Hamilton: An American Musical has been the focus of much theatrical and historical praise, critique, and commentary since its off-Broadway premiere in February 2015. The discussion has only intensified since the show opened on Broadway in August of that year. In September 2016, the musical's composer, lyricist, and star, Lin-Manuel Miranda; its director, Thomas Kail; and its historical consultant, Ron Chernow, were awarded the 2016 Records of Achievement Award from the National Archives Foundation, following the presentation of the Society of American Archivists' J. Franklin Jameson Archival Advocacy Award to Miranda and Chernow the previous summer. Other prizes have included the 2016 Pulitzer Prize for Drama and eleven Tony Awards. The popularity and acclaim of the musical, as well as its use of historical documents to tell its story, merit an examination from an archival perspective. How are records used and represented in Hamilton? Taking as a foundation (though not as a framework) the “iconography of archives” first outlined by Barbara Craig and James O'Toole and since updated by Lindsay Mattock and Eleanor Mattern, this article examines records' presence both onstage and in the narrative of Hamilton. Records are used as props and appear as subjects throughout the show's two acts. Records are also represented as historical evidence, providing the authority for the historically inspired story onstage. Yet, at the same time, Hamilton depicts the archival record as incomplete, asking audiences to reflect on the constructed nature of “who lives, who dies, who tells your story.”
Since premiering off-Broadway at New York City's Public Theater in February 2015, Hamilton: An American Musical has been the focus of ongoing praise and commentary.1 Through a mix of hip-hop, pop music, and traditional Broadway ballads, the show tells the life story of America's first treasury secretary, Alexander Hamilton. From his impoverished birth in the Caribbean, to his service as George Washington's aide-de-camp and Cabinet member, to his fatal duel with Vice President Aaron Burr, a diverse cast of African American, Latino/a, Asian American, and white actors conveys the story on stage. (For a plot summary of the musical, see Appendix.) The musical transferred to Broadway and opened at the Richard Rogers Theater in August 2015, where it has been performed to sell-out crowds at record-breaking ticket prices.2 Lin-Manuel Miranda, the creator and star of Hamilton, has been awarded a Pulitzer Prize, MacArthur Genius Grant, Washington Book Prize, Grammy Award, and multiple Tony Awards for his work on the musical. The cast and creative team received a record-breaking sixteen nominations for the 2016 Tony Awards and walked away with eleven wins, including Miranda's. Historians and cultural commentators alike have weighed in on the show's historical (in)accuracies.3 Critiques and praise have both been leveled at the musical's “race-conscious” casting and the impact of seeing a multiracial cast depicting the Founding Fathers.4 Both cultural heritage institutions and schoolteachers have jumped at the popularity of Hamilton to increase their outreach. The Rockefeller Foundation partnered with Hamilton producers and the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History to provide low-cost tickets to matinee performances for New York City's public school students; in early 2016 the New York Public Library mounted an exhibition entitled Alexander Hamilton: Striver, Statesman, Scoundrel featuring an original draft of George Washington's Farewell Address, a document that receives its own song in the show (“One Last Time”); the New-York Historical Society created a Summer of Hamilton series of exhibitions and events that opened in July 2016; and even Colonial Williamsburg advertised its living history with a tagline from the show: “Be in the room where it REALLY happened.”5
In the midst of this cultural and scholarly discussion about the interpretation of American Revolutionary history for a broad audience, it merits asking how Hamilton portrays documentary heritage. In June 2016, the Society of American Archivists announced Miranda and the show's historical consultant (and Hamilton biographer) Ron Chernow as the recipients of the J. Franklin Jameson Archival Advocacy Award.6 The following September, the National Archives Foundation awarded Miranda, the musical's director Thomas Kail, and Hamilton biographer Ron Chernow with its Records of Achievement Award, an annual recognition of cultural work that “foster[s] a broader national awareness of the history and identity of the United States through the use of original National Archives records.”7 While reporting on this latest accolade, Washington Post journalist Emily Heil commented, “The Archives . . . is forever at risk of being seen as history's dusty attic. Honoring the pop culture juggernaut that is ‘Hamilton’ was the obvious choice.”8 Even when tied directly to cultural heritage institutions, the notion of archives as closed, locked away, and dead is reflected in popular discussion of the musical. In a Hamilton-themed episode of the CBS news show 60 Minutes, the broadcast cuts away from an interview with Miranda to the stacks of the New-York Historical Society. Reporter Charlie Rose intoned: “For years, the story of Burr and Hamilton was hidden away in places like this, the New-York Historical Society Library. It holds many of their original writings.”9 In his review of the off-Broadway iteration of the play, New York Times theater critic Ben Brantley wrote that “Hamilton . . . persuasively transfers a thoroughly archived past into an unconditional present tense,” a phrase that elicits a sense of archives as both dead and uninteresting.10 Historians have written with more care and insight about the relationship between primary sources and the historical narrative of Hamilton, largely in terms of women's history and the vibrancy of women's voices onstage in contrast to the largely silent documentary record.11 Generally, however, the notion of archives as inaccessible mirrors the discussion of how the musical subverts the picture of “the stately figures of high school history books,” in Brantley's words, by making historical figures rap and dance to modern music.12 Rather than being dead, past, and uninteresting, the times and writings of Alexander Hamilton are given life and presence in an engaging, genre-shifting Broadway production.
In both the songs and staging of Hamilton, records are a cipher for the history presented. Historical documents are used as set dressing and props, as plot devices, and as historical subjects. Pamphlets and letters—each meticulously re-created with period-accurate stories and detail—literally litter both the stage and movable set pieces. Correspondence between characters is sung for dramatic effect. In the set-up to the culminating duel between Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr, the two men sing out their signatures as they exchange letters arranging for their meeting in Weehawken: “I have the honor to be Your Obedient Servant, / A dot Ham . . . A dot Burr.”13 Select historical documents, such as Washington's 1796 Farewell Address and Hamilton's 1797 Reynolds Pamphlet, are quoted at length. Alexander Hamilton is characterized within the musical as a man defined by his written output. The documents onstage and in song create the mise-en-scène of the title character's written world.
In Hamilton, records are also represented as historical authority and historical evidence. Although the story presented by Lin-Manuel Miranda, his company, and his creative team is art, not historiography, it is mired in the documents, quotes, history books, and anecdotes encircling the Founding Fathers. Ron Chernow, author of the biography Alexander Hamilton that inspired Miranda to write the hip-hop story of a signer of the Constitution, is credited as a member of the musical's creative team. As multiple historians have noted, the play is also highly conscious of the dual complexities of historical memory and narrative-making.14 Intentionally inviting people of color to embody the characters of America's Founding Fathers and to claim power over the narrative presented onstage is one expression of this consciousness, but records have a part to play, as well.15 In one act 2 song in particular (“Burn”), the character of Eliza Schuyler Hamilton sings about the absence of records and the silences in the archive. The character literally burns her letters—her documentary record—every night onstage while singing, “I'm erasing myself from the narrative. / Let future historians wonder how Eliza reacted.”16 Miranda gives her character a voice at a moment when her historical counterpart has none. Records, in Hamilton, provide the underlying authority on which Miranda built the edifice of the musical's story; they represent the evidence of the archived history he depicted. These very records are placed and quoted onstage to inform characterizations and provide historical verisimilitude. Yet the same records, and the spaces left in the archives around them, are also depicted as subjective and incomplete. The show relies on the historical authority inherent in archival records while simultaneously subverting their power.
Very little has been written about the representation of archives and records in popular culture. Archives in fiction, archivists in television and cinema, and records in Western art have been covered sporadically in the archival literature.17 Recently, Lindsay Mattock and Eleanor Mattern discussed the Academy Award–winning films Argo, Lincoln, and Zero Dark Thirty in “Looking at Archives in Cinema: Recent Representations of Records in Motion Pictures.” Mattock and Mattern outlined six ways records are depicted in moving images: “as props, as representations of specific documents, as the central subject . . . as informational objects that are created and used,” and as production choices that incorporate “the integration of original documentation into the films themselves, and the use of source material that has an affective influence on the mise-en-scène.”18 Mattock and Mattern were themselves building off of earlier work done by Barbara Craig and James O'Toole, whose article “Looking at Archives in Art” provided three structural frameworks for defining the representation of records in Anglo-American portraiture.19 The medium of focus (art vs. film) in each article matters a great deal to how records are understood as information artifacts. For Craig and O'Toole, the presence of records in a painting functions as a “symbolic shorthand,” providing necessary information about power and social relationships.20 In Mattock and Mattern's analysis, the representation of records is of interest for what it demonstrates about evidentiary value and authenticity in historically inspired films. Records can be simply props or set dressing and can perform a narrative function, but Mattock and Mattern also witness actual archival records—such as the sound of Lincoln's pocket watch in Lincoln or news footage from the Iranian hostage crisis in Argo—incorporated into cinema in a manner difficult or impossible to replicate in another medium.21 The impact of Hamilton and the inescapable presence of records in its story demand an examination of how documents are depicted in the musical. The “iconography of archives” presented by Craig/O'Toole and Mattock/Mattern provides a useful starting point. Yet as theater, rather than as cinema or visual art, the use and representation of records in Hamilton necessitates its own framework of understanding.22 The play demonstrates not only the utility of records as set dressing, but examines (directly and indirectly) the relationship between history, memory/story, and archives. Whether as props, as subjects, or as evidence, the documents onstage in Hamilton represent and reinforce the message the play intends to convey about history itself: the story, as written and as archived, is real but incomplete. The presence of records onstage and in song is used to tell the theatrical story of Alexander Hamilton, but ultimately, in the words of the musical's George Washington, “You have no control / Who lives, who dies, who tells your story.”23
Part 1: Records as Props and as Subjects
Paper abounds on the stage of Hamilton. Quills, books, and documents are used constantly and repetitively to inform the eighteenth-century world inhabited by the play's major characters. “You can see, papers are so important in our story,” Lin-Manuel Miranda told Charlie Rose as he led the reporter on a back-stage tour of the Richard Rogers Theater.24 Their conversation was broadcast on CBS online as a “60 Minutes Overtime” special. Miranda pulled out prop copies of Aaron Burr's presidential campaign pamphlets from the election of 1800, a letter from Thomas Jefferson informing President Washington of his resignation from the Cabinet, and the farewell letter Hamilton writes to his wife Elizabeth (called “Eliza” in the show) before his fatal duel with Burr. Miranda also showed Rose a larger prop: a portable writing desk containing papers, pen, and ink blotter, featured in the act 1 song “Stay Alive” as Hamilton is depicted writing George Washington's battlefield correspondence. The documentary presence onstage also serves to emphasize the musical's characterization of Hamilton as a man who “write[s] like [he's] running out of time.”25 Hamilton's writing talents enabled him to leave St. Croix as an adolescent, when his published poetry inspired neighbors to raise a scholarship for his education, enabling him to leave the Caribbean for New Jersey and, eventually, New York. (This moment is narrated in the opening number of the musical, “Alexander Hamilton.”) Hamilton next serves as Washington's wartime secretary, where he is offered a quill pen rather than a gun in order to “not thro[w] away [his] shot” at rising in the world.26 At the close of act 1, Hamilton's contribution to the Federalist Papers is emphasized in a rare moment of plain speech, rather than song; Hamilton authored fifty-one out of eighty-five Federalist essays.27 At the close of the show, Eliza Hamilton sings, “I try to make sense of your thousands of pages of writings. / You really do write like you're running out of time.”28 Records are used as props onstage and in song to reinforce and inform this characterization.
