Beyond ‘he got killed by Aaron Burr’: Musical’s Cincinnati opening sparks interest in Hamilton’s namesake

The smash hit musical, “Hamilton,” which opens today at the Aronoff Center for the Arts for a sold-out, three-week run, has given the namesake of the Butler County city some of the credit he deserves as one of the country’s key founding fathers and right-hand-man to Gen. George Washington during the American Revolution, officials said.

The musical uses hip hop, rap and other modern musical styles to detail the life of the man who died 215 years ago. It’s one of the most successful Broadway productions ever and has won the attention of teens and others who ordinarily wouldn’t be interested in such a long-ago historical figure.

Kathy Creighton, executive director of the Butler County Historical Society, said “there definitely is” more interest in Hamilton, who was born in the West Indies. After serving as a senior aide to Washington, he led a successful attack against the British during the Battle of Yorktown, the final battle of the Revolution.

“Nationally, he’s really taken off, and there seems to be so much more interest in him now,” Creighton said.

“But I think local people are just kind of like, ‘Oh, so what, it’s Hamilton,’” she added. “They’re interested in the musical, but as to whether locally it has enhanced Hamilton, I don’t know.

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“Up until 10 years ago, about all people knew was he got killed by Aaron Burr, and that was about it. Now there’s been such resurgence in knowing about him and things like that. And I think that’s all got to do with the musical.”

On Sept. 30, 1791, construction was finished on Fort Hamilton, built to serve as a supply depot and stables for Army horses that served the campaigns of generals Arthur St. Clair and “Mad” Anthony Wayne during the Northwest Indian War.

The fort was named for Hamilton, who at the time was President George Washington’s first treasury secretary, a position he held from 1789-1795. The city of Hamilton adopted the name of the fort.

Aside from later writing numerous essays that helped win public support for the U.S. Constitution, Hamilton is credited with playing a leading role in establishing the country’s early financial framework, including the First Bank of the United States.

According to a Federal Reserve website, “No founder had more influence over the nation’s early economic and financial architecture than Hamilton.”

In 2016, Hamilton celebrated its 225th birthday with numerous events around the city. While most cities celebrate the date they were incorporated, Butler County historian and former Journal-News Editor Jim Blount said Hamilton has honored its founding based on the fort’s completion.

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Blount said Fort Hamilton was about the size of half a football field in 1791, then doubled in size the following year. The fort straddled what would be today’s High Street just east of the Great Miami River, from beyond Market Street on the north, to nearly Ludlow Street on the south, and somewhere between Front Street and Monument Avenue on the east.

In 1795-96, after the battle of Fallen Timbers near Greenville, Fort Hamilton was dismantled. Only the Powder House in the south corner of the fort remained until the Great Flood that occurred along the Great Miami River in 1913. Hamilton was shot and killed by Vice President Aaron Burr in 1804.

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