At the end of the Broadway musical Hamilton, An American Musical, the cast sings the question, “who lives, who dies, who tells your story?” As we were writing the exhibit, Hamilton Was Here: Rising Up in Revolutionary Philadelphia, the curatorial team at the Museum often asked the same questions. Everyone who has ever written about Alexander Hamilton has had their own point of view. Often those views are extreme, authors either celebrate or criticize him. We weren’t interested in judging Hamilton, one way or the other. Rather, we wanted to present several possible views of Hamilton, and allow guests to come to their own conclusions about his life and legacy.
James Madison’s Notes for the 1787 Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia remain one of the most valuable primary source accounts of the Convention in existence. In Madison’s Hand: Revising the Constitutional Convention, historian Mary Sarah Bilder analyzes Madison’s Notes and explores the various ways his revisions to the Notes reflect his shifting understandings of both the Convention and the Constitution. Bilder argues that many historians have misinterpreted the Notes. To correct this imbalance, her work provides readers with a chronological narrative of the political events and debates of the Constitutional Convention, while also deconstructing Madison’s subjectivity.
In this excerpt, Dr. Bilder discusses Madison’s personal and political evolution and his enduring ambivalence toward his Convention Notes throughout his career:
Arranged chronologically, The West Point History of the American Revolution includes essays written by historians Edward Lengel, Stephen J. Watson, and Stephen Conway. These essays, along with maps, images of artifacts, and diagrammed artwork, are used to teach West Point Cadets about the American Revolution. This book is particularly useful to younger readers because it emphasizes visual learning. Visitors to the Museum of the American Revolution will recognize many familiar images that are also used in the Museum’s core exhibition.
Take a break from all the holiday hustle and bustle and indulge in our cookie-themed Read the Revolution! Anne Byrn’s latest cookbook, American Cookie: The Snaps, Drops, Jumbles, Tea Cakes, Bars & Brownies That We Have Loved For Generations, mixes sweet treats with history take you on a journey through America's most beloved confectionaries. The following little morsel from the book highlights a classic American cookie–the gingersnap.
A work of historical fiction, I, Eliza Hamilton, tells the story of Elizabeth "Eliza" Hamilton, née Schuyler, the wife of Alexander Hamilton. Present alongside Alexander at pivotal moments in early American history, the story follows their courtship and marriage through the tumultuous years of the Revolutionary War and the uncertain decades of the early American Republic. The novel, written from Eliza's perspective, includes rich historical details of the places she visited, the people she met, and the clothes that she wore.
While George Washington remains a centerpiece of Early American scholarship, few historical works focus on his complex and often fraught relationship with Native Americans. In his most recent book, The Indian World of George Washington, Dr. Colin Calloway attempts to restore Native Americans’ place in Washington’s story, exploring the ways in which the founder and President was inextricably linked to Native America. Throughout the work, Calloway puts Indian relations at the center of his analysis, illustrating Natives’ key role in shaping Washington’s worldview and subsequently creating and defining a nation predicated on Native American and African American exclusion. Despite his prominence as “the father of the nation,” Calloway argues, Washington was also a chief architect of the policies that stripped Natives of their land and culture in the century to follow.
People have long shared history through theater. For example, some of Shakespeare's most famous works are referred to as his "Histories." Like Shakespeare's plays, such performances are often based on history but they don't hold up to historical scholarship.
On the morning of October 4, 1777, General George Washington went on the offensive. In the weeks prior, Washington’s troops suffered a defeat at the Battle of Brandywine, survived a bloody night attack at Paoli, and witnessed the capture of Philadelphia, the American capital. By attacking British General William Howe’s army at Germantown, Washington hoped to change the course of the fight to control Philadelphia.
When the British Army moved to occupy Philadelphia in September of 1777, sixteen-year-old Sally Wister fled with her Quaker family. While in the relative safety of the countryside, Sally began to keep a journal of her experience for her friend, Deborah (Debbie) Norris. Written over a nine-month period, Sally charmingly documented for Debbie her occasional adventures and mild flirtations with the various officers and soldiers who passed through the area. Recording an unusual side of the war, Sally’s journal offers a lively and accessible perspective of life during the occupation of Philadelphia.
In Never Caught, Dr. Erica Armstrong Dunbar paints a vivid picture of the life of Ona Judge, one of the nine enslaved people whom President Washington and Martha Washington brought with them to Philadelphia in 1790 when the city became the nation’s capital. For six years, Judge worked in bondage in the Washingtons’ Philadelphia home on Market Street. Judge escaped from the Washington household in 1796 in search of her freedom and lived the rest of her life with the threat of recapture looming over her.