In some cases, prop documents stand in as proxies for real historical records; the letter from Hamilton to Elizabeth in which he calls her “best of wives and best of women” (also the title of the song in which it appears) resides at Columbia University.29 In the case of other documents, such as the papers tucked into the portable writing desk, they exist simply as set dressing, reinforcing the narrative being created onstage. In Hamilton, records are used as visual props, covering desks and emphasizing the heavy presence of letters, pamphlets, and other forms of print culture in the American Revolutionary world—to which the historical and fictional Hamiltons markedly contributed.30 Records also appear as narrative props or plot devices, their presence and content announced in song. And in three particular moments within the musical, archived records are themselves the subjects of narrative focus and the topic of specific songs: “One Last Time,” “The Reynolds Pamphlet,” and “Best of Wives and Best of Women.”
Records as stage props
In the opening number of the musical, “Alexander Hamilton,” the title character is presented with a desk covered in papers, quills, and books. He picks up a quill pen and begins to tally mercantile items in a St. Croix clerk's office. Barrels, crates, and paper receipts circle him in the hands of ensemble dancers. This pattern is repeated throughout the show, with the character of Hamilton sitting at a desk, pen in hand, papers in front of him, or with documents moving around the stage as the ensemble shares news or exchanges letters. Records in this sense are used as set dressing and as stage props held or seen by the show's company of actors.
As set dressing, papers cover not only Hamilton's boyhood desk in a Caribbean clerk's office but his act 2 desk as a lawyer and presidential Cabinet member. This large-scale prop appears when Hamilton is working at home, such as in the songs “Take a Break” and “Say No to This.” George Washington is also provided a desk covered in papers to reflect his roles as general (in act 1) and president (in act 2). A prop re-creation of a map by the Comte de Rochambeau lies across his battlefield desk in the song “Right Hand Man.”31 As reported by theater journalist Jeremy McCarter in his official history of the musical's creation (which accompanies the full published libretto by Miranda), actor Christopher Jackson, who originated the role of George Washington, asked the show's set designer for more papers and books to be placed on the general's desk to reflect the busyness of Washington during the Revolutionary War.32
In addition to being used as set dressing, individual papers are also used as handheld visual props. In “The Schuyler Sisters,” Hamilton's soon-to-be sister-in-law, Angelica Schuyler, carries a paper with her as she sings about the Revolutionary “ideas in the air.”33 In “Yorktown (The World Turned Upside Down),” Eliza Hamilton is seen walking across the stage, a letter in her hand, as her husband reflects on his willingness to die for the cause of American independence. Her appearance signals that his youthful visions of martyrdom have changed—“Then I remember my Eliza's expecting me”—but the prop letter she holds is not identified; it is possibly the letter recalling Hamilton to military service after a break with Washington.34 In “The Election of 1800,” Aaron Burr is depicted handing out presidential campaign pamphlets to men and women on the streets of New York. “Shake hands with him! / Charm her! / It's eighteen hundred, ladies, tell your husbands vote for Burr!” he sings. According to the published libretto, the stage direction accompanying this action reads only: “Burr campaigns in earnest.”35
Records are used most vividly in this visual manner in “Non-Stop,” a song that chronicles the events between 1781 (the Battle of Yorktown) and 1789 (Washington's first presidential administration). This number closes act 1 and carries the audience through the establishment of Hamilton's law practice, his attendance at the Constitutional Convention, his co-authorship of the Federalist Papers, and his invitation to serve as secretary of the treasury under President Washington. The song's refrain, first voiced by Aaron Burr and eventually echoed by the entire company, emphasizes Hamilton's written output:
As this refrain crescendos, Hamilton picks up a quill from one ensemble member and a piece of paper from another. He sits down at a makeshift desk (a detached tabletop) held aloft by the ensemble, who encircle him to witness his actions.37 The blank sheet of paper in “Non-Stop” represents no specific historical document or even document type, though an argument can be made for it representing Hamilton's extensive contribution to the Federalist Papers. Regardless, its physical presence onstage reinforces the lyric and provides both a visual key to the characterization of Hamilton as well as visual interest for the audience.
There exists an intentionality to these physical props. The introduction of these objects, as in any artistic creation, provides visual clues to the audience about the story or character presented; this is as true for art and cinema as it is for theater.38 The sparse stage design of Hamilton requires that an actor or ensemble member move most pieces of furniture and every physical prop on and offstage.39 To include a piece of paper in the staging of a musical number, therefore, requires action on behalf of the prop master, stage manager, director and/or choreographer, and single or multiple actors, at the very least. This intentionality extends to the design of the props themselves. The newspapers, pamphlets, and letters present onstage are created with period-accurate detail and are designed to look like sheepskin, parchment, or rag paper. The detail extends to the wax seals used to sign and close letters. Hamilton and Washington are each given individualized seals, though this detail is too small to be seen off of the stage.40 The visual props of Hamilton provide context for the actors, as well as for the audience.
Records as narrative props
In Hamilton, a distinction is made between records as physical, or visual, onstage props and records as narrative props. A narrative prop, in this case, is one that is discussed or mentioned within the text of the musical. It can also be thought of as a plot device, moving the narrative forward. An early example of this type of records use comes in the song “Helpless,” in which Eliza Schuyler narrates her courtship with Hamilton: “One week later, / I'm writin' a letter nightly / Now my life gets better, every letter that you write me.”41 While letters do appear as handheld props onstage here, their inclusion in the lyric of the song illustrates the nature of the couple's rapid courtship and encourages the audience to believe in the strength of Hamilton and Eliza's love. By the end of the song, the two characters, who just met, are married. Similarly, in the act 2 opener, the character of Thomas Jefferson is introduced with the song “What'd I Miss?” Jefferson sings of catching up on America's political landscape since his return from France in 1789: “There's a letter on my desk from the president. . . . It says the president's assembling a cabinet / And that I am to be the secretary of state, great. / And that I'm already Senate-approved.”42 The letter announces to the character and to the listening audience Jefferson's new role and working relationship with the political elite, including Washington and Hamilton. This song moves directly from Monticello to a Cabinet meeting in the temporary capital city of New York, where the newly minted Secretary Jefferson and Secretary Hamilton begin the political antagonism that will carry forward much of the second act (“Cabinet Battle #1”). Letters are not the only document type to be used as narrative props. In the song “Schuyler Defeated,” a young Philip Hamilton holds out a newspaper and sings, “Look! Grampa's in the paper! ‘War hero Philip Schuyler loses Senate seat to young upstart Aaron Burr!’”43
The most vivid example of the use of records as narrative props is in the song “Say No to This.” In this number, Hamilton narrates the beginning of an adulterous affair with Maria Reynolds, which would become the first sex scandal in American political history. After describing their first encounter, Hamilton sings: “A month into this endeavor I received a letter / From a Mr. James Reynolds, even better, it said—” Here, the song is picked up by James Reynolds:
Hamilton ends the interlude, but not the song, with the line “I hid the letter.” 44 This document serves as a plot device, revealing a problem Hamilton now has to solve: how to keep James Reynolds from sharing his indiscretions with Eliza Hamilton and the American public.45 That a third party knows about the affair and that evidence for it exists in written form (so shameful it must be hidden away) becomes crucial to Hamilton's character arc later in the second act, when this letter once again appears. Having traced regular payments to Reynolds, Hamilton's political enemies accuse him of speculation using government funds (“We Know”). To prove his innocence of that charge, Hamilton produces Reynolds's letter, and Aaron Burr reads from it: “Dear sir, I hope this letter finds you in good health. . . . ”46 Thus begins a climactic series of songs. To defend himself against the false charge, Hamilton decides to publish a pamphlet detailing his affair (“Hurricane”). This action means the end of his political career (“The Reynolds Pamphlet”) and an emotional rupture with his wife (“Burn”). While this line of events begins with Hamilton's adultery rather than with Reynolds's letter, that piece of correspondence plays an important narrative function.
In all three of these examples, the sung records are also given physical form. Eliza joyfully receives courtship letters from Hamilton and carefully stores them away. An ensemble dancer picks up the appointment letter from President Washington to a newly arrived Jefferson, holding it in front of his face to be read aloud.47 In “Say No to This,” Hamilton unfolds and reads a prop letter as the actor portraying James Reynolds sings its textual content. The use of records as narrative props also appears as sung correspondence in the songs “Take a Break” and “Your Obedient Servant.” In these songs, single letters are not the focus of the narrative discussion. Instead, two characters carry on a conversation in the form of a letter exchange. In “Take a Break,” Hamilton writes to his sister-in-law Angelica Schuyler Church. He sings, “My dearest Angelica,” and Angelica responds with “My dearest Alexander.”48 The conventions of letter writing are structured into the song: an opening salvo, a response to the first writer's comments (in this case, on Hamilton's political fights with Jefferson and James Madison), then the introduction of new information on a new topic (Angelica's upcoming trip home to New York). “Your Obedient Servant” serves the purpose of setting up the climactic duel between Hamilton and Burr. In this song, the two lead characters exchange letters outlining their grievances and defending their honor. Burr begins, “Dear Alexander, / I am slow to anger, / But I toe the line / As I reckon with the effects of your life on mine.”49 Each letter ends with the historically-accurate sign-off, “I have the honor to be Your Obedient Servant, / A dot Ham . . . A dot Burr.”50 Far more formally structured than the exchange between Hamilton and Angelica, the correspondence between Hamilton and Burr represents a particular eighteenth-century document type: the letter of inquiry.51 This sung record (also physically embodied onstage in held props that are written, exchanged, and read) carries the plot forward from Burr's wounded honor directly to the dueling ground at Weehawken while simultaneously conveying to the audience information about how such duels were formally arranged.
