The History of Alexander Hamilton in Albany, NY
The acclaimed musical "Hamilton" is scheduled to be performed at Proctors during the 2018-19 season, but that won't be the first time Alexander Hamilton has been in the Capital Region.
His connection to Albany began back in the late 18th century when he became acquainted with one of New York State's most influential families.
Alexander Hamilton's Early Life
Long before Hamilton made his first trip to the City of Albany, he lived much of his early life in the Caribbean. Hamilton was born on the island of Nevis in 1757, but he would soon move to St. Croix. Once he was old enough to start working, Hamilton got a job as a clerk for a local trading company.
He was quickly recognized for his skills, and in late 1772, Hamilton was able to attend Elizabethtown Academy and then King's College (now Columbia University). Unfortunately, when British troops occupied the college's city, Hamilton was forced to discontinue his studies in 1775.
Rather than wait out the war, Hamilton decided to start his military career and fight back against the British army. He joined a volunteer militia and served as the lieutenant, and then later on, he became the captain of an artillery unit.
As he rose through the ranks, Hamilton found himself as the aide-de-camp to George Washington. This position involved everything from secretary to spymaster, prisoner negotiator, and even ghost writer for Washington.
Hamilton's First Trip to Albany
As George Washington's aide-de-camp, Hamilton had many duties to fulfill. In 1777, on the behalf of Washington, Hamilton traveled to Albany to meet with General Horatio Gates. The purpose of his trip was to convince the general to provide Washington with reinforcements; Gates agreed to send one brigade.
While in Albany, Hamilton visited the Albany home of General Philip J. Schuyler, friend and supporter of Washington. While at the Schuyler Estate, Hamilton met Elizabeth Schuyler, Philip Schuyler's daughter. Since his time there was brief, their relationship wouldn't begin to blossom until three years later.
Hamilton's Marriage to Elizabeth Schuyler
It's said that Alexander Hamilton never had any intentions of marrying, and much of his time in the late 1770s was spent working in the military. However, a chance encounter with Elizabeth Schuyler in 1780 turned into much more than he expected.
In early 1780, the two would meet once again in Morristown, New Jersey. Elizabeth Schuyler was heading to Philadelphia to meet up with her parents, and during the trip, stopped at her aunt's house in New Jersey. At the time, Washington was encamped in Morristown, and Hamilton was with him.
When Schuyler visited the encampment, she befriended Washington's wife, Martha, and met with Hamilton. The two immediately connected, and after Schuyler left, both began to write letters back and forth to each other. Their relationship grew so fast, in fact, that they would marry that December at the Schuyler Estate.
Post-Marriage: Hamilton's Time in Albany
After the marriage, Hamilton soon decided to retire from military life and continue his studies. The couple returned to Albany for a short time, but then they moved to a home across from the military headquarters in New Windsor, NY.
While Hamilton worked to further his political career and become a lawyer, Schuyler would return to Albany and quickly discover that she was pregnant. The couple's first child, Philip, was born in January 1782.
Later that year, Hamilton applied for the chance to take the bar exam and become a lawyer. Based on his service as aide-de-camp to Washington, the court granted his application. Hamilton passed the bar exam in October 1782.
Hamilton, along with Aaron Burr, set up separate law offices in New York City in 1783. Since New York State's highest court at the time was located in Albany, Hamilton would travel there often in the following years. He would typically stay at the Schuyler Estate with his in-laws.
In 1789, Hamilton was named the first Secretary of the Treasury by President George Washington. From then on, Hamilton and his family moved between Albany, New York City, and Philadelphia.
Alexander Hamilton's personal connection to the City of Albany is a unique part of the area's history. As a result of his marriage of Elizabeth Schuyler, Albany became a second home during his lifetime.
In 2016, the Albany County Convention & Visitors Bureau and the Schuyler Mansion State Historic Site highlighted Hamilton's connection to the city with tours and exhibits. They even created a brochure that allows you to follow Hamilton's footsteps through Albany.
Today, Hamilton's popularity has spread thanks to Ron Chernow's biography and the musical "Hamilton," and more and more people are discovering his special connection to the City of Albany.
- The Miriam and Ira D. Wallach Division of Art, Prints and Photographs: Print Collection, The New York Public Library. "Alexander Hamilton" The New York Public Library Digital Collections. http://digitalcollections.nypl.org/items/510d47da-3080-a3d9-e040-e00a18064a99
- The Miriam and Ira D. Wallach Division of Art, Prints and Photographs: Print Collection, The New York Public Library. "Mrs. Alexander Hamilton."The New York Public Library Digital Collections. http://digitalcollections.nypl.org/items/510d47da-2b6e-a3d9-e040-e00a18064a99