Thursday, May 26, 2016

New Orleans Jazz Comes to Morristown

National Park Service’s Centennial Jazz Band to Perform Free Concert 
Morristown National Historical Park 
7:00 p.m., 
Friday, June 3, 2016

Morristown, NJ – Celebrate the National Park Service’s 100th anniversary through this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity! As part of its National Park Service (NPS) Centennial tour, the NPS Centennial Band from New Orleans Jazz National Historical Park will perform at Morristown National Historical Park (NHP). The band members will play music never heard before at Morristown NHP, and best yet, the concert is FREE. The jam session begins at 7:00 p.m. on Friday, June 3rd in Morristown NHP’s Washington’s Headquarters Museum, 30 Washington Place, Morristown, New Jersey.

The mission of the Centennial Band is to:

  • Enhance opportunities for visitors to experience and appreciate the sights and sounds of early jazz throughout the nation;
  • Interpret the origins, history, and progression of jazz; and
  • Promote and assist the education of students in various forms of jazz in order to perpetuate its continued evolution as a true American art form.

The Centennial Band is comprised of active, retired, or former park rangers as well as park volunteers and interns. The band performs traditional New Orleans jazz, selections from the Great American Songbook, and original compositions written by Ranger Jeff Wolin. The original songs can be found on Songs for Junior Rangers Volume 1 and Songs for Junior Rangers, Volume 2: The Centennial Edition, both of which will be for sale in Morristown NHP’s gift shop during the event.

Thursday, May 12, 2016

EKiP @ Morristown

On Tuesday, May 10, 2016, Morristown National Historical Park welcomed nearly 100 4th graders from Newark Public Schools to find their park, all thanks to the coordination and collaboration of the National Park Trust. The students learned critical outdoor survival skills from NPS Centennial sponsor REI via a local store associate, practiced yoga with the Newark Yoga Movement, explored tent camping and teamwork with the National Park Trust, and experienced a hike through the woods with a National Park Service ranger. 

The students also received their very own Every Kid in a Park (EKiP) pass. This pass provides free access to national parks, national forests, national wildlife refuges, and other federally owned lands, in an effort to provide an opportunity for each and every 4th grade student across the country to experience their federal public lands and waters in person. 

As Ranger Vanessa Smiley stated during the opening ceremony for the event, "This pass gives you power. It gives you the power to access parks across the country, for free, as well as three of your adult family members. They can't use this without you. So you have the power with this pass."

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Flat Ranger Elena Stops By MORR

Spring has sprung in Morristown and we were so lucky to have Flat Ranger Elena from Grand Island Public Schools stop in for a visit.

During her detail, Flat Ranger Elena served as a Centennial consultant. She attended our 2016 Encampment at Jockey Hollow and she helped kick off National Park Week.

She is pictured here, after touring the historic Ford Mansion.

Thanks for your help Flat Ranger Elena and best wishes on your upcoming adventures!

Monday, April 18, 2016

Upcoming BONJ Collaborations


Dr. Jude Pfister and Dr. Maetro Robert Butts discuss La Giuditta

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Morristown NHP auditorium, at 7:30



Baroque Orchestra of New Jersey perform Alessandro Scarlatti's 1693 La Giuditta 

Sunday, May 1, 2016
Morristown NHP auditorium, at 3:00


Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Emily Ramos Finds HER Park

Seventh grader, Emily Ramos, is a seasoned National History Day (NHD) participant. She is also a seasoned National Park explorer! For the past couple of years, her stellar NHD projects have allowed her to share her love for history and meet other young scholars who share that passion.This year’s NHD theme was Exploration, Encounter, and Exchange, so Emily decided to research the establishment of the National Park Service and its role in preserving and protecting sites and landscapes of significance. Her project coincides with our own Centennial celebration and serves as an excellent tribute to one-hundred years of inspiration, education, and community.

We interviewed Emily to get more insight into her research process.

  Emily Ramos
Grade:  7
School:  Nicholas Oresko School
Hometown:  Bayonne
Hobbies/Interests:  Swim Team, Girl Scouts, violin and reading 

What is National History Day and why do you enjoy participating?

