Earlier this week we looked at some letters from Princess Diana which made headlines after selling at auction for five times their estimates but now a series of documents and letters from Alexander Hamilton, one of America’s founding fathers, have sold for a total of £2.1 million.
The auction, which included love letters between Hamilton and his wife, and an essay he wrote about America’s neutrality in the midst of foreign tensions garnered so much interest and intense bidding that ‘Hamiltonia’ has now exceeded the value of George Washington memorabilia.
The Hamiltonia market had suffered from a lack of supply of quality memorabilia before now but since performances of Lin-Manuel Mirandes award winning musical started in 2015, the market has been booming.
The musical proved a huge success, winning 11 Tony awards, the 2016 Grammy Award for Best Musical Theatre Album and the 2016 Pulitzer Prize for Drama, which raised the profile of Hamilton massively and helped the market to flourish.
This sale was the first of its kind and told the story of his brief but momentous life through 77 lots comprising of hundreds of documents that have descended through the Hamilton family for the last two centuries.
Particular highlights from the sale include the 1777 commission making Hamilton George Washington’s aide-de-camp, which has been dubbed one of the most consequential documents in American history and sold for $212,500.
A draft manuscript for one of Hamilton’s Pacificus essays, pulled in another large sum when the hammer came down at $262,500.
The most poignant relic in the sale was a lock of Hamilton’s hair with a letter of presentation from his wife Eliza, which sold for $37,500.
In total, the auction’s sales broke the previous record for any document handwritten by Hamilton, set back in 2001 with $44,650 paid for a single manuscript, according to Sotheby’s.
Hamilton’s background is remarkable, in the 1804 state election in New York, he helped Morgan Lewis to defeat Aaron Burr and following the result, letters were released which showed his opposition to Burr and Burr took them as an attack on his honour.
Despite attempts to reconcile their differences, a duel was arranged and it was in this duel that Hamilton was famously shot in the abdomen, he would later succumb to his injuries and died the following day.
Hamilton’s influence is still felt today and his interpretations of the Constitution set forth in the Federalist Papers remain highly influential in both scholarly studies and court decisions.