The distinction between records as visual props and as narrative props is valuable because the latter are sung, in addition to seen. As a Broadway musical, and as one that is predominantly sung-through, the story of Hamilton is accessible to the public both as a stage show and as a cast recording. For individuals whose access to Hamilton is limited to the Grammy-winning, platinum-label certified cast album, the presence of these records is only heard in song. Although these documents are typically present onstage in physical prop form, their utility in telling the story of the show's characters does not depend on their physicality. This is demonstrated in the presence of sung correspondence, as in “Your Obedient Servant,” where Hamilton and Burr sing the written manifestations of their signatures; the written “A. Burr” becomes, verbally, “A dot Burr.” This turns the song itself, and not a handheld prop, into a proxy for the record. Additionally, as a piece of theater, the depiction of the scripted libretto onstage is not fixed. In future productions of the show—at high schools, regional theater companies, and internationally—the physical presence of records onstage cannot be taken for granted. That they remain audible in song keeps their narrative presence central to the story presented in Hamilton.52
Records as subjects
While the letter exchange between Hamilton and Burr historically took place, the documents seen and quoted in the musical are fictionalized versions designed to draw the narrative forward. Yet, in three particular songs in Hamilton, single, extant records move beyond a role as plot devices into use as full subjects of the narrative. “One Last Time” focuses on George Washington's 1796 Farewell Address, of which Hamilton drafted an early copy. “The Reynolds Pamphlet” depicts Hamilton's public admission of his affair with Maria Reynolds.53 “Best of Wives and Best of Women” is the third and last song fitting this category. A soft and emotional narrative transition, the short song finds Hamilton composing his farewell letter to his wife Eliza, to be delivered to her in the event he loses his duel with Burr. The historical letter closes with the line: “Adieu best of wives and best of Women. Embrace all my darling Children for me.”54
In all three of these songs, the creation of the historical document is itself the narrative subject. Instead of abstracted representations of historical documents being used in the service of moving the story forward (as in “Helpless” and “What'd I Miss?”), the real archival record becomes a focus of the narrative. Emphasizing the authenticity of these documents, each of these records is quoted directly by the characters onstage. In the case of Washington's Farewell Address and the Reynolds Pamphlet, the documents are quoted at length. In “One Last Time,” Hamilton begins to narrate extended phrases from the Farewell Address, the words eventually being overtaken by Washington in song.55 Stylistically, this exchange conveys the existence of two historical records: Hamilton's draft and Washington's final address. “The Reynolds Pamphlet” is set up by the song “Hurricane,” in which Hamilton decides that “writ[ing] his way out” is “the only way [he] can protect [his] legacy” as his political enemies threaten him with scandal, exposure, and potential misrepresentation of the facts.56 As the downbeat of “The Reynolds Pamphlet” hits, his adversaries ask the audience, “Have you read this?” and proceed to quote from the historical record: “The charge against me is a connection with one James Reynolds! / For purposes of improper speculation. / My real crime is an amorous connection with his wife / For a considerable time with his knowing consent.”57 “Best of Wives and Best of Women,” which is under a minute in length, limits its quotation to that titular phrase. The creation of these documents (which reside, respectively, at the New York Public Library, the New-York Historical Society [among other locations], and Columbia University) is part of the story of Hamilton's life, and is thus depicted onstage.
From the first to the last scenes in the show, Alexander Hamilton is defined as a writer above all else. In a very real sense, Hamilton's writings originally inspired Miranda to create the musical. At the first public performance of music from what was then called The Hamilton Mixtape at the White House in 2009, Miranda defined Hamilton's many positions of power as based “all on the strength of his writing.” That strength was what enabled him to become Washington's aide-de-camp and eventually a Cabinet member—a dramatic rise for the orphaned, illegitimate son of impoverished parents.58 The emphasis on writing as the theme of Hamilton's story is also what connected it, for Miranda, to the genre of hip-hop, the musical form that predominates in the show. “This is a guy who wrote his way out of his circumstances from the get-go,” Miranda told the New York Times in February 2015. “That is part and parcel with the hip-hop narrative: writing your way out of your circumstances.”59 The use of records as props and as subjects informs this characterization of Hamilton; on stage he is constantly surrounded by documents or depicted writing them. Even the undifferentiated costumes worn by the ensemble dancers are defined as “parchment-toned” by McCarter.60 Although “mise-en-scène” is a descriptive idea applied mostly (though not exclusively) to cinema and other moving images, it is applicable here in the sense of the evocation of time, scene, and themes informed by the production's creative choices. The play itself, both visually and aurally, constantly reinforces the relationship between Alexander Hamilton and the documentary record he left behind.
Part 2: Records as Historical Authority
The use of real documents and extensive quotation lends a sense of authority to the story playing out onstage in Hamilton. As a sung-through musical, conversations and interactions not only occur in song, but events are also narrated by participants and by onlookers instead of conveyed exclusively through scripting or staging.61 The documents present onstage reinforce the narrative being told; letters appear when they are sung of, and these same letters are used to narrate the events that make up the plot of Hamilton. “Say No to This” is a particularly illustrative example. Hamilton's own narration of his affair is confirmed and forwarded by his receipt of James Reynolds's letter, which appears both visually and in song. In highlighting a particular historical document, “One Last Time” is especially effective in linking the documentary record to the dramatic relationships presented onstage. While orchestrations continue to play, Hamilton's drafted words of Washington's Farewell Address are spoken, not sung, emphasizing their uniqueness and authenticity; they are Hamilton's and Washington's words, not Miranda's. Records are used to communicate the narrative onstage, but they are also represented as evidence for the historical nature of that narrative. Stories about the creation of the musical itself additionally emphasize the historical record. Yet, within Hamilton, the representation of the documentary record is more implicit than explicit. Though documents are incorporated into the staging and lyrics, subtler uses convey the evidentiary basis for the musical's characterizations of events and people. For instance, quotes historically spoken by the play's characters are written into song but are not highlighted for their authenticity. Despite the show's historical inaccuracies, records are represented onstage as conveyers of historical authority. Simultaneously, Hamilton directly confronts the implicit power dynamics of the archive and the history written out of it through its casting choices and through staging the destruction of documentary evidence in the song “Burn.”
The power and authority of records
Records are the authority for the historical narrative presented in Hamilton, according to both the written story of the musical's creation and the representation of documentation onstage. Discussions of the musical commonly note that Miranda was inspired by the 2004 biography Alexander Hamilton, written by historian Ron Chernow.62 Less emphasized—though certainly present in commentary—is the amount of research undertaken by Miranda in the writing of the play. “I want historians to take this seriously,” he is quoted as saying.63 Rebecca Mead noted in The New Yorker that Miranda read through the published works and correspondence of the historical Hamilton while writing the show. 64 He also leaned on historical works by Joanne Freeman, H. W. Brands, Joseph Ellis, and Jon Meacham, among others, in learning the biographies and social histories of the individuals and eras depicted onstage.65 This emphasis on historical research has lead historians to both acclaim the details presented and to highlight the inaccuracies in the narrative.66 Miranda's research into the historiography and documentary sources surrounding Alexander Hamilton not only informs the historical content of the show but also the use and representation of records onstage and in song.
Actual quotes (released from their document-type structures) are incorporated into lyrics throughout the musical, demonstrating Miranda's learned familiarity with the historical record. “Will you relish being a poor man's wife,” a line that appears in the song “That Would Be Enough,” originated in a courtship letter sent to Elizabeth Schuyler from Hamilton in August 1780.67 The historical Hamilton, at age fourteen, wrote “I wish there was a war.”68 This quote is rapped in the song “Aaron Burr, Sir,” which depicts Hamilton as itching to transcend his illegitimate birth and humble circumstances.69 “Are these the men with which I am to defend America?” Washington asks in “Right Hand Man,” a quote that is attributed to the general during his 1776 New York campaign.70 In “Burn,” Eliza Hamilton sings: “Do you know what Angelica said. . . ‘You have married an Icarus. / He has flown too close to the sun.’” While not a direct quote, Miranda's annotation to the libretto at this point reads: “Chernow found a letter from Angelica to Eliza that says pretty much this.”71 Incorporating these and other quotes into the musical's lyrics informs the characterizations of the show's characters. It taps into the shorthand of the pre-existing documentary record for contextualization and content, rather than requiring Miranda to create new lyrics to convey the same thought. Such use of records also represents the historical underpinnings at work in this bio-musical.72
A similar reflection of the documentary heritage supporting Hamilton is visible in the published libretto of the play. Accompanying McCarter's histories and Miranda's lyrics are backstage and production photographs, scans of Miranda's writing notebooks, and sketches of costume designs.73 Multiple archival images, such as of the Schuyler mansion in upstate New York and an engraving of George III, supplement the discussion of Miranda's fictionalized versions of the historical people that populate the play.74 Also included are digitized pictures of the covers of Hamilton's “A Farmer Refuted” essay, Federalist No. 1, and the “Reynolds Pamphlet.”75 Visually incorporating these records into the official history of Hamilton immediately conveys authority to the narrative presented within the show. “A Farmer Refuted” is depicted onstage (though as an oratorical battle, not a pamphlet war), and the existence and physicality of the historical document is presented to the reading audience by way of demonstrating the authenticity and scholarly vigor supporting the theatrical transformation of the historical narrative. The “Reynolds Pamphlet” also appears in the written history of the musical to illustrate not only the original context and forms of the play's interpretations (as does the engraving of George III), but also to affirm the validity of this version of the story.76 Alexander Hamilton did, indeed, write and publish a pamphlet admitting to adultery. Actual historical documents not only appear onstage or in song, but also support the overarching narrative of the play. Records, both onstage and off, contain evidentiary value for telling a story.
Within the text of the show, the musical's characters also make an argument for the evidentiary value of records. Returning to “Say No to This” and “The Reynolds Pamphlet,” Hamilton uses the hidden letter from James Reynolds to convince his political enemies of the falsity of their accusations of speculation and the truth of his real crime, adultery. In “We Know,” Hamilton faces his accusers and sings, “My papers are orderly. / As you can see I kept a record of every check in my checkered history. Check it again against your list 'n see consistency.”77 Without these records, the song implies, Hamilton's antagonists would not believe his account. As it is written, they do. The affirmative evidential value of historical records is, apart from these lines in “We Know,” not made explicit onstage. Instead, the theme of records as authority is implied through the constant presence of documents as props, in songs where events are being narrated, and with the presence of three historical documents in the narrative. To those who peek below the surface, the rich documentary heritage undergirding the history of the Revolutionary era and informing the story told in Hamilton is visible in references to the books read and the archival sources consulted.
