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Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Hamilton: Founding Father and Broadway Star

Cover image of the book Alexander Hamilton by Ron ChernowWant to learn more about Alexander Hamilton and the mega-hit Broadway musical based on his life?  (You can watch it online through 11/18.) MCPL has the resources to get you started!

At 700+ pages, Ron Chernow’s compelling biography, Alexander Hamilton, was the inspiration behind Lin-Manuel Miranda’s musical. Chernow brings to life Hamilton’s Dickensian childhood in the West Indies as an orphaned illegitimate child, as well as his early struggles and successes in New York as war with Britain foments. He describes Hamilton’s vital role in the Revolutionary War as General Washington’s Aide-de-Camp, and his combative interactions with Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, and John Adams as they worked to build the fledgling nation. Chernow relays Hamilton’s evolving understanding of economic and political theory and how it shaped his decisions as America’s first Treasury Secretary—and later, the great tragedies that befall his life and lead to an early death in a duel with nemesis Aaron Burr.

Cover image of the book Alexander Hamilton the Outsider by Jean Fritz
While Chernow’s work is a tour-de-force, you may be interested in other biographies of Hamilton. MCPL’s collection also includes writings by Hamilton such as the Federalist Papers, a remarkable collection of 85 essays by Hamilton, John Jay and James Madison from 1788 that encouraged citizens to ratify the U.S. Constitution. For children and teens, MCPL holds several biographies, including award-winning author Jean Fritz’s Alexander Hamilton: The Outsider.

Want to know more about the genesis of the celebrated musical? As described on PBS, Lin-Manuel Miranda bought a copy of Chernow’s Hamilton in 2008 en route to his vacation. He immediately envisioned the possibility of a musical—and given Hamilton’s outsider status, outsized ambition and sense of honor—writing a hip hop score. Hamilton: The Revolution, co-written by Miranda, gives an insider’s view of the creative process, with essays, interviews, photos and lyrics. Miranda spent the next 6 years working on Hamilton, taking a full year to write the opening song, which he famously presented at the White House in 2009.

If you’re interested in the music score, MCPL holds copies of Hamilton: An American Musical. You can borrow the soundtrack through our Marina interlibrary loan service, or go to the label’s official page for lyrics and song excerpts. If Hamilton has piqued an interest in rap and hip-hop, listen to and download artists’ works such as Notorious B.I.G., DMX and Jay-Z on Freegal, MCPL’s free music download service. MCPL also has books on the history of rap and hip hop.

The national tour of Hamilton is scheduled to stop at the Kennedy Center in DC in June 2018 (!) For now, it continues its Broadway run, and opened in Chicago this past fall. If you happen to be in Manhattan, you can visit Hamilton's home, the Grange, and stop by his family’s burial sites at Trinity Church. The dueling ground where both Hamilton and his son were fatally shot is across the Hudson River in Weehawken, NJ.

Happy Hamilton-mania!

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