'Hamilton's' Success Is Making His Descendants Into Demi-Celebrities
The Founding Father's progeny appraise Lin-Manuel Miranda's Broadway musical and discuss its impact on their lives (including lots of requests for tickets they don't have): "There has never been a better time to be a Hamilton descendant."
This story first appeared in the April 22 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.
Thanks to the immense success of Lin-Manuel Miranda's musical, the descendants of Founding Father Alexander Hamilton are becoming demi-celebrities in their own right — whether they like it or not.
Last fall, just weeks after Hamilton had opened to stunning reviews on Broadway, eight members of the Hamilton clan spanning three generations converged at the New York Historical Society's annual fundraiser to meet Miranda, the show's creator and star (see photo).
The Hamilton scions, some of whom still are getting used to their ancestor being portrayed as a hip-hop hero, came at the invitation of George Cox, the founder of Hamilton Scholars, an organization benefiting high-achieving students who, like the group's namesake, come from low-income situations.
Among the descendants in attendance was Doug Hamilton, 65, a fifth great-grandson of Alexander and his wife, Elizabeth. The Ohio resident says he has represented the Hamilton family tree at more than 100 events and named his son and daughter after his great-great-great-great-great grandparents.
He has seen Hamilton three times, catching the early preview at Vassar College, the off-Broadway production at the Public Theater and the first performance at Broadway's Richard Rodgers Theatre. "There has never been a better time to be a Hamilton descendant," he says. "I get 10 times more inquiries about Hamilton now than ever before, even though a good number of them are for tickets to the musical." Doug gives Miranda — whom he calls "a new acquaintance" — high marks for "not only making Hamilton and his generation cool" but for supplying "the tool, in the lyrics of the musical, to communicate the founding story to our youth."
Having lived with his ancestor's legacy all of his life, he adds, "My favorite takeaway is at the end of the show, where we are reminded that Elizabeth Schuyler Hamilton outlived her husband by 50 years, during which she collected his papers to preserve the memory of what he did for this country." Third great-grandson David Hamilton Rhinelander, 80, has not seen the show because, he says, he's not interested in paying $1,000 for a ticket on the secondary market. He has, however, watched video clips of the music and approves. "A hip-hop Hamilton is quite a thing!" says the former writer for the Hartford Courant, who has an ink portrait of Hamilton (given to him by his grandmother) hanging in his living room.
While other family members share their cousins' pride, they are not so comfortable with the attention that Hamilton has brought them. The remaining offspring depicted in the photo either declined to speak to THR or did not respond to requests for comment. "My cousins are very private," says Doug.
In addition to ticket requests, the descendants often find themselves embroiled in the debate over a proposed new 10-dollar bill that would replace Hamilton with a female figure. The consensus among family members is that a historical figure on another denomination should go. "I would take [Andrew Jackson] off the 20," says Rhinelander, "but I don't want to get into that kind of fight in public."
1. Valentine Hollingsworth, 62, fourth great-grandson of Alexander Hamilton
2. Douglas Hamilton, 65, fifth great-grandson
3. David Hamilton Rhinelander, 80, third great-grandson
4. Dr. Alexandra Hamilton Woods, 64, fourth great-granddaughter
5. Ann W. Rhinelander, spouse
6. Carole Hollingsworth, spouse
7. Gail Hamilton Berner, 71, fourth great-granddaughter
8. Lin-Manuel Miranda, 36
9. Edgar Berner, spouse
10. Juliet Hamilton Hollingsworth, fifth great-granddaughter
11. Debra Hamilton, spouse
12. Eliza Hamilton Reed, fifth great-granddaughter
13. Dr. Helen Morgan Hollingsworth, 64, fourth great-granddaughter