The subversion of archival power
Despite the authority given to archival records in Hamilton, the very people telling the musical story of this Founding Father are un- or under-represented in the archival tradition: women and racial minorities.78 In the original Broadway cast, Latino and black actors portrayed the lead characters of Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr, respectively. African American men likewise portrayed the first three presidents of the United States—George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and James Madison, all Virginian slaveowners. Of all the major characters in the show, a white actor plays only one, King George III.79 While receiving praise, this creative decision is not universally applauded and has several compelling critics among scholars of the era, who are particularly alarmed at the absence of historical characters of color in the musical. This absence, they argue, is a continuation of the erasure of people of color from the American national narrative.80 Despite this valid criticism, the show's director, Thomas Kail, defends this casting choice by claiming that Hamilton tells “a story of America then, told by America now.”81 The choice also allows rap, described by those involved in the show as “a revolutionary language to describe a revolution,” to be performed by those who originally created and embodied the musical form of hip-hop.82 The presence of black and brown bodies onstage is designed to collapse historical distance. It skips over the documentary record and accesses modern America's image and sounds. Both McCarter and Miranda emphasize this theme in their defense of both the play's diverse casting and the anachronistic use of hip-hop. “American history can be told and retold, claimed and reclaimed, even by people who don't look like George Washington and Betsy Ross,” wrote McCarter in explaining the use of hip-hop samples and classic musical theater shout-outs throughout the show's lyrics and orchestrations.83 In Miranda's words, “That's this whole show. . . . Ron [Chernow] tells you a story and he's the star of the story. I tell you a story and I'm the star of the story. History is entirely created by the person who tells the story.”84 The musical's casting choices reflect a claiming of the right to tell a history that has been reserved for white men, based on the evidential authority of the documentary record. Those who preserve the archive assert control over the telling of a historical story, as well. As archival theorists Joan Schwartz and Terry Cook put it, “Archives . . . are the basis for and validation of the stories we tell ourselves, the story-telling narratives that give cohesion and meaning to individuals, groups, and societies.”85
The relationship between narrative, representation, and documentary power is explicitly addressed in the act 2 song “Burn.” Immediately following “The Reynolds Pamphlet,” “Burn” is sung by Eliza Hamilton as she reacts to her husband's public admission of adultery. Alone on stage with a lantern, pail, and prop letters, she sings:
As Eliza sings, she lights her prop papers on fire and throws them into the pail. The dramaturgical device Miranda uses to convey Eliza's heartbreak is the documentary record. Opening the song with the reference to the courtship letters she cherished back in “Helpless,” Eliza recalls further pain as she notes the preserved and published correspondence sent from Maria Reynolds to Hamilton and the shame of the published and distributed pamphlet. Finally, she burns the letters, both in song and onstage—thus keeping them from the public eye.
“Burn” simultaneously undercuts the authority of records while deliberately noting that records have power as historical evidence. In requiring “future historians [to] wonder” how she responded to the events depicted onstage, Eliza states that scholars rely on the documentary record to understand the past. The act of burning letters and creating a gap of knowledge in this record is an observation and demonstration of the silences of women's voices in the archive. Similar silences exist for people of color and other minorities, who are also given narrative power in this show. In staging the destruction of records, Hamilton asserts not only the reliance of official history on the archival record (a reliance that both Miranda and Chernow took advantage of), but the power of women (and people of color) to tell historical stories without the hard evidence present in archives. Eliza's actions are shown in direct opposition to Hamilton's desires to “protect [his] legacy” through publication, as he sings in the song “Hurricane.” In the narrative of “Burn,” Eliza's destructive decision flows directly from her reflections on Hamilton's words in the published “Reynolds Pamphlet” and his obsession with controlling how present and future critics “perceive” him. Eliza Hamilton makes a choice about how her story will be told; she claims power over future interpretations of her life by “erasing [her]self from the narrative.” Both the historical Elizabeth and the fictional Eliza chose to destroy elements of the record in order to control future perceptions of her and her husband.87 In much the same way as Hamilton places African Americans in the roles of white slaveholders, the silence of Eliza's female voice in the archival record becomes a visual subversion of a presumed power dynamic and an assertion that the populations un- or underrepresented in archival collections retain power over the telling of history.88
The theme of Hamilton is “who lives, who dies, who tells your story.”89 This phrase first appears in act 1, when Washington reminds Hamilton to be cautious of his legacy on the eve of the Battle of Yorktown: “Let me tell you what I wish I'd known, / When I was young and dreamed of glory. / You have no control. / Who lives, who dies, who tells your story.”90 This theme returns to close the musical. In the finale, “Who Lives, Who Dies, Who Tells Your Story,” Jefferson, Madison, and Burr reflect on the legacy of Hamilton's political achievements. Eliza Hamilton steps in to conclude the song and the show. As Chernow depicted her in his biography, it was Elizabeth Hamilton who fought to keep her husband's memory alive after his death.91 In Hamilton, she asks the audience, “And when my time is up? / Have I done enough? / Will they tell my story?”92 The process, complexities, and subjectivities of memory-making and historical narrative are on full display throughout the musical, culminating in this final moment. Miranda relied on the documentary record and, in turn, on those who consulted the archival collections of the Founding Fathers, to craft the particular narrative focus of Alexander Hamilton's life on display on the Broadway stage. He also took artistic liberties—from condensing timeframes for dramaturgical effect, to inserting contemporary beats and multiracial faces into the visual and aural image of Revolutionary America, to telling Elizabeth Hamilton's story when she had destroyed parts of her own documentary record. In Hamilton, records are depicted as having authority and power in an affirmative sense, yet their power is also undercut, represented not as misplaced, but as incomplete.
In “Looking at Archives in Cinema: Recent Representations of Records in Motion Pictures,” Lindsay Mattock and Eleanor Mattern provided a useful six-point framework for understanding how records are depicted in cinematic drama, building off of the three structural frameworks for Anglo-American portraiture outlined by Barbara Craig and James O'Toole in “Looking at Archives in Art.” According to Craig and O'Toole, looking at archives in art enables archivists to access cultural understandings of the “cultural context of information artifacts.”93 Mattock and Mattern sought to expand Craig and O'Toole's investigation of “the cultural penetration of archives,” ultimately concluding that the three films they analyzed highlight “the symbolic status of the archival record as a signifier of historical fact and truth.”94
As theater, Hamilton offers yet another perspective on the depiction of records in a cultural work. Theater as an art form is not fixed in the same ways as traditional portraiture or cinema. A scene can change performance to performance or production to production. When transformed into a cultural phenomenon, theater (particularly musical theater) can be accessed in multiple ways, only one of which is the most deliberate and complete: witnessing the performance onstage in the theater itself. Hamilton is known and accessed onstage at the Richard Rogers Theater, through its cast album, and through televised performances at the Grammys and Tony Awards. New, official productions are being mounted in Chicago, San Francisco, and London. A published libretto and vocal selections are also available in print.95 In each medium, history and records are centered. As in portraiture and cinema, records are used in Hamilton as props to set the scene and to inform the audience of the cultural world in which the action occurs; they create the mise-en-scène of the artwork. Records also carry information designed to be read and interpreted by the audience, providing narrative clues to the events and characters depicted. They are used as central subjects, and the creation (and destruction) of records are witnessed onstage—as in “One Last Time” and “Burn.” Records are also represented as conveyors of historical validity and verisimilitude. Where Hamilton differs, however, is in its focus on the power dynamics at play within the historical—and documentary—record. Although documents are portrayed as containing evidence and veracity, the musical also acknowledges the subjectivities of storytelling and archiving. The different points of access to Hamilton likewise encourage different views of the use and representation of records in its story.
In initiatives and programs around the country, Hamilton is generating an interest in American Revolutionary history. Ron Chernow's 2004 biography of Alexander Hamilton has climbed back onto the New York Times best-seller list.96 Rhetorical dust is being brushed off of history textbooks and cultural heritage institutions are cashing in on the popularity of the musical by orienting their outreach and advocacy efforts to the historical themes it raises. Records, in Hamilton, are a cipher for the history held and presented by these institutions. Examining the musical with an archival eye emphasizes the preponderance of records—both sung and seen—onstage, as well as the silences in archives. Lin-Manuel Miranda, his cast, and his creative team take the documentary record and the history written out of it seriously. They simultaneously assert the right to tell a story (a historical story, but not “official” history) when the documentary record in the archives is silent. Historians have praised Hamilton for demonstrating the subjectivities of memory-making and historical narrative. In their practice and scholarship, archivists are only beginning to confront this issue.97 Yet the centrality of documents as props and as subjects onstage and in song tells an audience much about the value of the archival record and even about the nature of the archives as a constructed space and as a space of power. Eliza Hamilton's character performs not only one act of appraisal, but two: she destroys records to keep them out of the archives, and she arranges and edits Hamilton's “thousands of pages of writing” after his death.98 Eliza does her part to construct the narrative and assert power over the documentary record. She leaves it for “future historians” to determine if she has “done enough” for the story of Alexander Hamilton to be told. Hamilton not only raises questions about the inclusivity of the historical narrative, it also gives archivists the opportunity to add to both scholarly and public conversations about the affirmative use and representation of records in history and society.
Appendix: Synopsis of Hamilton: An American Musical
Act 1: Alexander Hamilton is born in the Caribbean as the illegitimate son of a Scotsman and a married woman. At a young age, his father abandons his family and his mother dies. After a hurricane hits his home on St. Croix, Hamilton is granted a scholarship to attend college on the American mainland (“Alexander Hamilton”). In New York City, a nineteen-year-old Hamilton meets Aaron Burr (“Aaron Burr, Sir”) and a trio of friends: the Marquis de Lafayette, John Laurens, and Hercules Mulligan (“My Shot,” “The Story of Tonight”). Elsewhere in New York, Angelica, Eliza, and Peggy Schuyler are inspired by Revolutionary ideals and venture out into the city (“The Schuyler Sisters”). Hamilton begins to make a name for himself as a rapid intellect and a proponent of American independence (“Farmer Refuted”), while King George III bemoans the rebellion in the American colonies (“You'll Be Back”). After joining the Continental Army, Hamilton is selected to be the aide-de-camp of General George Washington (“Right Hand Man”). He and his fellow officers attend a ball at the Schuyler mansion (“A Winter's Ball”), where he meets Eliza Schuyler, whom he courts and eventually marries (“Helpless”). Eliza's sister Angelica reveals in a flashback that she, too, loves Hamilton but chooses to promote her sister's happiness over her own (“Satisfied”). Burr congratulates Hamilton on his marriage (“The Story of Tonight [Reprise]”) and reflects on his relationship with Hamilton (“Wait for It”). Back on the battlefield, the Continental Army is struggling with a lack of supplies and morale, and American general Charles Lee is nearly routed at the Battle of Monmouth (“Stay Alive”). Lee's attacks on Washington's character lead John Laurens to challenge him to a duel against Washington's express wishes (“Ten Duel Commandments”). Hamilton serves as Laurens's second, leading Washington to temporarily dismiss him from service (“Meet Me Inside”). Hamilton returns home to learn that Eliza is pregnant with their first child (“That Would Be Enough”). Meanwhile, the Marquis de Lafayette has obtained military aid from France as the Americans prepare for the Battle of Yorktown (“Guns and Ships”). Washington recalls Hamilton and gives him a command (“History Has Its Eyes on You”). The Americans effectively win their independence and end the war at the Battle of Yorktown (“Yorktown [The World Turned Upside Down]”), much to the chagrin and confusion of George III (“What Comes Next?”). Just after the war, Burr and Hamilton reflect on the birth of their first children (“Dear Theodosia”). Hamilton begins work as a lawyer, is invited to the Constitutional Convention, writes the majority of the Federalist Papers, and is selected to be Washington's treasury secretary in his presidential administration (“Non-Stop”).