National History Day is an academic contest that focuses on different areas of history. I enjoy participating in National History Day because it gives students a fun and interactive way to learn about different aspects of history.  

What was this year’s theme and how did you go about interpreting it?

This year’s NHD theme was “Exploration, Encounter and Exchange”. My topic relates to all of these aspects. It deals with the exploration of a new idea. My thesis stated that establishing America's national parks was one of our nation's best ideas. This idea was very radical for the time period- that lands should be preserved for everyone to enjoy and for future generations. Exchange also played a role in my project- industrialization and economy using up the land and the resources versus protection and preservation. Encounter involved new peoples, such as Indian tribes living there, people occupying the lands in the east where Shenandoah and the Smokies were created. Their opposition was encountered in many cases. I was glad to find out through my research that the idea of establishing national parks succeeded. And I agree that it was one of the best ideas and contributions made by our country.   

How did you choose a topic?

My family and I have visited several National Parks over the past few years.  I learned that they are all operated by the National Park Service. My favorite parks are the ones that preserve and conserve the natural world such as: mountains, seashores, and wildlife habitats. Besides being some of the most beautiful places to visit, they offer many educational programs. My favorite is the Junior Ranger Program. It allows young people to earn badges for completing activities designed to have them learn about a particular park in a fun and interactive way. With the 100th anniversary of the NPS approaching, I would like to use my project as doing my part in making people aware of what our National Parks have to offer.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Spring Concert Series

Please join Morristown National Historical Park for a series of special piano recitals to celebrate the NPS Centennial. Playing on the park’s 1873 Steinway grand piano, celebrated pianist Peter Toth will perform solo piano works from a variety of beloved composers.


Hungarian pianist Peter Toth is one of the most recognized artists of his generation. He has concertized in most countries in Europe, South America, and Asia. His first released CD recording won the Grand Prize of the Hungarian Liszt Society (2006). Mr. Toth is a regular guest artist at various piano festivals and has been member of the American Liszt Society since 2011.

Recitals Held

    March 27 | April  24 | May 29 |  
    June 12 | August 28 |
    September 25

1:00 PM, FREE of charge,
    no reservations necessary
For Info: Jude M. Pfister |
    P 973.539.2016 x 204

Monday, March 21, 2016

A Bright Young Librarian Among Us

Special Collections Archivist and Museum educator, Sarah Minegar, was selected to be featured as a “Bright Young Librarian” by Fine Books & Collections Magazine. 

Read more about her role at Morristown, her favorite artifacts, and upcoming Park collaborations 

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Springing Foward

Thanks to everyone who came out to celebrate the 2016 Morristown Saint Patrick's Day Parade!

You might have seen the MNHP folks proudly sporting some green and representing the National Park Service Centennial.

Just a friendly reminder, we are back on our spring schedule:

Wednesday through Sunday, 9:30 am to 5:00 pm

Centennial Schedule HERE!


Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Morristown National Historical Park and the Literary Imagination

Morristown National Historical Park in Morristown, New Jersey, is well known as the site of the Continental Army encampment during the terrible winter of 1779-1780. While there were earlier and later encampments in the area during the American Revolution, it is the 1779-1780 encampment that conjures the most interest, devotion, imagination, and debate. We are all naturally drawn to scenes of perseverance; scenes of human endurance against immense odds when the stakes are so high. Such scenes of course occurred at Morristown in 1779-1780, when the Continental Army faced the worst winter in recorded memory with little or no assistance from their civilian leaders in Congress or from the local population. 

Such was the memory of that suffering, hardship, and fortitude that Morristown was chosen as the site of the first National Historical Park in 1933. Since that time, the National Park Service (NPS) has striven to ensure that the story of that terrible time be told and remembered following the best scholarship available and within the boundaries of best museum practices. Yet, while the professionals at the NPS toil on decade after decade, there has been an entire side-business in embellishing, or enhancing, the story as it exists in an effort to make it just a bit more heroic, a bit more representative; pushing the historical envelope to find the limits of what the public will bear in terms of their history. In short, these practitioners engage in what can only be termed Poetic License. 

