee, but the nature of the contents and the form of subscription suggest that Hamilton was writing to Washington himself. Courtesy of the Rare Book & Manuscript Library.

Double-band wedding ring of Elizabeth Schuyler Hamilton inscribed Alexander & Elizabeth, 1780. Courtesy of the Rare Book & Manuscript Library.

Wedding handkerchiefs of Alexander and Elizabeth Hamilton from 1780. Courtesy of the Rare Book & Manuscript Library.

One archival book contains lists of admissions from 1785 to 1831 for students enrolled in the newly renamed Columbia College. Alexander Hamilton’s eldest son Philip is listed among the matriculated students for the year 1798. Office of the Registrar Records, Columbia University Archives.

A 19th century manuscript copy of the letter Hamilton wrote to his wife Eliza before his fateful duel with Aaron Burr in 1804.

“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."

Courtesy of the Rare Book & Manuscript Library.

An emotional Miranda later tweeted his photo of Hamilton's last letter to Eliza with the hashtag #BestofwivesandBestofwomen.