Long before there was a Broadway production about Alexander Hamilton I knew him to be my favorite Founding Father. One of the most amazing and uplifting stories from the pages of history can be found in Ron Chernow’s book.
The pistols used in the infamous 1804 duel between Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr will be on display May 25 through June 24 at the Smithsonian’s National Postal Museum. They are featured in the exhibition “Alexander Hamilton: Soldier, Secretary, Icon,” along with mail, portraits, and postage and revenue stamps reflective of Hamilton’s life and career as the first U.S. treasury secretary.
The pair of flintlock pistols have been described by Hamilton scholar and author Ron Chernow as having “the best claim to authenticity” as the pistols used in the famous duel.
Made of walnut, brass and gold, and each weighing several pounds, the pistols were manufactured in England by the celebrated gunsmith Robert Wogdon. They were owned by Hamilton’s brother-in-law, John Barker Church, who had himself dueled with Burr in 1799 over a different matter (and using a different set of pistols).
Far from vindicating himself as he had hoped, Burr instead became a pariah. Indicted for the capital crime of murder in both New York and New Jersey, he was forced into hiding. President Thomas Jefferson dropped him from the Democratic-Republican presidential ticket, and later ordered Burr’s arrest on treason charges stemming from an alleged plot to set up an independent country in the Louisiana Purchase territories. Burr was eventually acquitted of murder, dueling and treason, and he resumed a modest law practice in New York but died bankrupt and living in a Staten Island boarding house in 1836.
“History remembers Alexander Hamilton as the pioneering first secretary of the treasury, but he was also responsible for the Post Office Department,” said Daniel Piazza, chief curator of philately. “He used the mail to collect import and export data from customs officers all over the country, and his ability to interpret this data made Hamilton the best informed member of Washington’s first Cabinet.”
One thought on “Duel Pistols Of Alexander Hamilton And Aaron Burr To Be On Display”
This is the stuff of history which never gets old. Thanks for posting.