Read more of Dr. Jude Pfister's article in the March issue of
>Garden State Legacy<

Pfister, Jude. "Morristown National Historical Park and The Literary Imagination."  Garden State Legacy. Issue 31. Mar 2016. 

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Author David Veasey to Speak on New Jersey’s Colonial Architecture Told in 100 Buildings

Saturday, March 12, 2016 at 1 pm

Morristown, NJ – As part of its 2016 National Park Service Centennial celebration, Morristown National Historical Park welcomes author David Veasey to its Washington’s Headquarters Museum for an illustrated talk on his book, New Jersey’s Colonial Architecture Told in 100 Buildings.

The talk will be at 1 pm in the Washington’s Headquarters Museum, 30 Washington Place, Morristown, New Jersey. Admission to the program is free. Book sales and signing will follow the program.

Here in New Jersey, the most crowded and developed state in the union, a substantial number of buildings remains from our colonial past, including Washington’s Headquarters in Morristown.

Sandwiched between Philadelphia and New York City, New Jersey often does not get credit for its contributions to colonial and early American life, including its rich and diverse architectural heritage. This diverse architecture reflects its early settlers who were the most varied in all the colonies, except perhaps for New York City. Coming from the Netherlands, Germany, Sweden, France, Ireland, Scotland, and a number of English regions, each group of settlers brought its own building traditions.

David Veasey is a life-long New Jersey resident and has given illustrated talks all over the state. He has also written other books about the state. Veasey lives in Morris Plains, and graduated from Drew University, Madison, and holds a Master’s Degree from New York University. Veasey has worked as a writer his entire career.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Jacob Ford Jr. Mansion Now on Google Cultural Insitute

Morristown NHP is proud to announce it is part of the Google Cultural Institute. Take a tour of the historic Jacob Ford Jr. Mansion from any device, anywhere!

Virtual tour > HERE 

To take a ranger-led tour, #FindYourPark @ Morristown

Monday, February 8, 2016

Becoming George: The George Washington Manuscript Collection at Morristown National Historical Park

Drew Library Conversations on Collecting Series

Jude PfisterHear how America’s favorite founder found his voice, his character, and his reputation through the nib of his pen. Washington’s papers, rather than clarifying the man, only deepen the mystery of this larger than life figure. Everything from his writing style to the way he crafted his signature evolved along with his many roles during the founding of the United States.

Join Morristown NHP Chief of Cultural Resources Dr. Jude M. Pfister (G’07) as he talks about the over 400 Washington manuscripts (including two from Martha) in the park’s archival collection. Learn how the collection was put together by organizations during the late 19th and early 20th centuries before being gifted to Morristown NHP.
Dr. Pfister will also discuss some of the various attempts to codify Washington’s manuscripts since his death in 1799. This story is partly told in his 2014 (McFarland Press) book, America Writes Its History, The Formation of a National Narrative, 1650-1850. Dr. Pfister’s presentation will also include some special “show-and-tell” items.

WHERE: Drew University Rose Memorial Library 2nd floor Pilling Room

WHEN: February 25 @ 4:00 pm - 5:30 pm

COST: Free

Copy: Drew University events page

Thursday, February 4, 2016

America Writes Its History Lecture & Book Signing

At the Lehigh Valley Heritage Museum
Saturday, March 5th, 1:00 PM

Allentown, Pennsylvania—Prominent public historian and prolific author Dr. Jude Pfister will visit the Lehigh Valley Heritage Museum on Saturday, March 5th at 1:00 p.m. to speak on his book, America Writes Its History:  The Formation of a National Narrative 1650-1850.  The announcement was made today by Joseph Garrera, executive director of the Museum. 

Dr. Pfister’s talk will examine how history was shaped by events, and how events were shaped by history, and especially by historians.  “This presentation will fascinate everyone interested in the making of history,” said Garrera.  “Dr. Pfister’s work examines how Americans have used history in their efforts to explain and define themselves.”

