Alexander Hamilton's letters to be auctioned in NYC
The hottest Broadway show is shining its spotlight on a collection of historic American documents. They are Alexander Hamilton's letters. The letters are being auctioned at Sotheby's.
Hamilton is one of America's founding fathers. He died in 1804.
Javier Munoz, who plays him in the Broadway musical, got teary-eyed Jan. 10 as he held the only known letter from Hamilton's son Philip to the man addressed as "Papa." The son asks his father for advice on a written presentation. He notes that his mentor had deleted a sentence Hamilton liked best.
"I'm overwhelmed," said Munoz, who held the delicate old piece of paper unprotected, asking permission to flip it over. "It's sort of like walking into someone's apartment and looking at the desk where they work. And that's so revealing about how their mind works."
Dozens of the letters penned by one of the nation's founding fathers will go on the block Jan. 18. The letters' estimated worth is between $1.4 million and more than $2 million. But Sotheby's expects the feverish interest in the megahit "Hamilton" likely will drive prices up.
The most valuable item of the auction, estimated at $300,000 to $500,000, is one of Hamilton's "Pacificus" essays. It probes a contentious issue. That is George Washington's declaration of his nation's neutrality in the conflict between France and Great Britain.
"This is a unique conjunction of historical material with the popular zeitgeist," said Selby Kiffer, the auction house's expert on books and manuscripts. "I have not experienced anything like this before."
The designer of the show's sets is David Korins. He also created parts of Sotheby's Americana exhibit space. The area includes the kind of furniture and art that surrounded Hamilton in his daily life.
Above the displays, Korins strung bungee-like tension cords. They are in red, white and blue. They serve as links leading visitors around. The cords reflect the threads of an American flag.
Munoz said that reading Hamilton's private thoughts on everything from his love life and political career to war and even gardening will have a deep effect on his performance. And, especially on the details that don't appear on Broadway.
"Part of the awe for me is how casual so much of this is," said Munoz. He and Korins giggled as they pored over one letter. In it, Hamilton writes flirtatious words to his sister-in-law, Angelica Church.
People expect every word and letter of such manuscripts to be lifted to historical dimensions, Munoz said. "Meanwhile, it's like, 'hey, how are you?' - you know, like my tweet to somebody, or I just texted my mom."
The letters belong to Hamilton's descendants.
CRITICAL THINKING QUESTION
Why are these letters so revealing?
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