The Hamilton Effect: 8 Unexpected (and Strange) Effects of the Smash Musical

Special Features   The Hamilton Effect: 8 Unexpected (and Strange) Effects of the Smash Musical
 
Hamilton has altered the fate of a lot of other things beside Broadway.
Alexander Hamilton
Alexander Hamilton New York Public Library

Every now and then a show comes along that has an impact on society that no one—not the creators, not the producers, not the critics—could have anticipated. Hamilton is such a show. In this particular respect, it is, perhaps, the show to beat all shows. A very small percentage of the population have actually seen the show, but the nation has felt its influence in all sort of unexpected, unusual and, at times, absurd ways. Here is a tally of the most crazy and creative ways Hamilton has infiltrated every avenue of contemporary American existence.

The $10 Founding Father Saves the $10 Bill.
How many stage shows have changed the course of American currency? Answer: one. The Treasury Department was all prepared to bump Alexander Hamilton off the $10 bill, where the nation’s first Treasury secretary has had a home since 1929. In his place was to be the portrait of a famous American woman to be named later. And then Hamilton came along, and made the man on the sawbuck more famous and popular than he had been in a century. In 2016, Treasury Secretary Jacob J. Lew walked back on that decision, assuring the world that Hamilton would remain on on the $10. Instead, Andrew Jackson got the shove, losing the $20 to Harriet Tubman.

The Millionaire Historian.

Public Gala 2016 HR07.jpg
Ron Chernow Monica Simoes

Ron Chernow’s life changed when Lin-Manuel Miranda, in 2008, looking for some vacation reading, picked up his biography of Alexander Hamilton at an airport book shop. Miranda hired Chernow as a consultant for his aborning musical, even cutting him in on the considerable profits the show is generating. (According to the New York Times, he gets one percent of the show’s adjusted grosses as a royalty — adding up to about $900,000 a year.) Following the 2016 Tonys broadcast, in which Hamilton won big, the biography zoomed up the USA Today best-sellers list. More than a decade after it was released, the book ranks in the top ten of Amazon’s most-bought volumes. Today, Chernow autographs not only copies of his book, but Playbills.

They Have to Be Carefully Taught.
A year ago, it’s doubtful that Alexander Hamilton got more than a mention or two in junior-high and high-school history classes, overshadowed, as he has historically been, by his more famous contemporaries Washington, Jefferson, Adams and Madison. That has changed. Educators, knowing a good hook when they see one, are using the musical to engage their students. From the eighth-grade teacher in Los Angeles planning a Revolutionary Unit to the Bronx, NY high school history chair founding the course Hamilton: A Musical Inquiry, students will learn all about the Founding Father. That the musical is partially told through the modern musical form of rap, and that a multi-cultural cast enacts the story of the country’s largely white founding fathers, has provided further connections between the musical’s subject matter and today’s young students. In one of the more notable efforts, the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History, and the Rockefeller Foundation teamed up with the producers of the musical to bring 20,000 eleventh graders to the show, allowing them to create their own creative interpretations of early American history.

Little Baby Hamilton.
Forget Noah and Mason. The hot new baby name is Hamilton. According to BabyCenter, which tracks such things, the name Hamilton soared in popularity by 60 percent over the past year. (That’s right: Hamilton, not Alexander, which has a lot more historical footing as a first name.) Other names from the show that have increased in popularity include Jefferson (up 171 percent), James, as in Madison (up 25 percent for boys), Maria, the name of Hamilton’s mistress (up nearly 22 percent), and George, as in Washington (up nearly 21 percent). (Aaron, as in Burr, hasn't budged.) That 2016 is an election year has probably nudged along this trend of politically tinged christenings.


Hamilton Grange
Hamilton Grange Wikimedia Commons

You’ve Seen the Musical, Now Visit the Grave.
Alexander Hamilton was, of course, a New Yorker. His house has long stood in Harlem, a rare relic of Revolutionary times in Manhattan, and his grave is in Trinity Church. But they weren’t exactly hot tourist tickets. No more. Visits to Hamilton’s house at the Grange National Memorial went up by 70 percent in 2015. Also, a Hamilton-themed walking tour of Hamilton Heights and Washington Heights began last year. At the New-York Historical Society, the Burr-Hamilton dueling pistols are a hot display. Downtown, Hamilton’s final resting place in the Trinity Church yard, as well as the graves of his wife Eliza and friend Hercules Mulligan, are popular attractions. North New Jersey sites like Paterson, which he founded, and Weehawken, where he died, have also benefitted.

They’re Super Dead!
It’s hard to get living folks to hang out at graveyards for fun. But Brooklyn’s historic Green-Wood Cemetery, which was founded in 1838, found a way: a trolley tour visiting the final resting places of Hamilton’s nearest and dearest. No Hamilton is buried here. (As mentioned above, he’s over at Trinity Church in downtown Manhattan.) But Robert Troup, his college roommate is. So is William Peter Van Ness, Burr’s “second” in the famous duel; Hamilton’s son John; a couple Hamilton grandchildren; and a few more. The tour took place on June 11. Of course, like the show that inspired it, the tour sold out.

Voter Bait.

Hillary Clinton
Hillary Clinton

Lin-Manuel Miranda is no friend of presumptive Republican Presidential nominee Donald Trump. Hillary Clinton and President Obama, meanwhile, have seen Hamilton a number of times, and are now benefiting from people’s rabid desire to snag tickets. Recently, the Clinton camp has sent out fundraising emails dangling Hamilton tickets as a carrot. Just donate to the campaign and you may win ducats to the coveted show. “I’m saving a seat for two supporters like you at ‘Hamilton,’” the former first lady said in an email to supporters. “Don’t miss this chance! I’ve really been looking forward to this, and I want you to be there.” The giveaway also includes round-trip airfare and one night’s stay at New York hotel.

Quoting Like He’s Running Out of Time.
Hamilton has bred many super fans. But perhaps no one is more visibly dedicated to the score as Ted Perry, a news anchor at the Fox affiliate FOX6 in Milwaukee. Perry finds sneaky ways to quote Miranda’s lyrics in every newscast. The Milwaukee Brewers team is “young, scrappy and hungry.” A little sun in the weather forecast “would be enough.” A politics story tells “how the game is played, how the sausage gets made.”