The writing of American history has followed the development of the country from the first tentative outposts in the early 1600s to the free, independent, and confident, nation of the early 1800s.  During that time writers sought to fashion the guiding narrative of the unfolding American drama as it played out against great upheavals in colonial and Revolutionary America.  How would Americans define themselves and their new land?  Their fears, anxieties, triumphs, and defeats are all chronicled in the multiple ways Americans chose to document our past. From plays, to novels, to poems, and non-fiction narratives, Americans strived to explain themselves to themselves.  Equally important, they sought to tell their history to non-Americans as well.

Dr. Jude Pfister has worked with the National Park Service in the field of historic preservation and cultural resource conservation since 1993.  He currently serves as Chief of Curatorial Resources at Morristown National Historical Park, where he oversees the museum, archival, and library programs.  He is the author of several books, as well as multiple articles and reviews.  Copies of Dr. Pfister’s book, America Writes Its History, will be available for purchase, and the author will sign copies following the presentation.  Admission to the presentation  is FREE to members, $8.00 for adult non-members, and $3.00 for non-member children. 

The Lehigh Valley Heritage Museum is a 30,000 square foot teaching institution that attracts a diverse audience.  Its collections of historical Americana include over 35,000 three-dimensional objects, 3 million documents and more than 80,000 vintage photographs.   The Museum is located at 432 W. Walnut Street in Allentown.   Parking is available in the rear of the Museum, on the street, and in nearby lots.  For more information, contact Joseph Garrera, Executive Director, at 610-435-1074.  Visit or visit us on Facebook.  Members of the Press can also reach Mr. Garrera any time of day or night at 484-553-2592 (cell).

Monday, February 1, 2016

The Baroque Orchestra of New Jersey to Perform La Giuditta at Morristown NHP

On May 1, 2016, Morristown NHP will partner with the Baroque Orchestra of New Jersey to present the epic drama of Judith and Holofernes based on the oratorio by Alessandro Scarlatti entitled La Giuditta. The original 1693 score is part of the Lloyd W. Smith Rare Book and Archival collection at Morristown NHP. Maestro Robert Butts will led the orchestra for this very special performance. 

Stay tuned for time and ticket information.

Read more about the Maestro and some of his work, below.

Maestro Robert W. Butts & The Baroque Orchestra of New Jersey 

Maestro Robert W. Butts, founder and conductor of The Baroque Orchestra of New Jersey for 20 years, was named one of five 2015 Honored Artists by The American Prize. Maestro Butts was also awarded the 2011 American Prize Citation for Arts and Education outreach. He was named the 2004 Arts Professional of the Year by Morris Arts (then the Arts Council of the Morris Area), the DeMarsh Award by The American Recorder Society, and twice was a finalist for The Leo M. Traynor award.    For the American Prize, he has been a finalist as opera and orchestra conductor and as composer. He also was awarded The 2011 Vytautas Marijosius Memorial Award. 
Maestro Butts has developed The Baroque Orchestra of New Jersey from a specialized period ensemble to one of New Jersey's most dynamic orchestras with the most far-reaching repertoire.   While still performing the music of the 17th and 18th centuries (Monteverdi through Beethoven), Maestro Butts has expanded the orchestra to include music of the 19th, 20th and 21st centuries. Further, he and the orchestra have become leaders in the performance of new music, having premiered a dozen works by local composers over the past four years.   

In addition to his own compositions, Maestro Butts has led the orchestra in premiere works by Derwyn Holder, Richard Russell, Amy Reich, and Monsignor Marco Frisina who visited from the Vatican for the premiere of his work Puccini Suite. Maestro Butts has maintained a commitment to young artists through work with The Pearl & Julius Young Music Competition, sponsored by the orchestra. Finalists of the competition have been invited to play concerti with the orchestra, and to perform with the orchestra to enjoy the experience of playing with the more seasoned players Maestro Butts has also been a leading force in conducting opera in the New York area. Working with The Little Opera Company, New Jersey Concert Opera,  BONJ Opera, Eastern Opera, Touring Opera Company of New York, and Opera Theater of Montclair, Maestro Butts has led acclaimed performances of operas from the 17th through the 21st centuries. He is the only conductor to have conducted concert performances of three Handel operas (Semele, Acis and Galatea, and Giulio Cesare) and three Wagner operas (Das Rheingold, Die Walk├╝re, and Siegfried) in addition to operas by Mozart, Pergolesi, Donizetti, Verdi, Puccini, Leoncavallo, Bizet, Weber and Johann Strauss. He has worked with singers and directors from around the world. In March 2015, Maestro Butts made his conducting debut in Italy with a performance of Pergolesi's La Serva Padrona. He later conducted the opera with an international cast at The Bell and Barter Theatre in Rockaway, New Jersey.