Act 2: Thomas Jefferson returns to America after having served as ambassador to France and learns that he has been appointed secretary of state in Washington's administration (“What'd I Miss?”). Jefferson and Hamilton go head-to-head over the early American financial system and postwar debt (“Cabinet Battle #1”). Eliza, with the assistance of her sister Angelica, tries to persuade Hamilton to join the Schuyler family on a summer trip upstate (“Take a Break”). Hamilton remains in New York City to work on his debt plan, where he begins an affair with the married Maria Reynolds. Reynolds's husband discovers them and blackmails Hamilton into paying him to stay silent (“Say No to This”). To pass his debt plan, Hamilton meets with Jefferson and James Madison over a private dinner, where they make a political trade: the capital city will be moved south to the Potomac while Hamilton's financial system will be guaranteed passage through Congress (“The Room Where It Happens”). Burr, angered at being left out, runs for office and wins (“Schuyler Defeated”). Washington sides with Hamilton over Jefferson in a Cabinet debate over the French Revolution (“Cabinet Battle #2”). In retribution, Jefferson and his allies discover Hamilton's payments to Reynolds as they seek to undercut Hamilton's political power (“Washington on Your Side”). After two terms as president, Washington decides to step down from office (“One Last Time”), leading George III to wonder what happens next (“I Know Him”). John Adams is elected president, and Hamilton loses his position as treasury secretary (“The Adams Administration”). To further weaken Hamilton's political reputation, Burr, Jefferson, and Madison threaten to expose Hamilton's financial dealings with Reynolds (“We Know”). Hamilton decides to get ahead of the rumors and write a pamphlet detailing his extramarital affair (“Hurricane”), which ruins his social and political standing (“The Reynolds Pamphlet”). Eliza learns of her husband's adultery and reacts by burning her preserved courtship letters (“Burn”). Meanwhile, the Hamiltons' nineteen-year-old son, Philip, challenges a man to a duel for insulting his father (“Blow Us All Away”). Philip is killed (“Stay Alive [Reprise]”), and, in their grief, the Hamilton family moves uptown and out of the spotlight (“It's Quiet Uptown”). Soon after, the election of 1800 ends in a vote tied between Jefferson and Burr, leaving the decision up to the House of Representatives. Hamilton lends his support to Jefferson (“The Election of 1800”). Furious at this spur to his honor, Burr challenges Hamilton to a duel (“Your Obedient Servant”). Hamilton writes a farewell letter to his wife in the event he doesn't return and heads out to meet Burr at Weehawken (“Best of Wives and Best of Women”). In the duel, Burr fatally wounds Hamilton, who shoots into the sky instead of at his opponent (“The World Was Wide Enough”). Eliza outlives Hamilton by fifty years, eventually editing his collected writings and establishing an orphanage in remembrance of her husband (“Who Lives, Who Dies, Who Tells Your Story”).
For a selection of reviewers' responses to Hamilton, see Hilton Als, “Boys in the Band,” The New Yorker, March 9, 2015, http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2015/03/09/boys-in-the-band; Ben Brantley, “Review: ‘Hamilton,’ Young Rebels Changing History and Theater,” The New York Times, August 6, 2015, http://www.nytimes.com/2015/08/07/theater/review-hamilton-young-rebels-changing-history-and-theater.html; Peter Marks, “‘Hamilton’: Making Ecstatic History,” The Washington Post, August 6, 2015, https://www.washingtonpost.com/entertainment/theater_dance/hamilton-making-ecstatic-history/2015/08/06/6bc85fb4-3b72-11e5-8e98-115a3cf7d7ae_story.html; Rebecca Mead, “All about the Hamiltons,” The New Yorker, February 29, 2015, http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2015/02/09/hamiltons. For a (small) selection of cultural and political commentary, see David Brooks, “The Hamilton Experience,” The New York Times, February 24, 2015, http://www.nytimes.com/2015/02/24/opinion/david-brooks-the-hamilton-experience.html; Adam Gopnik, “‘Hamilton’ and the Hip-Hop Case for Progressive Heroism,” The New Yorker, February 5, 2016, http://www.newyorker.com/news/daily-comment/hamilton-and-the-hip-hop-case-for-progressive-heroism; Jeremy McCarter, “Why Hamilton Matters,” BuzzFeed, April 10, 2016, https://www.buzzfeed.com/jeremymccarter/saving-america-from-itself; Erik Piepenburg, “Why ‘Hamilton’ Has Heat,” The New York Times, July 12, 2016, http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2015/08/06/theater/20150806-hamilton-broadway.html; Richard Primus, “Will Lin-Manuel Miranda Transform the Supreme Court?,” The Atlantic, June 4, 2016, http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2016/06/lin-manuel-miranda-and-the-future-of-originalism/485651/; Michael Schulman, “The Women of ‘Hamilton,’” The New Yorker, August 5, 2015, http://www.newyorker.com/culture/cultural-comment/the-women-of-hamilton; Anthony Tommasini and Jon Caramanica, “Exploring ‘Hamilton’ and Hip-Hop Steeped in Heritage,” The New York Times, August 27, 2015, http://www.nytimes.com/2015/08/30/theater/exploring-hamilton-and-hip-hop-steeped-in-heritage.html. See also “Hamilton,” 60 Minutes, transcript and online video, originally televised by CBS on June 12, 2016, http://www.cbsnews.com/news/hamilton-encore-60-minutes-charlie-rose/; “Hip-Hop and History Blend for Broadway Hit ‘Hamilton,” PBS Newshour, transcript and online video, originally televised by PBS on November 20, 2015, http://www.pbs.org/newshour/bb/hip-hop-and-history-blend-for-broadway-hit-hamilton/; Pia Catton, “‘Hamilton’ Biographer Is Making History on Broadway,” The Wall Street Journal, December 25, 2015, http://www.wsj.com/articles/hamilton-biographer-is-making-history-on-broadway-1451089483; Rob Weinert-Kendt, “Rapping a Revolution: Lin-Manuel Miranda and Others from ‘Hamilton’ Talk History,” The New York Times, February 5, 2015, http://www.nytimes.com/2015/02/08/theater/lin-manuel-miranda-and-others-from-hamilton-talk-history.html.
Michael Paulson, “‘Hamilton’ Raises Ticket Prices: The Best Seats Will Now Cost $849,” The New York Times, June 8, 2016, http://www.nytimes.com/2016/06/09/theater/hamilton-raises-ticket-prices-the-best-seats-will-now-cost-849.html.
Jennifer Schuessler, “‘Hamilton’ and History: Are They in Sync?,” The New York Times, April 10, 2016, http://www.nytimes.com/2016/04/11/theater/hamilton-and-history-are-they-in-sync.html. See also Joseph M. Adelman, “Hamilton, Art, History, and Truth,” The Junto (blog), August 31, 2015, https://earlyamericanists.com/2015/08/31/hamilton-art-history-and-truth/; Tom Cutterham, “Alexander Hamilton and the Inconvenient 1780s,” The Junto (blog), January 5, 2016, https://earlyamericanists.com/2016/01/05/alexander-hamilton-and-the-inconvenient-1780s/; Joanne B. Freeman, “How Hamilton Uses History,” Slate, November 11, 2015, http://www.slate.com/articles/arts/culturebox/2015/11/how_lin_manuel_miranda_used_real_history_in_writing_hamilton.html; Nancy Isenberg, “Let's Not Pretend that ‘Hamilton’ Is History,” Zócalo Public Square, March 17, 2016, http://www.zocalopublicsquare.org/2016/03/17/lets-not-pretend-that-hamilton-is-history/ideas/nexus/; Christopher F. Minty, “Historians Attend Lin-Manuel Miranda's Hamilton: An American Musical,” The Junto (blog), August 7, 2015, https://earlyamericanists.com/2015/08/07/hamilton_review-2/; Michelle Orihel, “A Pamphlet War in Song: Teaching Revolutionary Print Culture with the Musical, Hamilton,” The Junto (blog), May 12, 2016, https://earlyamericanists.com/2016/05/12/michelle-orihel-a-pamphlet-war/; Ken Owen, “Historians and Hamilton: Founders Chic and the Cult of Personality,” The Junto (blog), April 21, 2016, https://earlyamericanists.com/2016/04/21/historians-and-hamilton-founders-chic-and-the-cult-of-personality/.
See Lyra D. Monteiro, “Race-Conscious Casting and the Erasure of the Black Past in Lin-Manuel Miranda's Hamilton,” The Public Historian 38, (February 2016): 89–98 and Monteiro, “It's Not ‘Just a Musical,’” History@Work (blog), June 10, 2016, http://ncph.org/history-at-work/its-not-just-a-musical/. For responses to Monteiro, see Ellen Noonan, “Who Tells Your Story?,” History@Work (blog), February 24, 2016, http://ncph.org/history-at-work/who-tells-your-story/; Jason Allen, “A Color-Blind Stockholm Syndrome,” History@Work (blog), March 9, 2016, http://ncph.org/history-at-work/a-color-blind-stockholm-syndrome/; David Dean, “History and Performance: Hamilton: An American Musical,” History@Work (blog), March 23, 2016, http://ncph.org/history-at-work/history-and-performance-hamilton/; Annette Gordon-Reed, “Hamilton: The Musical: Blacks and the Founding Fathers,” History@Work (blog), April 6, 2016, http://ncph.org/history-at-work/hamilton-the-musical-blacks-and-the-founding-fathers/; Rebecca Onion, “A Hamilton Skeptic on Why the Show Isn't as Revolutionary as It Seems,” Slate, April 5, 2016, http://www.slate.com/articles/arts/culturebox/2016/04/a_hamilton_critic_on_why_the_musical_isn_t_so_revolutionary.html. See also Gene Demby, “Watching a Brown ‘Hamilton’ with a White Audience,” NPR's Code Switch, March 8, 2015, http://www.npr.org/sections/codeswitch/2016/03/08/469539715/a-brown-hamilton-a-white-audience; Ishmael Reed, “‘Hamilton: the Musical’: Black Actors Dress Up Like Slave Traders . . . and It's Not Halloween,” Counterpunch, August 21, 2015, http://www.counterpunch.org/2015/08/21/hamilton-the-musical-black-actors-dress-up-like-slave-tradersand-its-not-halloween/.
