Way Too Timely Quotes From Alexander Hamilton on His 213th Death Anniversary

Legacy? What is legacy? It’s planting seeds in a garden you never get to see. Or for some folks, it’s a transparent series of fuck-ups involving collusion, sexual assault, misogyny, racism, and lies that will live on forever in the Fake News. But hey, to each his own, right?

213 years ago today, Alexander Hamilton died after his duel with Aaron Burr. Five years ago, this post would’ve been moo (it’s like a cow’s opinion). But 2017’s hottest founding father is relevant to our interests again, which is why I’m writing this at all. But what’s even more interesting is that the trials, tribulations, and non-stop essays (including all the other 51) Ham & Co. went through all those years ago, is perhaps annoyingly prescient now, thanks to the state of our Union. So, to honor (I guess?) A. Ham and the legacy seeds he left behind, here are a few quotes from the decorated war vet that remind us that even two centuries later, passionate essays written on parchment aren’t exclusive to topics relating to separating from a harmful demagogue.

From Objections and Answers Respecting the Administration , August 1792. A letter in which Ham calls out the nasty folks who alleged that he was working to reinstitute a monarchy in the States.

“The truth unquestionably is, that the only path to a subversion of the republican system of the Country is, by flattering the prejudices of the people, and exciting their jealousies and apprehensions, to throw affairs into confusion, and bring on civil commotion. Tired at length of anarchy, or want of government, they may take shelter in the arms of monarchy for repose and security.

Those then, who resist a confirmation of public order, are the true Artificers of monarchy—not that this is the intention of the generality of them. Yet it would not be difficult to lay the finger upon some of their party who may justly be suspected. When a man unprincipled in private life desperate in his fortune, bold in his temper, possessed of considerable talents, having the advantage of military habits—despotic in his ordinary demeanour—known to have scoffed in private at the principles of liberty—when such a man is seen to mount the hobby horse of popularity—to join in the cry of danger to liberty—to take every opportunity of embarrassing the General Government & bringing it under suspicion—to flatter and fall in with all the non sense of the zealots of the day—It may justly be suspected that his object is to throw things into confusion that he may “ride the storm and direct the whirlwind.

A letter from A. Ham to Theodore Sedgwick, Massachusetts Senator & Continental Congress delegate, re: the Election of 1800 between Adams and Jefferson (who we know Ham did not like much)

“For my individual part my mind is made up. I will never more be responsible for him [Adams] by my direct support—even though the consequence should be the election of Jefferson. If we must have an enemy at the head of the Government, let it be one whom we can oppose & for whom we are not responsible, who will not involve our party in the disgrace of his foolish and bad measures. Under Adams as under Jefferson the government will sink. The party in the hands of whose chief it shall sink will sink with it and the advantage will all be on the side of his adversaries.”

Federalist Paper No. 1: 

“… of those men who have overturned the liberties of republics, the greatest number have begun their career by paying an obsequious court to the people; commencing demagogues, and ending tyrants.”

Elliot’s Debates

“Unless your government is respectable, foreigners will invade your rights; and to maintain tranquillity you must be respectable; even to observe neutrality you must have a strong government.”

(He was chosen to be part of the) Constitutional Convention, 1787:

All communities divide themselves into the few and the many. The first are the rich and well-born, the other the mass of the people. The voice of the people has been said to be the voice of God; and, however generally this maxim has been quoted and believed, it is not true in fact. The people are turbulent and changing; they seldom judge or determine right. Give, therefore, to the first class a distinct, permanent share in the government. They will check the unsteadiness of the second, and, as they cannot receive any advantage by a change, they therefore will ever maintain good government. Can a democratic Assembly, who annually revolve in the mass of the people, be supposed steadily to pursue the public good? Nothing but a permanent body can check the imprudence of democracy. Their turbulent and uncontrolling disposition requires checks.

From the New York Ratifying Convention, 1788

“As riches increase and accumulate in few hands . . . the tendency of things will be to depart from the republican standard.”

Federalist Paper No. 10:

“Men of factious tempers, of local prejudices, or of sinister designs may, by intrigue, by corruption, or by other means, first obtain the suffrages, and then betray the interests, of the people.”

Federalist Paper No. 25:

“It is a truth which the experience of all ages has attested, that the people are always most in danger when the means of injuring their rights are in the possession of those of whom they entertain the least suspicion.”

Federalist Paper No. 70

“Men often oppose a thing merely because they have had no agency in planning it, or because it may have been planned by those whom they dislike.”