As a composer, Maestro Butts finds influences from all styles of music ranging from the contrapuntal complexity of Johann Sebastian Bach to the passionate lyrical works of Tchaikovsky and Puccini to modern composers such as Schoenberg and Stravinsky.   Pop music has also influenced his highly lyrical style, particularly the compositions of Stephen Sondheim. In 2015, Maestro Butts had his compositions performed in Italy, England, China and Korea. His chamber operas were performed in January 2015 at The National Opera Center in New York. His Early Morning Suite was recently premiered at Schott Recital Hall in London. His Symphony #1 - The Joshua Symphony, commissioned by the Plaut family, was premiered in 2014.Other compositions receiving performances and critical attention include the operas The Tell-Tale Heart, The Cask of Amontillado, and Mark Twain and the General, as we ll as the popular Browning Songs, Bassoon Concerto, Five Poems on Emily Dickinson, Suite for Mid-Winter Afternoons, and Saturnalia Strings.

As an educator, Maestro Butts has taught courses on music history, conducting, American Music, Opera, and Early 20th Century Music at Montclair State University, The Casperson School of Graduate Studies at Drew University, The College of Saint Elizabeth, and Fairleigh Dickinson University. He has presented musicological papers at conferences of The American Musicological Society, The Country Music Conference, The Sonneck Society, The American Byron Society, The Symposium on New Classicism, and Friends of Mead Hall Annual Meeting.   He is renowned around New Jersey for his passionate and warm teaching and lecturing style which he has brought to many adult education programs, libraries, and retirement communities. He lectures regularly for The New Jersey Council for the Humanities and has lectured for The New Jersey Symphony, New Jersey State Opera, and Elderhostel. He has participated on opera education panels at The Metropolitan Opera.  With The Baroque Orchestra of New Jersey, he created the education broadcast series Concerts and Conversations.  

Maestro Butts has done extensive media work - recently appearing on television broadcasts in  Cremona and Castlefranco in Italy; in London, England; as a Comcast Newsmaker in New Jersey; and on Ask the Expert with Jesse Frees on WMTR. The November issue of New Jersey Monthly featured a special story on Maestro Butts and the orchestra.

The American Prize, begun in 2009, is awarded for excellence in all areas of musical performance and education. Performances are judged on artistic quality, based on the full breadth of possible criteria, including the overall effect of the performance, musicality, rhythmic incisiveness, ensemble, tone quality, accuracy, intonation, knowledge of style. Founder and Director David Katz was selected as as one of Musical America's "Professionals of the Year—a Key Influencer" for 2016.  The other "Honored Artists for 2015" include Donald Appert, conductor, of Vancouver, WA; Peggy Dettwiler, conductor, of Mansfield, PA; Jonathan Handman, conductor, of LaGrangeville, NY; and Robert Wendel, composer, of New York, NY.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Museum Selfie Day 2016

Join people in museums around the world (on January 20th, 2016) and take a selfie at one of our park sites to help raise awareness of these wonderful cultural resources. Show your support by snapping your #MuseumSelfie with an artifact or historical landscape, at the Morristown NHP.

Read more about this day: The Guardian

Friday, January 15, 2016

Washington’s Headquarters Museum Store Remodeling Begins

Washington’s Headquarters Museum and Ford Mansion Remain Open during Project

Morristown, NJ – Morristown National Historical Park (NHP) is pleased to announce that it has commenced the redesign of its Washington’s Headquarters Museum sales area. The project will reconfigure both the museum’s visitor information desk and its Eastern National store to improve accessibility and visitor orientation in the space.

