10 Things You Might Not Know About Alexander Hamilton

Before you queue up the streaming premiere of Hamilton, get some background on the “ten-dollar Founding Father” with some facts straight from our DK Life Stories: Alexander Hamilton biography. (And go ahead—sing along if you want to. We won’t tell.) 


Alexander Hamilton wasn’t born in England. He was from Nevis, an island in the Caribbean.

Notable for the time, Hamilton’s parents weren’t married, which cast Alexander and his older brother, James, at a disadvantage, particularly after his mother died. 

Hamilton’s exceptional writing skills earned him a ticket to America.

In August 1772, a devastating hurricane hit Nevis. Alexander wrote an account of the destruction that was published in the local paper. The islanders were so impressed with the teen’s writing that they took up a collection to send him to an American university. Alexander eventually enrolled at King’s College in New York City. 

Before the war, Alexander Hamilton helped form a revolutionary group called the Hearts of Oak.

The “hearts of oak” moniker had a long history in British culture—British sailors were often called “hearts of oak” after the strongest type of wood used to construct their navy ships. Alexander led the group alongside other Revolutionary notables like Hercules Mulligan, and they did more than just write and talk about freedom. The Hearts of Oak pulled off a raid to steal cannons from the British military. 
A timeline of Hamilton's life and work, from DK Life Stories: Alexander Hamilton.

It took Alexander Hamilton only a few months to become a lawyer.

Even in Hamilton’s era, becoming a lawyer took years of schooling. Hamilton’s military service counted toward the requirements, though, so he was able to start practicing law quickly. 

Though they’re now famous, Hamilton’s Federalist Papers weren’t widely read at their publication.

After the Constitution was passed, each of the 13 states had to vote to ratify it. Hamilton’s Federalist Papers were written to help support ratification. The papers ended up only being widely printed and circulated in New York City, where they did make a big splash. 

Hamilton helped create the country’s first mint in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

The US government didn’t begin minting its own national coins until 1792, which became the country’s first standard currency. Other countries’ coins were still used and circulated, as long as they were made of gold or silver.

Alexander Hamilton founded the New York Post.

Alexander Hamilton loved writing and telling people exactly what he thought. He started his own newspaper in 1801, then called the New York Evening Post. (They have since dropped the Evening part.) News of Alexander’s son’s death was printed in the paper’s eighth issue. 
A portrait of Hamilton's life and work, from DK Life Stories: Alexander Hamilton.

Hamilton wasn’t only feuding with Aaron Burr.

Alexander Hamilton also famously didn’t get along with future president John Adams. He even wrote a whole pamphlet bashing Adams, calling him insane and obsessed with himself. (For his part, John Adams wasn’t a fan of Hamilton, either.) 

Alexander Hamilton’s famous duel was not the first he was involved in.

Though it was his last, Hamilton was involved in 12 attempted duels during his lifetime. 

Alexander Hamilton’s famous duel with Aaron Burr actually took place in Weehawken, New Jersey.

Dueling—though common at the time—was officially illegal, so Hamilton and Burr didn’t want to be caught in New York City. They rose early on July 11, 1804, to cross the Hudson River and fight in a remote field in New Jersey. 

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