“Hamilton: The Musical and the Rockefeller Foundation Announce Partnership to Provide 20,000 NYC Public School Students with Tickets to See Hamilton on Broadway with $1.46 Million Grant,” Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History Press Room, October 27, 2015, http://www.gilderlehrman.org/about/hamilton-musical-and-rockefeller-foundation-announce-partnership-with-Gilder-Lehrman;“The New York Public Library to Open New Exhibition: Alexander Hamilton: Striver, Statesman, Scoundrel,” press release, New York Public Library Media Center, June 9, 2016, https://www.nypl.org/press/press-release/june-9-2016/new-york-public-library-open-new-exhibition-alexander-hamilton; “New-York Historical Society to Launch Summer of Hamilton Honoring the Legacy and Resurgence of the ‘$10 Founding Father’,” press release, New-York Historical Society, May 16, 2016, http://www.nyhistory.org/press/releases/new-york-historical-society-launch-summer-hamilton-honoring-legacy-and-resurgence-“10; Colonial Williamsburg, Facebook post, May 4, 2016, https://www.facebook.com/ColonialWilliamsburg/posts/10153681327969576. See also Zach Schonfeld, “‘Hamilton,’ the Biggest Thing on Broadway, Is Being Taught in Classrooms All Over,” Newsweek, February 9, 2016, http://www.newsweek.com/2016/02/19/hamilton-biggest-thing-broadway-being-taught-classrooms-all-over-424212.html.
“In the Loop for Wednesday, June 8, 2016,” Society of American Archivists, June 8, 2016, http://us3.campaign-archive2.com/?u=564fbec1ee5b2a28479d6&id=785d3e2d82; “J. Franklin Jameson Archival Advocacy Award: Lin-Manuel Miranda and Ron Chernow for Hamilton,” Society of American Archivists, http://www2.archivists.org/node/20772.
The award was announced in July and awarded in September 2016. “‘Hamilton's’ Lin-Manuel Miranda, Thomas Kail, and Ron Chernow to Receive National Archives Foundation Records of Achievement Award,” National Archives Foundation News, July 15, 2016, https://www.archivesfoundation.org/news/hamiltons-lin-manuel-miranda-thomas-kail-ron-chernow-receive-national-archives-foundation-records-achievement-award/. According to the chair of the board of the National Archives Foundation (quoted in the press release cited above), “Together they have turned the early American history of our textbooks into an exciting popular culture phenomenon.” At the awards gala in September 2016, the speakers emphasized the history that inspired the musical and the resurgence of interest in American Revolutionary history as a result of the show's popularity, as well as in the documentary record. See “Tribute Film: 2016 Records of Achievement Awardees Ron Chernow, Thomas Kail and Lin-Manuel Miranda,” YouTube video, 8:41, ArchivesFoundation, September 26, 2016, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zeA1DwnI20Y; “Conversation with Chernow, Kail, Miranda, and Mead: 2016 Records of Achievement Award Ceremony,” YouTube video, 42:11, from a ceremony recorded on September 25, 2016, National Archives Foundation, September 30, 2016, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XeQx6ZCn_dU; “David M. Rubenstein: 2016 Records of Achievement Award Ceremony and Gala,” YouTube video, 9:12, from a ceremony recorded on September 25, 2016, National Archives Foundation, October 11, 2016, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3JYi_B2PxoA.
Emily Heil, “National Archives Foundation Scores ‘Hamilton’ Coup for Its Gala,” The Washington Post, June 15, 2016, https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/reliable-source/wp/2016/06/15/national-archives-foundation-scores-hamilton-coup-for-its-gala/.
“Hamilton,” 60 Minutes, June 12, 2016. This 60 Minutes broadcast was aired multiple times by CBS and is available in full online. The first air date was in November 2015. An extended edition was broadcast on the night of the Tony Awards in June 2016. The reference to the New-York Historical Society was included in the extended broadcast. For the transcript of the original broadcast, see “Hamilton,” 60 Minutes, transcript and online video, originally televised by CBS on January 10, 2016, http://www.cbsnews.com/news/hamilton-broadway-musical-60-minutes-charlie-rose-2/.
Ben Brantley, “Review: In ‘Hamilton,’ Lin-Manuel Miranda Forges Democracy through Rap,” The New York Times, February 17, 2015, http://www.nytimes.com/2015/02/18/theater/review-in-hamilton-lin-manuel-miranda-forges-democracy-through-rap.html.
See Benjamin Carp, “Bastard Out of Nevis: Lin-Manuel Miranda's ‘Hamilton,’” The Junto (blog), Febru ary 25, 2015, https://earlyamericanists.com/2015/02/25/bastard-out-of-nevis-lin-manuel-mirandas-hamilton/; Karin Wulf, “Who Lives, Who Dies, Who Tells Our Story: Hamiltunes and the Burden of Founding Histories,” The Scholarly Kitchen (blog), December 21, 2015, https://scholarlykitchen.sspnet.org/2015/12/21/who-lives-who-dies-who-tells-our-story-hamiltunes-and-the-burden-of-founding-histories/; R.E. Fulton, “Back in the Narrative; Hamilton as a Model for Women's History,” Nursing Clio (blog), May 24, 2016, https://nursingclio.org/2016/05/24/back-in-the-narrative-hamilton-as-a-model-for-womens-history/.
“In temperament, they're probably a lot closer to the real men who inspired this show than the stately figures of high school history books. Before they were founding fathers, these guys were rebellious sons, moving to a new, fierce, liberating beat that never seemed to let up. ‘Hamilton’ makes us feel the unstoppable, urgent rhythm of a nation being born.” Brantley, “Review: ‘Hamilton,’ Young Rebels Changing History and Theater.” The 60 Minutes extended presentation on Hamilton calls these abstracted history books “dusty,” thus melding a popular representation of textbooks with a popular representation of archives: “The man responsible for all this is Lin-Manuel Miranda, who plans to move on and leave the show this summer. He took stories from dusty history books and conjured up living, breathing human beings.” “Hamilton,” 60 Minutes, June 12, 2016. According to Arlene Schmuland, “Dust is the single most pervasive motif associated with archives, even outside of fiction,” Arlene Schmuland, “The Archival Image in Fiction: An Analysis and Annotated Bibliography,” The American Archivist 62:1 (1999): 42.
All lyric quotes are taken from the published libretto of Hamilton. Lin-Manuel Miranda, “Your Obedient Servant,” in Hamilton: The Revolution (New York: Grand Central Publishing, 2016), 267.
See especially Adelman, “Hamilton, Art, History, and Truth”; Carp, “Bastard Out of Nevis: Lin-Manuel Miranda's ‘Hamilton’”; Fulton, “Back in the Narrative: Hamilton as a Model for Women's History”; Gordon-Reed, “Hamilton: The Musical: Blacks and the Founding Fathers”; Monteiro, “Race-Conscious Casting and the Erasure of the Black Past in Lin-Manuel Miranda's Hamilton”; Noonan, “Who Tells Your Story”; Wulf, “Who Lives, Who Dies, Who Tells Our Story: Hamiltunes and the Burden of Founding Histories.” See also “J. Franklin Jameson Archival Advocacy Award.”
For a discussion of the relationship between power, authority, and representation in the archival literature, see Francis X. Blouin Jr. and William G. Rosenberg, Processing the Past: Contesting Authority in History and the Archives (New York: Oxford University Press, 2011); Blouin and Rosenberg, eds., “Part 3: Archives and Social Memory,” in Archives, Documentation, and Institutions of Social Memory: Essays from the Sawyer Seminar (Ann Arbor: The University of Michigan Press, 2009), 165–8; Terry Cook, “The Archive(s) Is a Foreign Country: Historians, Archivists, and the Changing Archival Landscape,” The American Archivist 74, no. 2 (2011): 600–632; Cook, “Remembering the Future: Appraisal of Records and the Role of Archives in Constructing Social Memory,” in Archives, Documentation, and Institutions of Social Memory, 169–81; Randall C. Jimerson, “How Archivists ‘Control The Past,’” in Controlling the Past: Documenting Society and Institutions: Essays in Honor of Helen Willa Samuels, ed. Terry Cook (Chicago: Society of American Archivists, 2011), 363–79; Eric Ketelaar, “The Panoptical Archive,” Archives, Documentation, and Institutions of Social Memory, 144–50; Ketelaar, “Tacit Narratives: The Meanings of Archives,” Archival Science 1 (2001): 131–41; David Lowenthal, “Archives, Heritage, and History,” in Archives, Documentation, and Institutions of Social Memory, 193–206; Joan M. Schwartz and Terry Cook, “Archives, Records, and Power: The Making of Modern Memory,” Archival Science 2, nos. 1–2 (2002): 1–19.
Miranda, “Burn,” in Hamilton: The Revolution, 238.
Tania Aldred, Gordon Burr, and Eun Park, “Crossing a Librarian with a Historian: The Image of Reel Archivists,” Archivaria 66, no. 1 (2008): 57–93; Karen Buckley, “‘The Truth Is in the Red Files’: An Overview of Archives in Popular Culture,” Archivaria 66, no. 1 (2008): 95–123; Barbara L. Craig and James M. O'Toole, “Looking at Archives in Art,” The American Archivist 63, no. 1 (2000): 97–125; Kathleen Epp, “Telling Stories around the ‘Electronic Campfire’: The Use of Archives in Television Productions,” Archivaria 49 (2000): 53–83; Amanda Oliver and Anne Daniel, “The Identity Complex: The Portrayal of Archivists in Film,” Archival Issues 37, no. 1 (2015): 48–70; Schmuland, “The Archival Image in Fiction.”
