The New York Public Library is steadily digitizing the diary of one young woman living in turn-of-the-nineteenth-century Manhattan. Among the entries: accounts of the duel between Aaron Burr and Alexander Hamilton, the waiting period as Hamilton lay dying, and the founding father’s funeral.
That’s via Gothamist. Elizabeth De Hart Bleecker—yes, like the street—kept her diary from 1799 to 1806, from the time she was 18. The city was growing and changing rapidly, and she was in a prime position to record fascinating snapshots from the period. “She went to church, plays, and sideshows, and took shopping trips and drank tea with friends,” writes Mark Boonshoft at the New York Public Library’s website. “On her jaunts, she witnessed some signal moments in the history of early New York, like the laying of the cornerstone of City Hall in 1803.”
“She heard and wrote about public disturbances, crimes, and court cases, and she watched as New York officials tried to contain fires and prison breaks,” Boonshoft adds.
The entries between July 11 and July 15 of 1804 are a highlight, though. Bleecker had more access than most—the day after Hamilton died, “Mrs. and Miss Hamilton” called at her house. Gothamist got transcriptions from the NYPL:
- July 11: “A fine cool day... A duel was fought at Hoboken between General Hamilton and Col. Burr in which the former receiv’d a mortal wound in the side—he was brought over to Greenwich to the house of Mr. Wm. Bayard.”
- July 12: “A fine day... General Hamilton is still alive but no hopes of his recovery... about two o’clock the great Hamilton died.” “Some of the bells were muffl’d and toll’d for the death of General Hamilton.”
“General Hamilton was buri’d with Military Honors-it was one of the purest and most affecting procession[sic] ever witness’d in this place I believe,” Bleecker wrote of his July 14 funeral, and when she went to church the next day, she recorded, “the Episcopal Churches are hung in black for the loss of our justly lamented Hamilton—The Bishop gave us a very handsome funeral sermon.”
Photo via AP Images.