 

Black History Spotlight #2: Frederick Douglass

Last week, we started our Black History Spotlight series with a brief overview on the life of teenage Civil Rights pioneer Claudette Colvin. Her name may not be as much of a household name as 13th Amendment hero Abraham Lincoln, but she’s just as important than any of our presidents. Today we’re shining a light on yet another unknown: Frederick Douglass. Here are 8 facts you need to know about one of the foremost abolitionists in American history.

F. Doug at age 29

F. Doug at age 29

/1/ 20 Years a Slave

Frederick Douglass was born a slave on a plantation in Maryland, and by the age of 7, was separated from his mother and sent to work at another plantation for the Auld family. When he was 12, his master’s wife secretly taught Frederick how to read, despite the fact it was against the law at the time. When his master found out, he forbid his wife to continue teaching him, but that only lit a fire within young Douglass. He taught himself how to read and write from the white kids in his neighborhood as well as the writings by his male co-workers. He used his new talent to teach other slaves how to read, but he also read newspapers and books about slavery, thus igniting his passion to end slavery.

After three failed attempts to escape from his plantation, Douglass finally left Maryland disguised as a free black sailor and ended up in New York City after a grueling 24 hour journey. He then married Anna Murray, a free black woman who helped him escape, and they settled in New Bedford, Massachusetts.

/2/ Abolish It

Douglass, now 23, quickly became a well-respected leader in the thriving free black community of New Bedford, mainly thanks to his leadership of the abolitionist movement to end slavery. It was then when he began his career as a renowned orator, speaking about his experience as a slave at local meetings, as well as the Hundred Conventions project, a tour throughout the East Coast and Midwest as a part of the American Anti-Slavery Society. However, it was his speeches that put him in danger of being captured by his former slave owners, so he fled across the pond to the U.K., where he continued to speak to people in Ireland and Britain against slavery. He spent two years in Europe telling them horrific slavery stories back in the U.S. In fact, the Brits were so moved by his story, that they raise 700 pounds to pay his master for his official freedom, officially making him a free man back at home.

/3/ Putting Pen To Paper

In 1845, he wrote his life story in an autobiography titled Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave, which became a bestseller in the U.S. and even overseas (thanks Irish & Brits), and they were so popular he went on to publish two more versions of his autobiography with new details in each one.

Upon his return to America, he settled in Rochester, New York (OUR HOMETOWN!), where he started The North Star anti-slavery newspaper, focusing on current events concerning abolitionist issues. Because one periodical wasn’t enough, Douglass went all in with the newspaper business, with Frederick Douglass Weekly, Frederick Douglass’ Paper, Douglass’ Monthly and New National Era.

“Right is of no Sex – Truth is of no Color – God is the Father of us all, and we are all brethren.” The North Star motto

/4/ A Groundbreaking Feminist

Frederick was a staunch supporter of females during the women’s sufferage movement, and when the first women’s rights convention in Seneca Falls, NY went down in 1948, he was the ONLY African-American to attend. It was at the convention that he spoke in favor of the assembly passing a resolution for women’s suffrage, saying he could not accept the right to vote as a black man if women could not also have the right to vote. His speech made such an impact that the resolution was ultimately passed.

/5/ Fought for Black Soldiers’ Right To Fight

By the time the Civil War started, Douglass was one of the most popular black men in the U.S. and he used his visibility to fight for African-Americans to fight in the war, on the basis that the aim of the Civil war was the end slavery. He even met with President Lincoln a few times after the South boasted they would execute or enslave any captured black soldiers. Due to Douglass’ persistence, Lincoln warned the Confederacy that for every Union soldier killed, he would execute a rebel soldier.

Nearly a decade after Lincoln’s death, Douglass spoke about the president’s legacy during the opening of the Emancipation Memorial in Washington’s Lincoln Park. While he called out Lincoln’s hesitance to speak out against slavery from the get-go, he also acknowledged he was ultimately a supporter of the anti-slavery cause.

“Though Mr. Lincoln shared the prejudices of his white fellow-countrymen against the Negro, it is hardly necessary to say that in his heart of hearts he loathed and hated slavery….”

As a token of her appreciation, Mary Todd Lincoln gave Douglass the president’s favorite walking stick, which sits in Douglass’ final residence.

