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What does ‘Hamilton’ have to do with Columbia? Almost nothing, but that’s not stopping Historic Columbia

Historic Columbia’s Historic Happy Hour whistles a different tune and turns its attention to the celebrated hip-hop operetta, “Hamilton: An American Musical.”
Historic Columbia’s Historic Happy Hour whistles a different tune and turns its attention to the celebrated hip-hop operetta, “Hamilton: An American Musical.” The Associated Press

With Lin-Manuel Miranda reprising his role of Alexander Hamilton in Puerto Rico, and “Hamilton: An American Musical” appearing near Columbia during the past few months, Historic Columbia asks, “What does the musical ‘Hamilton’ have to do with Columbia?”

The answer: Almost nothing.

But Historic Columbia decided not to let that stop it from turning its attention to the celebrated hip-hop operetta with a trivia contest at Historic Happy Hour on Jan. 25.

“Historic Columbia is always looking for ways to explore the past through the lens of the present,” said James Quint, Historic Columbia’s director of education. “Trivia contests are a great chance to experience history in a fun, energy-filled environment. Linking our trivia questions to people and events that have recently been inspirations for movies and musicals encourages even the most novice players to contribute to their team’s chance of winning.”

Of course the most fun way to prepare for a trivia contest to take practice quizzes. The first three questions are compliments of Historic Columbia, one from each of the three categories that will be the focus: Famous Princeton Graduates, Hamilton: An American Musical, and Dubious Connections to South Carolina.

The last seven questions were all inspired from history depicted in “Hamilton: An American Musical.”

Hamilton trivia

1. So many people visited this Princeton alumna’s portrait when it went on display in Washington that it had to be relocated to a larger room. Hint: This alumnus definitely didn’t get “outs of sorts” with the bursar.

A. Alexander Hamilton

B. Michelle Obama

C. Woodrow Wilson

D. F. Scott Fitzgerald

2. Spoiler alert: Aaron Burr, before realizing the world was wide enough for both of them, kills Alexander Hamilton in a duel in 1804. Where does this duel take place?

A. Washington, D.C.

B. Philadelphia

C. New York

D. New Jersey

3. This South Carolinian (and friend of Alexander Hamilton) was an outspoken abolitionist who proposed that South Carolina arm enslaved workers and grant them freedom in return for military service. His proposal was denied twice and while like Hamilton he wasn’t going to throw away his shot, he knew that he may not live to see their glory.

A. Lieutenant Colonel John Laurens

B. General Wade Hampton

C. General Thomas Sumter

D. Francis “Swamp Fox” Marion

4. It must be nice to have Washington on your side: What government position did Hamilton hold during George Washington’s administration?

A. Secretary of State

B. Vice President

C. Secretary of the Treasury

D. Chief of Staff

5. How did he write like he was running of time? Hamilton played a big role in writing:

A. The Federalist Papers

B. The Declaration of Independence

C. The Bill of Rights

D. The Star Spangled Banner

6. Another immigrant comin’ up from the bottom: Hamilton immigrated to New York from where?

A. Caribbean

B. Scotland

C. Ireland

D. Africa

7. Perhaps reluctantly, one more time Hamilton helped orchestrate what many consider one of the most important moments in United States History. What was that?

A. Establishing the Democratic Party

B. Establishing the Republican Party

C. George Washington relinquishing the presidency

D. Writing the first newspaper editorial

8. Which of these is true about Alexander Hamilton?

A. He founded the Federalist Party

B. He founded the New York Post

C. He founded the United States Coast Guard

D. All of the above

9. Why did Aaron Burr, who is slow to anger but toes the line, challenge Hamilton to a duel?

A. Hamilton had an affair with his wife

B. Hamilton lied about Burr being a traitor

C. He felt Hamilton was going to betray the country

D. He felt Hamilton dishonored him while endorsing Thomas Jefferson over him in the presidential election.

10. True or False: Since he was reliable with the ladies, Martha Washington named her feral tomcat “Hamilton.”


1. B. Michelle Obama (Princeton class of ’85). While Wilson and Fitzgerald are also Princeton alumni, a story about Hamilton’s admission that was later revoked is told in “Aaron Burr, Sir” as Hamilton sings “Sir, I heard your name at Princeton, I was seeking an accelerated course of study….Yes, I wanted to do what you did, graduate in two, then join the revolution.” Some historians dispute this account. Hamilton went on to enter The King’s College, which later became Columbia.

2. D. New Jersey. As Alexander and Phillip Hamilton say in “Blow Us All Away,” “Everything is legal in New Jersey.”

3. A. John Laurens. Laurens’ death was described in “Tomorrow There Will Be More of Us” and his alliance with Hamilton, Lafayette and Mulligan in “The Story of Tonight.”

4. C. Secretary of the Treasury. Hamilton is credited for establishing the first United States bank, to handle debt incurred during the Revolutionary War and to create a standard form of currency.

5. A. The Federalist Papers. He didn’t have a strong hand in writing the Constitution, but he wrote 51 of 85 essays for the Federalist Papers, working with James Madison and John Jay. Like the lyrics from “Non-Stop” say: “Alexander joins forces with James Madison and John Jay to write a series of essays defending the new United States Constitution….the plan was to write a total of 25 essays, the work divided equally among the three men. In the end, they wrote 85 essays, in the span of six months. John Jay got sick after writing five. James Madison wrote 29. Hamilton wrote the other 51!”

6. A. Caribbean. Here are some lyrics from “Alexander Hamilton”: “How does a *******, orphan, son of a ***** and a Scotsman, dropped in the middle of a forgotten spot in the Caribbean by Providence, impoverished, in squalor, grow up to be a hero and a scholar?

7. C. Hamilton helped George Washington “one last time” when he assisted him in writing his farewell speech to the nation. “We’ll teach them how to say goodbye,” Washington sings in the play. “And if we get this right, We’re gonna teach ‘em how to say Goodbye….If I say goodbye, the national learns to move on. It outlives me when I’m gone.”

8. D. Hamilton founded the Federalist Party, the New York Post and the United States Coast Guard. Burr sings in “The Adams Administration,” “How does Hamilton, the short-tempered, protean creator of the coast guard, founder of the New York Post, ardently abuse his cabinet post?”

9. D. Burr was angry that Hamilton endorsed Thomas Jefferson, who had been Hamilton’s political enemy, “A man he’s despised since the beginning, just to keep me from winning?” In the song, “Your Obedient Servant,” the duel is arranged as Hamilton reiterates that he couldn’t endorse Burr because “no one knows what you believe.”

10. False. Probably. OK, trick question. In the play, Aaron Burr sings in “A Winter’s Ball” that ladies “delighted and distracted” Hamilton and that “Martha Washington named her feral tomcat after him.” Hamilton responds with, “That’s true.” But many historians dispute that.

If you go

Historic Happy Hour

When: Jan. 25

Time: 5:30-7 p.m.

Where: Seibels House, 1601 Richland St.

Cost: $20 for members, $25 for non-members, go to www.historiccolumbia.org to buy tickets

Notable: Drinks and light appetizers are included with admission. Attendees must be 21 years of age or older. There is limited space and guests are encouraged to purchase tickets in advance.