During the improvement project, the museum store will be closed but the Washington’s Headquarters Museum and historic Ford Mansion will remain open on their winter schedule of Saturdays and Sundays only. Before visiting, please check the museum’s hours at

Eastern National is the Cooperating Association that operates Morristown NHP’s sales areas, as well as many other sales areas throughout the National Park Service. For more information on Eastern National, please visit

Morristown National Historical Park preserves, protects, and commemorates the landscapes, structures, features, and museum collections of the Continental Army winter encampments, the headquarters of General George Washington, and related Revolutionary War sites at Morristown, New Jersey for the benefit and inspiration of the public. The park interprets the history and subsequent commemoration of these encampments and the extraordinary fortitude of the officers and enlisted men under Washington’s leadership. Morristown NHP also represents a continuum of our nation’s efforts to protect our common heritage: as the very first “national historical park”, the park was also established to commemorate, preserve, and memorialize American history and heritage.

For more information about the park, please visit our website at

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Ghostly Revelations of the Ford Mansion

Morristown National Historical Park and the Morris County Tourism Bureau recently co-hosted author and paranormal investigator, Gordon Ward, for a seasonal event called Ghostly Revelations.

This presentation was not your traditional ghost hunter's story. Ward discussed varying interpretations of spirits/ghosts/apparitions, reviewed procedures for conducting credible research, and shared the mansion's own haunting tales.

Following the lecture, Ward took participants through the Ford Mansion, where he shared audio evidence he had collected in the historic structure.

Microsoft's GhostWhat a truly chilling experience! 

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Featured Manuscript: Eliza Hamilton’s Correspondence

Alexander Hamilton has been blowing up lately. The nation’s first Treasury Secretary and founder of the National Bank has been making headlines as debate continues over ​proposed changes to the ten dollar billand a hit musical based on his life debuts on Broadway.In keeping with the demands of popular culture, we’ve got a document written by his most trusted confidant and companion. Today’s featured manuscript is a letter written by Hamilton’s wife, Elizabeth Schuyler Hamilton, to their third son James.

A little background about Eliza Hamilton: She was born in Albany, New York in 1757, the second daughter of the affluent and well­to­do General Philip Schuyler. The fiercely independent Schuyler sisters were renowned for their intelligence, beauty, and charm throughout New York. Eliza (nicknamed Betsey) met the dashing young Alexander in 1777 while he served as aide­de­camp to George Washington during the Revolutionary War and they were married in December of 1780 (fun fact: Eliza was the only one of her five sisters who did not elope). Together, the couple had 8 children and adopted one. Their marriage survived venomous party politics, the nation’s first sex scandal, and the death of their oldest child, but it was brought to a violent end when Alexander Hamilton was killed in a duel with Vice President Aaron Burr in 1804. Left widowed and nearly destitute, Eliza raised 8 children and served on the boards of multiple charitable organizations, raised money with Dolly Madison to build the Washington Monument, and founded the first private orphanage in New York City. She died on November 9, 1854 at age 97, five months after the passage of the Kansas­Nebraska Act sparked separatism and violence in the country her husband had helped to build from the ground up.

Some of the grammatical errors in this letter made it a bit difficult to decode. Like most women of her time, Betsey Schuyler did not have access to formal education. Because of her aristocratic background she received private tutoring, but that luxury was not available to women of less wealthy families. (It’s worth noting that this woman was married to the economic mastermind of the early republic without a formal acquaintance with mathematics.) Betsey never let that hold her back from involvement in politics and society, however, because she attended private dinners at the White House until very late in her life as presidents continued to court the favor of Mrs. Alexander Hamilton.

Here are some photos of the letter and the envelope in which it was sent. Some parts are pretty tricky to read, so I’ve transcribed what I could below (and fixed some of the mechanics along the way):

New York October 24 1836

My beloved son,

How devotedly I, in my minds eye, followed the movements of the ships that contained the favorite son of my beloved departed Husband. how often must your mind [have] been roused to that great disposer of the Universe that was guarding you on your perilous voyage, could my wishes have wafted you [more] swiftly and smoothly than a Bird your passage would soon have terminated. I have greatly feared your delicate lungs would suffer from sea sickness. Let me hear particularly from you and all about my daughter and her children.