Lindsay Mattock and Eleanor Mattern, “Looking at Archives in Cinema: Recent Representations of Records in Motion Pictures,” in Archival Research and Education: Selected Papers from the 2014 AERI Conference, ed. Richard J. Cox, Alison Langmead, and Eleanor Mattern (Sacramento: Litwin Books, 2015), 63–64.
Craig and O'Toole, “Looking at Archives in Art.”
Craig and O'Toole, “Looking at Archives in Art,” 110, 125.
Mattock and Mattern, “Looking at Archives in Cinema,” 74–80.
In the context of examining television, Kathleen Epp wrote, “The presentation of archival documents in audiovisual format is radically different from their incorporation into written works.” The same can be said of the differences between audiovisual recordings and live theatrical performance. Epp, “Telling Stories around the ‘Electronic Campfire,’” 71. David Dean also makes the argument for the theater as a unique (and under-studied) site of public history and “the ways in which the public experiences and engages with the past.” David Dean, “Theatre: A Neglected Site of Public History?,” The Public Historian 34, no. 3 (2012): 24.
Miranda, “History Has Its Eyes on You,” in Hamilton: The Revolution, 120.
“‘Hamilton’: The Backstage Tour,” “60 Minutes Overtime,” online video, 4:08, June 12, 2016, http://www.cbsnews.com/news/hamilton-encore-60-minutes-charlie-rose/.
Miranda, “Non-Stop,” in Hamilton: The Revolution, 137.
Miranda, “Right Hand Man,” in Hamilton: The Revolution, 64. In an annotation to the libretto, Miranda writes, “I rewrote this line late in the process. Tommy [Kail] and I wanted to pinpoint the moment when Hamilton puts away dreams of martyrdom to rise in a different way.” Miranda, “Right Hand Man,” 62, n13.
Burr narrates: “Alexander joins forces with James Madison and John Jay to write a series of essays defending the new United States Constitution entitled The Federalist Papers. The plan was to write a total of 25 essays, the work divided equally among the three men. In the end, they wrote 85 essays, in the span of six months. John Jay got sick after writing 5. James Madison wrote 29. Hamilton wrote the other 51.” Miranda, “Non-Stop,” 143. In an annotation to these lines, Miranda wrote, “We drop into plain speech here because the facts are so extraordinary that no amount of spin on the ball can make them land any harder.” Miranda, “Non-Stop,” 143, n10.
Miranda, “Who Lives, Who Dies, Who Tells Your Story?,” in Hamilton: The Revolution, 280.
Miranda, “Best of Wives and Best of Women,” in Hamilton: The Revolution, 269. For the text of the original letter, see “From Alexander Hamilton to Elizabeth Hamilton [4 July 1804],” The National Archives: Founders Online, http://founders.archives.gov/documents/Hamilton/01-26-02-0001-0248.
For a discussion of Revolutionary-era print culture, see (in brief): Hugh Amory and David D. Hall, eds., A History of the Book in America, vol, 1: The Colonial Book in the Atlantic World (Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina Press in Association with the American Antiquarian Society, 2010); Bernard Bailyn and John B. Hench, eds., The Press and the American Revolution (Boston: Northeastern University Press, 1981); Marcus Daniel, Scandal and Civility: Journalism and the Birth of American Democracy (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009); Trish Loughran, The Republic in Print: Print Culture in the Age of U.S. Nation Building, 1770–1870 (New York: Columbia University Press, 2007); Jeffrey L. Pasley, “The Tyranny of Printers”: Newspaper Politics in the Early American Republic (Charlottesville and London: University of Virginia Press, 2001); Arthur M. Schlesinger, Prelude to Independence: The Newspaper War on Britain, 1764–1776 (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1958); David S. Shields, Civil Tongues and Polite Letters in British America (Chapel Hill and London: The University of North Carolina Press, 1997); Michael Warner, The Letters of the Republic: Publication and the Public Sphere in Eighteenth Century America (Cambridge, Mass. and London: Harvard University Press, 1990).
Jeremy McCarter, Hamilton: The Revolution, 133. Accompanying the published libretto in the book Hamilton: The Revolution is an account of the musical's creation, production, and premiere written by onetime theater critic and artistic staff member at the New York Public Theater, Jeremy McCarter. This detail is drawn from McCarter's account.
McCarter, Hamilton: The Revolution, 59.
Miranda, “The Schuyler Sisters,” in Hamilton: The Revolution, 43. It is possible this prop paper represents Thomas Paine's pamphlet “Common Sense.”
Miranda, “Yorktown (The World Turned Upside Down),” in Hamilton: The Revolution, 121.
Miranda, “The Election of 1800,” in Hamilton: The Revolution, 258.
Miranda, “Non-Stop,” 137–43.
Miranda has described performing the scene this way: “Me in a mania at a desk while a group of people stand around cheering in awe.” Miranda, “Non-Stop,” 143, n11.
“Any books might well have served as props here, but by the depiction of these particular books, the artist is able to underline the character and perhaps even the personality of the subject of the painting.” Craig and O'Toole, “Looking at Archives in Art,” 110. See also Epp, “Telling Stories around the ‘Electronic Campfire.’”
The stage's turntables provide movement for certain large-scale set pieces, such as a streetlight or a wall of lit candles.
McCarter, Hamilton: The Revolution, 133.
Miranda, “Helpless,” in Hamilton: The Revolution, 72.
Miranda, “What'd I Miss?,” in Hamilton: The Revolution, 152.
Miranda, “Schuyler Defeated,” in Hamilton: The Revolution, 191. An additional example of this type of records use is the song “Tomorrow There'll Be More of Us.” This is the only scene in the show not included on the cast album. It depicts Hamilton learning of his friend John Laurens's death via a letter from Laurens's father.
Miranda, “Say No to This,” in Hamilton: The Revolution, 177–78. It's important to note that while the correspondence between Alexander Hamilton and James Reynolds has been archived, these are not James Reynolds's actual words. This distinguishes the use of this letter from the use of other records as narrative subjects (see below).
This was an age of frequent character assassinations in the press. Hamilton alludes to this in the song “One Last Time,” when he threatens to blacken Jefferson's name through the newspaper: “I'll use the press, / I'll write under a pseudonym, you'll see what I can do to him.” Miranda, “One Last Time,” in Hamilton: The Revolution, 209. See also Joanne B. Freeman, Affairs of Honor: National Politics in the Early Republic (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2001).
Miranda, “We Know,” in Hamilton: The Revolution, 229.
At this moment, the lyric reads: “There's a letter on my desk from the president. / Haven't even put my bag down yet. / Sally be a lamb, darlin', won'tcha open it? / It says the president's assembling a cabinet.” Miranda, “What'd I Miss?,” 152. This is an intentional reference to Sally Hemings and the only instance of a performer onstage embodying a historical person of color.
Miranda, “Take a Break,” in Hamilton: The Revolution, 168–69.
Miranda, “Your Obedient Servant,” 266.
Miranda, “Your Obedient Servant,” 267.
Historian Joanne Freeman describes this document type in her book Affairs of Honor: National Politics in the New Republic. (Miranda, it has been noted, read and relied on Freeman's work in the writing of Hamilton. See below.) “Initial letters of inquiry were warnings that a line had been crossed. Following a set form and phrased in ritualistic words of cool formality, they were easily recognizable and unmistakably threatening. A typical letter began by repeating an offending remark. . . . The writer next demanded that the recipient ‘avow or disavow’ the insult, ensuring the propriety of his challenge by allowing his recipient an opportunity to explain himself. Letters usually ended with a demand for an immediate response. Typically, the writer justified his demand by claiming the respect owed a gentleman.” Freeman, Affairs of Honor, 176–77. In Hamilton: The Revolution, Miranda notes that an early version of this song used “super-historically-accurate” lyrics, but that he decided to make the language feel more contemporary to get to the point with more clarity: “if they can't speak plainly here, then when?” The emotion and structure of the historical exchange still stands. Miranda, “Your Obedient Servant,” 266, n2.
The song “Farmer Refuted” merits mention here. Early in act 1, this song showcases Hamilton's rapid thought and verbal brilliance. The song turns what was historically a pamphlet war between Samuel Seabury and Hamilton into a sung battle of ideas. The character of Seabury holds a prop paper that he reads from throughout the scene, but neither the song nor the staging communicate that this battle of ideas was originally presented in print. See Ron Chernow, Alexander Hamilton (New York: Penguin Press, 2004), 41–82 for a discussion of Hamilton's written contributions to print culture in the early days of the Revolutionary War, including his “A Farmer Refuted” essay. See Orihel, “A Pamphlet War in Song,” for a discussion of the utility of presenting a historically contextualized version of this scene for the purposes of educating college students on Revolutionary print culture.
Interestingly, this song is the one place in the staging of the musical where the prop master strayed from the meticulous verisimilitude of the prop records. Since copies of the pamphlet are tossed into the air and strewn about the stage, the possibility exists of papers falling into the audience. To avoid distraction, these papers are printed with nonsense Latin words. McCarter, Hamilton: The Revolution, 143, 226–28.
“From Alexander Hamilton to Elizabeth Hamilton [4 July 1804],” The National Archives: Founders Online. Thomas Kail speaks movingly of the power of this actual record in “Conversation with Chernow, Kail, Miranda, and Mead: 2016 Records of Achievement Award Ceremony.”
The song “One Last Time” was original to the Broadway production of Hamilton. In the show's off-Broadway iteration, its place was taken by “One Last Ride,” which focused on the Whiskey Rebellion. McCarter, Hamilton: The Revolution, 205–8.
Miranda, “Hurricane,” in Hamilton: The Revolution, 232–3.
Miranda, “The Reynolds Pamphlet,” in Hamilton: The Revolution, 234. “Printed Version of the ‘Reynolds Pamphlet’, 1797,” The National Archives: Founders Online, accessed July 23, 2016, http://founders.archives.gov/documents/Hamilton/01-21-02-0138-0002. Miranda condensed the historical text here by removing “pecuniary” before “speculation” but only updated the language in one line: “with his privity and connivance” became “with his knowing consent.” Miranda, “The Reynolds Pamphlet,” 234, n3.
“Lin-Manuel Miranda Performs at the White House Poetry Jam: (8 of 8),” YouTube video, 4:26, from a performance recorded on May 12, 2009, The White House, November 2, 2009, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WNFf7nMIGnE. Miranda has cited Hamilton's rise as “like a Dickens novel, such humble beginnings to such incredible heights, and such incredible incident throughout.” “Hip-Hop and History Blend for Broadway Hit Hamilton,” PBS Newshour.
