A 215-year-old personal duel has crept back into our collective subconscious, and Winterthur is celebrating the anniversary of the shooting with a unique exhibition.
Thanks to Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Tony and Grammy winning musical “Hamilton,” the life and times of the first Secretary of the Treasury Alexander Hamilton have been met with public fascination – including his fatal duel with Vice President Aaron Burr.
Burr and Hamilton met on a popular dueling ground outside Weehawken, NJ, on the morning of July 11, 1804, to settle a long-brewing, complicated disagreement that ended with Burr shooting Hamilton in the abdomen.
Hamilton died the following day from his injuries, which included a perforated liver and a severed vertebra.
Wintherthur’s new exhibition, “Hamilton and Burr: Who Wrote Their Stories?” picks up where “Hamilton” left off, asking asks who should be considered a founding father while examining how Hamilton’s and Burr’s legacies were shaped by other founding fathers, a devoted wife, a dedicated daughter, and historical documents.
Exhibitions manager Kim Collison said that while the musical may have brought the story to the forefront, Winterthur’s exhibition brings to light the lives of other people who were part of our nation’s story.
“The exhibit’s curator, Rebecca Duffy, highlights the fact that while it tells the Founding Fathers’ story, so much of that recognition goes to people like Washington and Jefferson,” Collison said. “So Hamilton and Burr fall much lower than those we would consider in the group.”
The exhibit features several artifacts that shed further light on these individuals, including a letter written by Hamilton, an immigrant from Saint Kitt’s, to French immigrant Pierre Samuel du Pont de Nemours, great-great grandfather of Winterthur founder Henry Francis du Pont.
“He was basically asking the likelihood that French immigrants would be granted land ownership status,” Collison said. “He replied that didn’t know laws in Delaware, but thought it was unlikely.”
Collison said that when putting together the exhibition, she took a look at how Hamilton and Burr’s legacies have been established, who remembered them and who told their stories, including Burr’s daughter and Hamilton’s wife.
“Framing it from a woman’s perspective is interesting, when you think of the fact that the musical and a modern story brought these stories to surface again, telling them in a way that shed new light and offers new perspective,” she said. “Not to mention how those stories have been recorded throughout time, it’s meaningful.”
“Hamilton and Burr: Who Wrote Their Stories?” open on the 215th anniversary of the duel, July 11, 2019, and will run through January 5, 2020.