While I was in New York last week for BookExpo, I also found time for a little extra research and inspiration. I took the subway uptown to Columbia University for an appointment in the Rare Books & Manuscript Library (more to come about my visit soon), and I also spotted this handsome statue of Alexander Hamilton, standing appropriately in front of Hamilton Hall. Over two hundred years have passed since he was a student there, yet he remains one of the university's most famous alumni.
There are scores of public statues of Hamilton across the country, but this is the only one I've seen that shows him as a young college student instead of a revered statesman. Thanks to the contributions of a group of gentlemen on his native island of Nevis, the impoverished but promising Hamilton was able to sail to New York to pursue his eduction in 1773. He was about sixteen when he enrolled at King's College (Columbia's name before the Revolution), and although he left the college without graduating in 1776 to join the Continental Army and the cause of liberty, his years as a student helped hone his intellectual curiosity and his relentless work ethic. Columbia remained special to Hamilton, with several of his sons attending the college as well. In honor of his role and achievements helping create the new federal government, Columbia did grant him an honorary degree to make up for the one he'd never completed.
Dedicated in 1908, this bronze statue of Hamilton was created by the sculptor William Ordway Partridge, and was a gift of the Association of Alumni of Columbia College. With his hair tousled and his gaze purposeful, Hamilton looks as if he's eager to take on everything the world might toss his way - which, in fact, he was. Obviously his wife Eliza never saw this statue, but I feel sure she would have approved of it. This is the young Alexander, brimming with energy and ambition, that she'd meet in late 1777 when he was serving as an aide-de-camp of General Washington.
What would Eliza have to say about the statue of Thomas Jefferson that stands nearby? Better not to guess....
Photograph ©2017 by Susan Holloway Scott
Read more about Eliza Schuyler and Alexander Hamilton in my latest historical novel, I, Eliza Hamilton, now available everywhere.