CLOSE
Original image
Mike Coppola/Getty Images for National Park Service

Hamilton Star Jordan Fisher Gives a Tour of Alexander Hamilton's NYC Home

Original image
Mike Coppola/Getty Images for National Park Service

Growing up, Jordan Fisher was not a history buff. “I was a science guy in school, numbers and science and formula, what made things work and how to bring them forward—not what happened,” he told mental_floss. He’d memorize facts about historical figures simply to pass his tests; he didn’t care about them. But being cast in the Broadway musical Hamilton—where he played both John Laurens and Philip Hamilton from November 2016 to March 2017—changed all that.

“All it took was humanization. It took putting humanity in these people who had been mythologized, and seeing the relationships and the West Coast/East Coast rivalry in this musical about the construct of our country,” he said, adding that he’s a “brand new lover of American history—very passionate.” Now, Fisher has joined up with the National Park Service and the National Park Foundation to help launch Parks 101—a series that will explore the lesser known histories and stories of America’s parks—to give a tour of Alexander Hamilton’s New York City home, the Hamilton Grange National Memorial. Mental_floss tagged along as Fisher and Park Ranger Vladimir Merzlyakov gave a tour.

The Grange is located all the way uptown, at 141st Street—which would, in Hamilton’s time, have been the country. Hamilton’s “sweet project,” as he called it, was completed in 1802, just two years before his death, and was moved twice during the next 200 years before ending up in its current location in St. Nicholas Park. Despite the relocations, the house is 75 percent original and has been refurbished to what it would have looked like when the Hamiltons lived there.

The main entertaining room of the house, Merzlyakov said, had three huge triple windows, which—along with three others on the opposite side of the house—could be opened to provide a breeze during hot months. The piano forte belonged to Hamilton and Eliza’s daughter Angelica and was given to her by her aunt, Angelica Church. That piano features heavily in Hamilton, although it’s Philip, not Angelica, who plays it. The siblings were very close; after Philip was killed in a duel, Angelica was never the same. “She went a little crazy,” Fisher said. “She would only refer to Philip even after he died as if he were alive, she would play music and songs that they would sing together as kids … It’s very powerful to see that and to actually see a piece that they played. It’s pretty incredible.”

Fisher compared the formal dining room—which was reserved for guests and special occasions—to that room in your grandmother’s house that no one goes in, where the furniture is covered in plastic. Notice that the silverware was turned upside down. “Back then, the silversmith would have his insignia on the back handle of the silverware—so if you spent a lot of money, you’d want the people using it to know that,” Merzlyakov said.

Hamilton’s study was painted a bright shade of green. “This was an actual choice,” Fisher joked. “Green was another way of stunting back then.” The color was very expensive, “the reason being that you’d have to use copper to get that green color, and only a handful of people knew how to mix it and make it,” Merzlyakov added. The books on the table are Hamilton’s—and the one on the top right is signed by Eliza.

Fisher, Merzlyakov, and a bust of Hamilton.

 
Get a tour of the Grange from Fisher by visiting his Facebook page at 6 p.m.

Photos by Erin McCarthy unless otherwise noted.

Original image
Courtesy of Freeman's
arrow
History
For Sale: More Than 150 Items of Victorian Mourning Art, Clothing, and Jewelry
Original image
Courtesy of Freeman's

Funeral fashion hasn't always been reserved for memorial services, judging from a massive memento mori auction that's being billed as perhaps the largest collection of mourning art ever offered for sale. Spotted by Atlas Obscura and sponsored by Philadelphia-based Freeman’s auction house, the online sale—which kicks off on Wednesday, November 15—features more than 150 works from a renowned private collection, ranging from clothing and jewelry to artworks.

During the Victorian era, people paid tribute to their loved ones by wearing black mourning garb and symbolic accessories. (The latter often featured jet or real locks of hair, according to a 2008 article published in the academic journal Omega.) They also commissioned death-themed artworks and objects, including paintings, as exhibited by Angus Trumble's 2007 book Love & Death: Art in the Age of Queen Victoria.

These items have long since fallen out of fashion, but some historic preservationists amassed their own macabre private collections. Anita Schorsch, who’s arguably the most famous collector of memento mori, used her historic treasures to launch the Museum of Mourning Art back in 1990. Located in Drexel Hill, Pennsylvania, the museum is—as its name suggests—the only institution in the nation devoted exclusively to mourning art. The museum has been closed since Schorsch's death in 2015, and the items featured in Freeman's auction are from her collection.

Check out some of its memento mori below, or view the online catalogue here.

Hairwork choker, 19th century-mori, from the Collection of Irvin and Anita Schorsch
Hairwork choker, 19th century-mori, from the Collection of Irvin and Anita Schorsch
Courtesy OF Freeman's


Hairwork shroud pin, 19th century, from the Collection of Irvin & Anita Schorsch
Courtesy of Freeman's

Gold, enamel and pearl "Stuart crystal" mourning slide, made in late 17th century England and part of the Collection of Irvin & Anita Schorsch
Gold, enamel and pearl "Stuart crystal" mourning slide, made in late 17th century England and part of the Collection of Irvin & Anita Schorsch
Courtesy of Freeman's

Group of 19th century ladies and gentleman's mourning costumes, from the Collection of Irvin & Anita Schorsch
Group of 19th century ladies and gentleman's mourning costumes, from the Collection of Irvin & Anita Schorsch
Courtesy of Freeman's


18th century iron and brass cemetery padlock from London, England, part of the Collection of Irvin & Anita Schorsch
Courtesy of Freeman's

[h/t Atlas Obscura]

Original image
Christie's Images Ltd. 2017
arrow
History
Abraham Lincoln Letter About Slavery Could Fetch $700,000 at Auction
Original image
Christie's Images Ltd. 2017

The Lincoln-Douglas debates of 1858, in which future president Abraham Lincoln spent seven debates discussing the issue of slavery with incumbent U.S. senator Stephen Douglas, paved the way for Lincoln’s eventual ascent to the presidency. Now part of that history can be yours, as the AP reports.

A signed letter from Lincoln to his friend Henry Asbury dated July 31, 1858 explores the “Freeport Question” he would later pose to Douglas during the debates, forcing the senator to publicly choose between two contrasting views related to slavery’s expansion in U.S. territories: whether it should be up to the people or the courts to decide where slavery was legal. (Douglas supported the popular choice argument, but that position was directly counter to the Supreme Court's Dred Scott decision.)

The first page of a letter from Abraham Lincoln to Henry Asbury
Christie's Images Ltd. 2017

In the letter, Lincoln was responding to advice Asbury had sent him on preparing for his next debate with Douglas. Asbury essentially framed the Freeport Question for the politician. In his reply, Lincoln wrote that it was a great question, but would be difficult to get Douglas to answer:

"You shall have hard work to get him directly to the point whether a territorial Legislature has or has not the power to exclude slavery. But if you succeed in bringing him to it, though he will be compelled to say it possesses no such power; he will instantly take ground that slavery can not actually exist in the territories, unless the people desire it, and so give it protective territorial legislation."

Asbury's influence didn't end with the debates. A founder of Illinois's Republican Party, he was the first to suggest that Lincoln should run for president in 1860, and secured him the support of the local party.

The letter, valued at $500,000 to $700,000, is up for sale as part of a books and manuscripts auction that Christie’s will hold on December 5.

[h/t Associated Press]

SECTIONS

arrow
LIVE SMARTER
More from mental floss studios