Weinert-Kendt, “Rapping a Revolution.” See also “Hamilton,” 60 Minutes, June 12, 2016; “Conversation with Chernow, Kail, Miranda, and Mead: 2016 Records of Achievement Award Ceremony”; Mead, “All about the Hamiltons.
McCarter, Hamilton: The Revolution, 116.
Aaron Burr is the main narrator of the play, although Angelica Schuyler takes over for the number “It's Quiet Uptown.” Burr also passes the narrator's role to Hamilton during “Say No to This.” Miranda explains that particular choice this way: “Hamilton's the only one who can narrate the song at this point in the story: It happened to him, in secret, and we don't know Maria or James Reynolds yet. So he does it.” Miranda, “Say No to This,” 176, n2.
See McCarter, Hamilton: The Revolution, 10–11, 32–33. Also see (as a small selection) “Hamilton,” 60 Minutes, June 12, 2016; “Conversation with Chernow, Kail, Miranda, and Mead: 2016 Records of Achievement Award Ceremony”; “Hip-Hop and History Blend for Broadway Hit Hamilton,” PBS Newshour; Mead, “All about the Hamiltons”; Piepenburg, “Why ‘Hamilton’ Has Heat”; Weinert-Kendt, “Rapping a Revolution.”
Miranda, quoted in McCarter, Hamilton: The Revolution, 32. And they do! See footnotes 3 and 4, above.
“While Miranda was working on the musical, he read Hamilton's voluminous correspondence and published works, and he visited sites in New York City that bear the traces of Revolutionary history, like Fraunces Tavern.” Mead, “All about the Hamiltons.” Mead is the personality who interviewed Chernow, Kail, and Miranda at the National Archives Foundation Records of Achievement Gala in September 2016, where she raised this point again. See “Conversation with Chernow, Kail, Miranda, and Mead: 2016 Records of Achievement Award Ceremony.”
“Lin-Manuel Miranda: By the Book,” New York Times Book Review, April 5, 2016, http://www.nytimes.com/2016/04/10/books/review/lin-manuel-miranda-by-the-book.html?_r=0. In addition to being the editor of the Library of America edition of Hamilton's collected writings, Freeman has written a scholarly work on dueling in the early American republic. Three separate duels are depicted onstage in Hamilton. See also Owen, “Historians and Hamilton: Founders Chic and the Cult of Personality” for a discussion of the limitations of this genre of historical work. Also see Adelman, “Hamilton, Art, History, and Truth” and Freeman, “How Hamilton Uses History.”
See Adelman, “Hamilton, Art, History, and Truth”; Cutterham, “Alexander Hamilton and the Inconvenient 1780s”; Freeman, “How Hamilton Uses History”; Gordon-Reed, “Hamilton: The Musical: Blacks and the Founding Fathers”; Isenberg, “Let's Not Pretend that ‘Hamilton’ Is History”; Minty, “Historians Attend Lin-Manuel Miranda's Hamilton: An American Musical”; Monteiro, “Race-Conscious Casting and the Erasure of the Black Past in Lin-Manuel Miranda's Hamilton”; Monteiro, “It's Not ‘Just a Musical’”; Orihel, “A Pamphlet War in Song”; Owen, “Historians and Hamilton: Founders Chic and the Cult of Personality.”
Miranda, “That Would Be Enough,” in Hamilton: The Revolution, 110. The line in the original letter reads, “Do you soberly relish the pleasure of being a poor mans [sic] wife?” “From Alexander Hamilton to Elizabeth Schuyler, [August 1780],” The National Archives: Founders Online, http://founders.archives.gov/documents/Hamilton/01-02-02-0834.
“From Alexander Hamilton to Edward Stevens, 11 November 1769,” The National Archives: Founders Online, http://founders.archives.gov/documents/Hamilton/01-01-02-0002.
Miranda, “Aaron Burr, Sir,” in Hamilton: The Revolution, 23.
Miranda, “Right Hand Man,” 61. In an annotation, Miranda attributes the quote directly to Washington. Miranda, “Right Hand Man,” 61n8. The quote likely originates from the published memoirs of Major-General William Heath, which were originally printed in 1798. Public historian David McCullough uses Heath as his source in including the quote in his book 1776 as he recounts Washington's New York campaign. David McCullough, 1776 (New York: Simon and Schuster, 2005), 212, 334.
Miranda, “Burn,” 238, 238, n2. See also “Conversation with Chernow, Kail, Miranda, and Mead: 2016 Records of Achievement Award Ceremony.”
Chernow, Kail, and Miranda reflected directly on the incorporation of quotes from the documentary record into the musical during the National Archives Foundation Gala. See “Conversation with Chernow, Kail, Miranda, and Mead: 2016 Records of Achievement Award Ceremony.”
Intriguingly, these form a documentary record in their own right, documenting the play itself and not the history it is based on.
McCarter, Hamilton: The Revolution, 68, 215.
McCarter, Hamilton: The Revolution, 48, 139, 227.
The historical “Reynolds Pamphlet” was entitled, Observations on Certain Documents Contained in No. V & VI of “The History of the United States for the Year 1796”: In which the Charge of Speculation Against Alexander Hamilton, Late Secretary of the Treasury, Is Fully Refuted.
Miranda, “We Know,” 230.
See Blouin and Rosenberg, “Part 3: Archives and Social Memory”; Cook, “The Archive(s) Is a Foreign Country”; Cook, “Remembering the Future”; Jimerson, “How Archivists ‘Control the Past’”; Schwartz and Cook, “Archives, Records, and Power.” Also see Carp, “Bastard Out of Nevis: Lin-Manuel Miranda's ‘Hamilton’”; Fulton, “Back in the Narrative; Hamilton as a Model for Women's History”; Schulman, “The Women of ‘Hamilton’”; Wulf, “Who Lives, Who Dies, Who Tells Our Story: Hamiltunes and the Burden of Founding Histories.”
Lin-Manuel Miranda played his final show as Alexander Hamilton on July 9, 2016. His alternate, Javier Muñoz, took over the role. Like Miranda, Muñoz is Puerto Rican American. A Chicago production of Hamilton opened in September 2016, starring Mexican American actor Miguel Cervantes as Hamilton. A similar diversity has been achieved in follow-up casting of the Broadway, Chicago, and touring productions of Hamilton, as the original cast departs to take on new creative roles.
See Monteiro, “Race-Conscious Casting and the Erasure of the Black Past in Lin-Manuel Miranda's Hamilton.” Also see footnote 4, above.
Thomas Kail, quoted in McCarter, Hamilton: The Revolution, 33. Kail, it is interesting to note, is the son of an archivist.
“Hip-Hop and History Blend for Broadway Hit Hamilton,” PBS Newshour. Ben Brantley also defends the relationship between nation-making and hip-hop in his review of the Broadway production: Brantley, “Review: ‘Hamilton,’ Young Rebels Changing History and Theater.” See also Tommasini and Caramanica, “Exploring ‘Hamilton’ and Hip-Hop Steeped in Heritage.”
McCarter, Hamilton: The Revolution, 95.
Miranda, quoted in McCarter, Hamilton: The Revolution, 33.
“Archives have the power to privilege and to marginalize. They can be a tool of hegemony; they can be a tool of resistance. They both reflect and constitute power relations.” Schwartz and Cook, “Archives, Records, and Power,” 13. See also Blouin and Rosenberg, “Part 3: Archives and Social Memory”; Cook, “The Archive(s) Is a Foreign Country”; Jimerson, “How Archivists ‘Control the Past’”; Ketelaar, “Tacit Narratives.”
Miranda, “Burn,” 238.
Miranda and McCarter, Hamilton: The Revolution, 228, 238n1. Chernow does not draw a direct line between the Reynolds affair and the destruction of Elizabeth Hamilton's documentary record, but he does note that “Eliza Hamilton was a modest, self-effacing woman who apparently destroyed her own letters and tried to expunge her presence from the history books.” Chernow, Alexander Hamilton, 582. While many of Hamilton's letters to Elizabeth survive in the archival record, her own correspondence to her husband does not. It is important to note that women of Elizabeth Schuyler Hamilton's position are more likely to be represented in the documentary record than women with less economic, social, or political stature. This, however, does not negate the gendered silence of certain voices in the archive. See footnote 76, above and footnote 86, below.
On the power dynamics (presumed and stated) in the archive, see Cook, “Remembering the Future”; Jimerson, “How Archivists ‘Control the Past’”; Ketelaar, “The Panoptical Archive”; Ketelaar, “Tacit Narratives”; Schwartz and Cook, “Archives, Records, and Power.”
This lyric was also the tagline for the off-Broadway production of Hamilton at the Public Theater.
Miranda, “History Has Its Eyes on You,” 120.
Chernow, Alexander Hamilton, 1–6, 723–31.
Miranda, “Who Lives, Who Dies, Who Tells Your Story?,” 280–81.
Craig and O'Toole, “Looking at Archives in Art,” 110, 125.
Mattock and Mattern, “Looking at Archives in Cinema,” 65, 78; Craig and O'Toole, “Looking at Archives in Art,” 98.
Arguably, the musical is also accessible through the proliferation of interviews and commentary that surround it, as well as through social media. A PBS documentary, Great Performances: Hamilton's America aired in November 2016 but is not available online or in disc form for repeat watching.
“A Hit on Broadway, Founding Father Finds New Life,” CBS This Morning, video and transcript, originally aired by CBS on February 24, 2016, http://www.cbsnews.com/news/broadway-show-brings-founding-father-alexander-hamilton-back-spotlight/; “ Robert Simonson, “The Hamilton Effect: 8 Unexpected (and Strange) Effects of the Smash Musical,” Playbill, July 4, 2016, http://www.playbill.com/article/the-hamilton-effect-8-ripple-effects-of-the-smash-musical.
See Blouin and Rosenberg, “Part 3: Archives and Social Memory”; Blouin and Rosenberg, Processing the Past; Cook, “The Archive(s) Is a Foreign Country”; Cook, “Evidence, Memory, Identity, and Community: Four Shifting Archival Paradigms,” Archival Science 13, nos. 2–3 (2013): 95–120; Cook, “Remembering the Future”; Jimerson, “How Archivists ‘Control the Past’”; Ketelaar, “Tacit Narratives”; Lowenthal, “Archives, Heritage, and History”; Schwartz and Cook, “Archives, Records, and Power.”
“I would assert that a major act of determining historical meaning—perhaps the major act—occurs not when the historian opens the box, but when the archivist fills the box, and, by implication, through the process of archival appraisal, destroys the other 98 or 99 percent of records that do not get into that or any other archival box.” Cook, “The Archive(s) Is a Foreign Country,” 613.