/6/ First African-American to be nominated for Vice President

In 1872, he was put on the Equal Rights Party ticket as Victoria Woodhull’s running mate. One problem – he had no idea he was nominated and he didn’t even campaign for it. As we know (or maybe not), they did not take the presidency.

/7/ Look at this photograph

frederick_douglass_2

Frederick Douglass with the most photographed American of the 19th Century, and stealthily made sure of it in an effort to advance his political views. He rarely smiled in his photographs, sending a message that he was not indulging in the racist stereotype of being a happy slave, and often looked into the lens with a stern look.

/8/ Rest In Peace

While there may be alternative facts swirling around out there, Mr. Douglass unfortunately passed away from a heart attack at his home in Washington a mere 122 years ago. He is buried in Rochester’s Mount Hope Cemetery, where people continue to pay their respects to this great man (check out video of a reporter from our local newspaper visiting Douglass last week). RIP.

Black History Spotlight #1: Claudette Colvin

Around here we think Black History needs to be an all-year, all-the-time celebration – but we’re also glad that there’s a month set aside to call special attention to all of the influential, talented, brilliant Black Americans who built this country. That’s why this February we’re shining a spotlight on different historical figures who shaped the world we live in. First up: Claudette Colvin, the teenage Civil Rights pioneer who started a movement by refusing to give up her seat on a bus.

claudette_colvin

Claudette Colvin, c. 1955.

Sound familiar? That’s probably because Rosa Parks is on the shortlist of Civil Rights figures we all learned about as children. There’s no denying that Rosa Parks changed our country with her activism and organization efforts as well as her own act of civil disobedience, but until recently Claudette Colvin’s story was sifted down into history.

Claudette Colvin began March 2, 1955 as a straight-A 15-year-old student and ended it a Civil Rights hero. On her way home from school, Claudette’s city bus driver ordered her to give up her seat to a white passenger. She ignored the driver and looked out the window. When the driver came back to confront her, Claudette stated that it was her constitutional right to sit where she was. Claudette later explained:

I felt like Sojourner Truth was pushing down on one shoulder and Harriet Tubman was pushing down on the other—saying, ‘Sit down girl!’ I was glued to my seat.

If you need any further reason why Black History Month is necessary, here’s one: Claudette Colvin was inspired to take this stand because that February, her school had observed what was then known as Negro History Week. The stories of the fight against slavery encouraged Claudette to work against the steep inequalities still present in her society.

Young Claudette Colvin was arrested, with police kicking her, knocking away her textbooks and dragging her off the bus. She was ultimately charged with violating segregation laws; Claudette plead not guilty but was sentenced to probation. The NAACP chose not to take Claudette’s case because she became pregnant the year of her arrest, and they feared that bad press and further prejudice would cloud the public’s support of Claudette’s cause. Nine months after Claudette refused to give up her seat on the bus, Rosa Parks made the same statement; a year after Claudette’s arrest, her first son was born.

When it became apparent that an appeal from Rosa Parks’ case would stagnate in the courts, Civil Rights lawyers looked to a different case to address the constitutionality of bus segregation. Claudette Colvin was named as a plaintiff, along with Aurelia Browder, Susie McDonald, Mary Louise Smith and Jeanette Reese, in the case that would confirm the illegality of segregation on mass transit. Because Browder v. Gayle addressed a federal question (a civil suit for damages due to a deprivation of rights by a public official, under 42 U.S.C. § 1983) it was heard in district court.

The ultimate question in Browder v. Gayle was whether statutes and ordinances requiring segregation on a common carrier violated the Constitution. The ‘separate but equal’ doctrine had already been weakened by a string of cases regarding interstate transit, as well as college education and public recreation. The court in Browder placed the final nail in the Plessy v. Ferguson coffin, holding that bus segregation statutes violate the due process and equal protection clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment. The lower court’s decision was affirmed by the Supreme Court in 1956.

Claudette Colvin later moved to New York and became a nurse’s aide. She is now retired, and has said that at one time she dreamed of becoming a lawyer. Instead, she inspired the case that ended segregation on common carriers – just as she said on the bus on March 2, 1955, it was her constitutional right – and has had a larger impact on the course of constitutional law than most lawyers could ever dream.

I feel very, very proud of what I did. I do feel like what I did was a spark and it caught on. I’m not disappointed. Let the people know Rosa Parks was the right person for the boycott. But also let them know that the attorneys took four other women to the Supreme Court to challenge the law that led to the end of segregation.


