Quick notice that, as you have likely noticed, this site hasn’t been updated much lately. I’ve been happily busy with work and life, and it looks like those things are only going to get busier. Focusing on creating content for this site is not my present focus.
I’m sad about this, because I know I’ve personally, creatively improved what I could do with this site even since last updating it. I do still love my original idea for it, and subsequent ideas for different things I could do with it…I’ve simply been pulled in other directions.
I won’t be deleting the site or the old content. I may pick it back up again, or post very sporadically. Who knows? If I were you I wouldn’t wait for it and I would stay satisfied with other Hamilton content…but it is possible that it’s only a matter of time before I’m back.
Listen, Dolley Madison is a gem of American History. If, thanks the Hamilton: An American Musical, you can credit A.Ham as an extremely important intellectual figure in the founding of the United States, you also must credit James Madison. He was the only one on par with Hamilton. Long story short: Madison is the best of the Virginians from his time period. I’ll make him his own post some day.
AND, other long story short, Madison really only politically succeeded because he was married to Dolley. In the musical he is very correctly portrayed as sickly and socially awkward. He was very small of stature. In real life, he wisely married Dolley and Dolley wisely married him.
Dolley’s success was her ability to charm and be sociable with everyone. It was a time, not unlike our own, where different political factions were viciously at each others’ throats. She did her damndest, as was very successful, at bridging those gaps and finding common ground. When Madison was in office, for example, she would have regular, weekly socials that people of all parties attended and were required to play nice. The gatherings became a staple of government workings–If you didn’t attend you weren’t in one of the most important rooms where things happened.
You love musicals and American history. You will hopefully agree with me that Dolly Gallagher Levi (of “Hello, Dolly!“) is in some capacity based on Mrs. Madison. The story is about a social butterfly widow who eventually makes a great marriage and alliance with a cranky, awkward fart…Not to mention that in the movie version starring Barbara Streisand, during THE song, the character is literally wearing peacock feathers all up in her hair. See below. And listen the song in a new tab while you think about Dolley Madison.
Quick aside about her being somewhat “sultry,” because the character in the musical is: Dolley Madison probably damn well was. Everyone loved her and she thrived because of it. The same types of vicious newspapers that plagued Hamilton and the others made big deal attempting to shame her for being allegedly promiscuous (pfft). Dolley Madison ignored all of it and did her thing.
Mood board, colors and fonts!
Dolley-Yellow! I chose this color because she was a very sunny woman. She held the very first Inaugural Ball, and her dress was quite yellow. Also, after choosing this color I learned that when she was making the White House homey, she had a room painted in her “signature yellow color.” While it’s entirely possible I had this tidbit in the back of my mind somewhere and just forgot it, the point is that through and through Dolley’s color was yellow. That is her vibe.
Fonts:Sacramento, paired with Open Sans Condensed. A google fonts suggestion, because I’m still a newbie and I love google fonts. When I’m picking these I pretty much just browsed through, and Sacramento screamed Dolley’s personality to me. I decided to pair with Open Sans Condensed as a homage to her being with James Madison, so different and so much more uptight than her.
Header Image:Montpelier, the historic home of James and Dolley Madison. I’ve visited it twice. Here’s the section of their site dedicated to Dolley. I’m also just going to take this moment to say that Dolley and James really did suck because they were mostly unrepentant slave owners. Yes it’s a sign of the times, but I hate George Washington for his hypocrisy on it, so I also hate them for it…Related image:
Agriculture Field: By Adele Payman. Not actually Virginia, full disclosure.
Flag: By Stephanie McCabe. The most famous Dolley story is how she saved various Revolutionary War relics and the most famous portrait of George Washington during the invasion of Washington, DC during the war of 1812. She was someone who lived through the revolution, and then was the (“first”) First Lady when the British re-invaded.
Lady onBed: By Vladislav Muslakov. She had a hard life, in addition to…you know…wars. Her first husband and second son (still an infant) died of yellow fever in 1793, leaving her a widow with her first son to support on her own at the age of 25. She definitely married James, in part, for financial security. In order to marry him, however, she had to accept being ousted by her religious community. She and her first husband were Quakers, and her marriage to a non-Quaker like James was a deal breaker for her church. (To be fair, she blossomed away from their restrictive lifestyle, but I digress…)
Lady and Son: By Daiga Ellaby. Her surviving son, Payne, was both the apple of her eye and a crap human being. He had serious gambling issues that James did his best to shield Dolley from while he was alive. However, after James died Payne’s debts became so insurmountable that Dolley was left destitute and had to sell Montpelier (including all of the slaves). Ultimately, by the end of her life she was incredibly poor thanks to her son. Regardless, she was always, always incredibly devoted to Payne. And, as a separate note, she was always very sad and disappointed that she and James were never managed to have their own children.
