The critical and commercial success of Hamilton: An American Musical has sown the seeds for Alexander Hamilton’s renaissance in popular culture. Not only has Hamilton spawned a newfound appreciation for the Founding Father as an historical figure, but the show has sparked a renewed interest in New York State history and that of our country’s founding. Hamilton’s influence on our culture can be seen and felt throughout New York City and notably, the show’s impact has permeated more obscure pockets of American consciousness, too.
Alexander Hamilton was a real New Yorker. Hamilton Heights, his old neighborhood, is named in his honor and “The Grange,” the Harlem homestead that Hamilton commissioned architect John McComb Jr. (who also designed Gracie Mansion) to build in 1802, was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1960. While his federalist-style home on 141st Street is a true relic of Manhattan’s Revolutionary era and a significant landmark, no one would describe Hamilton Grange as a hotbed of tourist activity. Then, in late 2015, Hamilton made its Broadway debut.
There has been a very real effect in how the musical has prompted more people to the explore the northern Manhattan neighborhood. Visits to Hamilton Grange have increased by nearly 500 percent since this time last year. More people are visiting Hamilton’s gravesite at Trinity Church in downtown Manhattan these days, too. And according to StreetEasy’s Q2 market reports, Hamilton Heights’ real estate market has become increasingly competitive, boasting a growth rate four times that of other NYC neighborhoods.
Monuments and exhibits in New York that were once less traveled-by have caught the attention of Hamilton super-fans, who go out of their way to visit more obscure sites, like the Schuyler-Hamilton House in Morristown, New Jersey, where Hamilton courted his wife Eliza, and the New York Historical Society, where an exhibit that displays the Burr-Hamilton dueling pistols is especially popular.
For the remainder of 2016, The New York Public Library is showcasing its own shrine of sorts to Hamilton. Alexander Hamilton: Striver, Statesman, Scoundrel, which opened on June 24, displays historic documents from Hamilton’s personal, military and political life in New York.
An uptick in visitors admiring a statue of Hamilton in Central Park was enough motivation for the city to show the monument a little love. “We gave him a treatment in late June,” says a spokeswoman for the Central Park Conservancy, referring to the Hamilton monument. “A water wash with mild soap…Hamilton gets a light-pressure wash because you don’t want to get too aggressive with stone.” Hamilton-themed SoulCycle spin classes are the quickest to fill up at several Manhattan locations.
At Hamilton College in upstate New York, the college bookstore continues to order hundreds of copies of Ron Chernow’s biography of Hamilton, and the book still flies off the shelves. On campus, Hamilton students revere their school’s namesake and are proud of the musical’s success. This past Spring Break, a student service organization at Hamilton traveled to Hamilton’s birthplace on the Caribbean island of Nevis, where they volunteered with local nonprofit agencies. Hamilton College President Joan Stewart said the musical’s cultural influence was noticeable to Hamilton admissions officers this year. She says a number of high schoolers who applied to Hamilton mentioned the Broadway musical in their essays.
The success of the musical even inspired Hamilton’s college mascot to participate more actively in his democracy. Last September, “Alex,” the Hamilton College mascot, traveled to Washington, DC, to protest the Treasury Secretary Jack Lew’s plan to remove Hamilton’s face from the $10 bill. “The movement to keep Alexander Hamilton on the $10 bill was fueled by academics, but gathered strength after the Broadway musical named after the former Treasury secretary and founding father became a smash hit,” Politico reporters Ben White and Nolan McCaskill explain.
That a Broadway musical has played a role in the fate of U.S. currency design speaks to the impact of Miranda’s show. That a hit musical about Hamilton–the man who established our national banking system–would influence the U.S. Treasury’s decision to keep Hamilton’s likeness on our money is especially fitting. Lin Manuel Miranda, who actually met with Secretary Lew in person and personally lobbied him on the subject, must have been pleased when the U.S. Treasury acquiesced to public pressure and decided to keep its own founder on the $10 bill.
Further manifestations of Hamilton’s success, though lacking in political weight, illustrate the musical’s outsized footprint in American culture.
One example? Baby names. While it is common for the first names of presidential candidates to experience a rise in popularity during election years, in 2016 so far, an upswing in the number of newborns named “Hamilton” has accompanied the anticipated increase in babies with the name “Donald” or “Hillary.” An analysis of 2016 baby naming trends conducted by Babycenter.com found that “since last June, the [popularity of the] name Hamilton has increased nearly 60 percent.”