Should the weather be favourable, I wish to go(?) to Nevis, your road to the River will always remain the same and as your farmer may find time to put the side of the road next the fence in order so as to have early planting to ornament it, this Hobby of yours I feel desirous of cherishing more than (?), my Alexander must make drawings of every thing that may qualify (?) the House and ground.

I hope you will have time to examine the police of London, something may be observed beneficial to that of this city. My grand Daughters frequently visit me, the Mother of their departed father claims a closer Union. They are both in good Health, Fanny has become a teacher in Mr (?)’s Sunday school, very gratifying to Mrs Sullivan. A great talk to get General Harrison the Presidency, these garing elections, I fear will cause a tottering to our Constitution, have in seen the [unique] labour of your father In it, perhaps I feel more than any one [else]. Your Brothers are all well, Eliza requests (document is damaged)

wishes In you and all with you, may the Almighty son (?) guard and keep you prays your affectionate Mother

Elizabeth Hamilton

The above is my beloved mother’s

and a letter in her hand writing    

James A Hamilton

April 12 1869

Below her signature we can see she attached a lock of hair and a wax seal to the letter. There’s something written below it, which my grandma promptly deciphered (thanks grandma):

We also have a picture of the envelope the letter came in:

The "envelope" is the back page of the folded pages.

Just from looking at the envelope, we can tell Eliza had some trouble sending this letter. Part of the recipient’s address is crossed out, and it looks like the correspondence was originally sent to Paris, only to be redirected to Marseilles, as evidenced by the French writing below the original address (“aux soins de” means “care of”). There are also three postal marks instead of one, so this letter probably made a pretty rocky journey to reach James Hamilton. The stamp at the very top is also dated December 21st, 1836, and is marked “London”, meaning this letter took almost two months to cross the ocean­ and still had a ways to go.

The content of the letter at first does not appear to be anything out of the ordinary. Eliza writes as an aged matriarch concerned for the health of her “departed Husband[‘s]...favorite son”. She’s worried about James’ “delicate lungs” which, knowing her late husband, doesn’t come as a surprise. Throughout his life, Alexander Hamilton was prone to disease and took great precautions to avoid testing his weak immune system. It appears that James Hamilton, much like his father, was highly susceptible to illness and injury. She also writes about her grandchildren, James’ son Alexander and daughters Eliza and Fanny. We can tell that Alexander is an artist and a keen observer and Fanny has recently become a schoolteacher. Sadly, some damage to the otherwise well­preserved document prevents us from knowing what “Eliza request[ed]”, but it’s a safe bet that she asks either for a souvenir or her father’s safe return home.

What makes this letter so unusual is that it provides an incredibly unique perspective into the psychology of the pre­Civil War era. Eliza briefly mentions “a great talk to get General Harrison the Presidency”, hinting at her involvement in politics which continued thirty years after her husband’s death, and shows that her interest in current affairs did not arise out of necessity. As a staunch abolitionist, it’s no surprise that Eliza would have opposed the Democratic candidate (Harrison would have actually lost the election by the time this letter reached James. It’s okay though, he was elected in 1840, holding office for all of 32 days before dying of pneumonia). She also conveys fear for the future if acidulous party politics continue to undermine national unity; in this way, Betsey Hamilton’s views mirror those of her late husband. Hamilton, like Washington, valued the union above all else and believed it was the job of the executive branch to preserve it at all cost. It would be six years after her death until Abraham Lincoln would take the same approach to executive responsibility. With sectionalism quickly taking hold of Congress, it is easy to imagine Betsey’s mounting anxiety that the country would fall to pieces less than 50 years after its inception.

In spite of the hardships of life as a single mother of eight and fear for the future of her country, Elizabeth Schuyler Hamilton was an incredibly strong woman who loved her family more than anything. If this letter shows anything, it’s that Alexander is not the only Hamilton who lived a life of enduring relevance.

This blog post by rising
West Morris Mendham senior, 
Sami Heyman, 17.