Peacock: By AGL Fotos. Dolley was a fashion icon. Big time. One of the first and biggest American fashion icons. She favored wearing her hair in a wrap/turban type getup with peacock feathers in it. It became all the rage. Also! Keep in mind that she came from that Quaker background where the standard was for her to dress extremely modestly. The quote about how she was “peculiarly fitted” to be the First Lady she eventually became is very apt. I will also take this time to mention that she so often took the spotlight (no doubt much to James’ relief) that she was referred to in the press as the “Presidentess.” Related to Hostess-Dolley:
Lady on Stairs: By Bin Thiều. As mentioned, after James died Dolley was basically bankrupt by her leech of a son, Payne Todd. Eventually she moved back to DC, where she was at least somewhat socially comfortable. She and Eliza Hamilton became the two remaining “relics” of the Revolutionary War/the “founding fathers.” Basically, she was still revered, but privately she had a hard time paying the bills.
I read The Farmer Refuted full text, and couldn’t get it out of my head that I wanted to do a full design. The intent is for it to look something like Hamilton has written a blog post. The body text is, of course, excerpts from the real text, which can be found transcribed on the National Archives site (here).
With this post, it’s important to me to get across the atmosphere of Hamilton’s life, particularly when he first came to New York and the colonies were on the verge of separation from Great Britain. I was a history major in college and I focused on (shocker) revolutionary and early United States. Also modern American Indian history–AKA I’m also 100% an indigenous rights ally. This may seem contradictory. The common denominator, however, is the eternal question of how to enact fairness in government when we are inherently flawed and selfish creatures. The first successful, major shift from monarchy in modern Western society is the American Revolution. All [humans] are created equal. All humans’ perspectives and needs are equal, regardless of station in life. Though, at the time and to this day, with the exception of economic/class status…a big problem, to be sure. Not yet (but will be addressed) race.
This philosophy successfully took hold in Western culture because rich, white, male American colonists felt they were of equal standing to richer, white, male, British citizens. And the British Parliament disagreed in a way that had economic repercussions for the white, male American colonists. That is a critical cultural root of the United States of America, and the cultural root of desiring true economic kindness and respect behind the actions of government.
(The other best example is the mad terror of the French Revolution [an obsession of mine, because human nature…]. We’ll absolutely get to Lafayette later on this blog.)
Colonial America was physically a very different place from the high societies of Europe where structural, cultural hierarchy was ingrained. The (white, male) colonists (who thought they were entitled to votes on taxes due to their status within the colonies of America) felt betrayed that their equivalents in British society did not respect them and their livelihoods/interests. High class colonial white men, for all of their great flaws, formally institutionalized the principles of equality. Seemingly (sadly, still to this day, to some of their perceptions) to their own personal detriment. (Hashtag TOO BAD.)
The point is: The shift in thinking leading up to the American Revolution was immense. It was the equivalent of a child taking control of her/his own life, but on a global scale, with repercussions we constantly feel every single day of our lives. The spirit of the American Revolution is the spirit of Black Lives Matter, Me Too, and Pride. The fact equality was the spark that started our nation is why our culture has political and legal instruments in place to fight for all kinds of equality.
Fonts: Young Hamilton (Poiret One); Seabury (Cinzel Decorative); Body (Raleway).
Colors: Hamilton Green (#458b00) Seabury Purple (#7b008b).
Important Hamilton Musical References: “My Shot,” “The Story of Tonight,” and “Farmer Refuted.”
Important Literature: Alexander Hamilton, Ron Chernow. The Americanization of Benjamin Franklin, Gordon S. Wood.
Been thinking about Eliza vs Angelica, which lead me to thinking about Dolley Madison.
I wouldn’t be surprised if Dolly of “Hello, Dolly!” is some kind of call back to Mrs. Madison, though I’ve never researched it. Basically, the character is very with-an-e Dolley Madison. Social graces and charm, but with an extremely sharp mind and independent fortitude behind it all.
But I digress: I got a couple of books at the library, and am unexpectedly (to me) researching Dolley Madison.
I only recently got some brush pens. I have no actual schooling/have done no real work to learn how to use them. But I wanted to get some kind of feel for them, so turned to Hamilton quotes. These are sloppy, but I had fun making them. I’m learning about brush pens now, so I’ll probably make these again once I have an actual hand for it!
“Happy” Mental Health Awareness Month! The struggle is very real. It’s important to really, fully accept the concept of not being alone with mental illness. It’s important to let go of the (sometimes overly proud, sometimes devastatingly self hating) notion that no one else has experienced similar negativity, despair, confusion, etc. It’s important to recognize how incredibly difficult it is to recognize and accept your own mental illness. Communication about it is the most important thing.
I was on a (absolutely amazing family) vacation/trip for a while, and this week have had a (terrifying) family health emergency. The first threw me off of my self care routine (but obviously was worth it–These are the benefits of getting a better grip on mental health). The second has resulted in a lot of negativity because, frankly, I truly feel like if I don’t get a break in life at some point soon I will have no chance of regaining my footing to become a happy and healthy individual.
Character seems to be judged, in part, by how well we handle hardships in life. All of my most trying hardships, however, appeared after I had experienced an identity crisis (initially the identity crisis itself was theoretically the worst I had experienced in my life). The torrent of crisis situations over the last 5 years, immediately after critically doubting myself, subsequently wreaked havoc on my trust in myself…somewhat illogical, as almost all circumstances were entirely out of my control…but it is what it is. This has been a ramble. And here is a hand lettered and then a photoshop-font impression of my own mental health. Obviously not Hamilton related!
In short, I have an unhealthy obsession with making things mentally healthy. And that, in and of itself, is not healthy. I am much better in life, and considering all of the external circumstances I’m proud of how I handled the hardships.
The April Hamildrop was amazing. If you haven’t heard it, please do yourself a favor and listen immediate.
This song got me fired up, so I made a few Angelica and Eliza visuals/pairings. I used both lyrics and real text. I’ve also included some John Barker Church (i.e., Angelica’s forgotten husband with whom Alexander and Eliza were very close…The world needs more JBC, and hopefully this blog will eventually help with that).
If you want to read Ron Chernow‘s take on Eliza and Angelica’s reactions to the Reynolds Pamphlet it can be found within the chapter “Flying Too Near The Sun,” pages 526-545. All historic quotes within this post are taken from this chapter.
I absolutely love Hamilton: An American Musical exactly as is, but I’ve always been sad that “Congratulations” wasn’t in there, AND I’m sad that elements of “First Burn” aren’t there. Namely I love the ladies calling Ham out specifically for being politically stupid on top of emotionally harmful…Not only because it feels good to have them hit him where it hurts, but because it shows their political intelligence. Because women didn’t have the vote they had their own, different (yes, lesser) political roles where highly intelligent social butterflies like Angelica and Dolly Madison were queens. This other half of politics, more distinctly it’s own arena in that time, deserves more attention. Best example: Madison could NEVER have been who he was if Dolly hadn’t made up for society’s problems with his physical and social shortcomings.
SO in musical world when Eliza and Angelica respectively call Hamilton out for his disregard of how society sees them all, I hear it as more than them being personally wounded. He has stupidly, SEVERELY damaged their well-oiled family political machine; he has hurt all of their public interests.
“First Burn” and “Congratulations” vibes are unfortunately not how Eliza and Angelica historically reacted. Lin-Manuel Miranda has stated (I believe in the PBS documentary, but don’t quote me) that he “recast” Eliza’s response to the scandal (burning their love letters) as anger at Hamilton, rather than as protecting their personal life from the scathing eye of history. Angelica is obviously portrayed as breaking off her emotional affair with Hamilton for the pain he has caused Eliza.
For the record, I’m 100% for this change for the sake of more modernly relatable, strong female characters.
In truth, according to Chernow, Eliza’s anger was largely directed at James Monroe (see: The Reynolds Pamphlet: Full Title) for unjustly conspiring to destroy Alexander’s reputation. Throughout the scandal, and despite heinous opposition press blaming her for Hamilton’s cheating, Eliza remained stoic and silent. Chernow states that “already Eliza showed flashes of the militant loyalty to her husband that was to distinguish her widowhood” (543).
For her part, Angelica saw Eliza having to cope with this public humiliation as part and parcel with being married to a great man and public figure. The Icarus line comes from a letter (quoted below) Angelica sent Eliza. Within this context, it’s clear she too is of the mind that this massively embarrassing situation is primarily the result of malice by Hamilton’s envious rivals.
Tranquilize your kind and good heart, my dear Eliza, for I have the most positive assurance from Mr. Church that the dirty fellow who has caused us all some uneasiness and wounded your feelings, my dear love, is effectually silenced. Merit, virtue and talents must have enemies and are always exposed to envy so that, my Eliza, you see the penalties attending the position of so amiable a man. All this you would not have suffered if you had married into a family less near the sun…
With all my heart and redoubled tenderness,
Angelica is (of course) exceedingly clever. People of this era loved to speak in metaphors utilizing Roman mythology (John and Abigail Adams were seriously obnoxious about it, but I digress…). By clearly alluding to Icarus, the embodiment of the consequences of hubris, Angelica is identifying Hamilton’s political ambitions as the root cause of this family downfall. The difference between the historical and the musical versions is Angelica blaming/not blaming Alexander personally for Eliza’s humiliation. The “dirty fellow” who has been silenced is not (from what I can tell) Alexander, but Callender/Monroe/one of the family’s political enemies. In an excerpt I did not include just before this text, she is speaking well of Hamilton and describing to Eliza (who had just left them both to travel to Albany to birth yet another child) how concerned for her Alexander was. Full disclosure that I have not yet read the letter in it’s entirety (the full text is not in Chernow’s book), but intend to when I find time to hunt it down elsewhere. I’ll report back here when I do!
Regardless of the discrepancies, what rings absolutely true is Angelica’s love for and protectiveness towards her younger sister. She is clearly personally wounded for the emotional pain she knows Eliza is suffering and is doing whatever she can to try and support her. At the end of the day, that’s what we all hopefully take away from “First Burn” and “Burn.”