Any other facts about Claudette Colvin, the bus boycotts, or the Civil Rights era that you’d like to point out? Suggestions for further Black History Spotlights? Let us know!

Hamilton Explained: Who Lives, Who Dies, Who Tells Your Story

It’s Hamilweek, and Hamilweek means another Hamilton Explained… but not just any Hamilton Explained. This time around, we’re taking a look at the show’s closing number. It’s our last chance to cry during our Hamilton listening sessions, and we take it every time. (Just kidding. We both carefully select which Act II numbers we’re capable of listening to based on our emotional fortitude at the given moment.) Grab some tissues and Visine, we’re taking it to the finale!

 

[WASHINGTON]

Let me tell you what I wish I’d known

When I was young and dreamed of glory

  • Taking it back to History Has its Eyes On You:

You have no control:

[WASHINGTON AND COMPANY]

Who lives

Who dies

Who tells your story?

  • Continuing the reference to History Has Its Eyes On You. Then it was foreshadowing, now it’s a callback. By this point the dead include Alexander, Phillip, Laurens, and others not specifically mentioned in the show (RIP and Peggy). The living: on one hand, Burr (who continued to refer to Hamilton in frenemy-type terms for the rest of his life) and on the other, Eliza.
  • Then, there’s the casting of Hamilton, which Lin-Manuel Miranda has explained in a number of interviews: the concept is that it is a story about America then, told by America now. Hamilton and the other founding fathers had choices in setting up the American political and monetary systems, but what happened next (what became of America next, who became America next) was out of their hands. Even living the best life, full of the most worthy deeds, is not a guarantee that you will be talked about in centuries’ time – and you have no control over who does the talking, either.

 

[BURR]

President Jefferson:

[JEFFERSON]

I’ll give him this: his financial system is a

Work of genius. I couldn’t undo it if I tried

And I tried

  • This, you already know from the rest of the play. Just call it one of the first great federalist vs states’ rights debates: should there be a national bank (Hamilton) or should money be left to the states’ control (Jefferson)? Will America be built on urban commerce (Hamilton) or an agrarian foundation (Jefferson – and yes, we know who’s really doing the planting)? Since you use the same $$ in all 50 states, you know what happened when Jefferson tried to oppose Hamilton’s financial system. Not to mention, Jefferson hoped for a French/parliamentary system of government, and feared that Hamilton wanted a more English government (constitutional monarchy).

[WASHINGTON AND COMPANY]

Who lives

Who dies

Who tells your story?

[BURR]

President Madison:

[MADISON]

He took our country from bankruptcy to prosperity

I hate to admit it, but he doesn’t get enough credit

For all the credit he gave us

 

  • The US fell into a financial slump after the Revolutionary War (contrast with our postwar economic booms in the 20th century: WWI followed by the prosperous 1920s; the economic success of the 1950s, the ostentatious 1980s (only a good time for the wealthy, granted) following Vietnam. Hamilton’s response was to consolidate state debts and subsume them into the national bank, preventing future catastrophes after war drained the nation’s coffers. He dealt “a new line of credit” via the National Bank – the credit he gave us. Today we see this in large scale – maybe larger than Hamilton would have liked? – in the Federal Reserve.

 

[WASHINGTON AND COMPANY]

Who lives

Who dies

Who tells your story?

[ANGELICA]

Every other founding father story gets told

Every other founding father gets to grow old

 

  • Before this musical and Chernow’s bio, your average American knew about the Aaron Burr duel, the $10 bill, and probably some slivers of recollection about the National Bank and Constitutional Convention from high school history class. The other founding fathers are celebrated in everything from monuments to children’s school pageants: George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, John Jay and James Madison. I didn’t even have to look them up – the only one non-legal-types sometimes forget is John Jay, who may be due for his own hit musical (Jay was our first Chief Justice and helped negotiate the Treaty of Paris, BTW).
  • The other Founding Fathers also lived a really long time – most of them were in their 80s when they died, except Hamilton and Washington (who still lived longer than Hamilton, at 67). Maybe it bears mention that most of those low average lifespans for past centuries were skewed by high infant – and to an extent, child – mortality. If you made it to your kid years, there was a good chance you were going to live a full life, not die at 35 or whatever. Hamilton’s death looked tragically young in the 19th century, too.
  • I remember reading – forgive me, I don’t remember where – that in the early 19th century the popular portraits of the founding fathers were of them in later life instead of during their younger years because America was such a young country that having older leaders gave an air of stability, permanency, and history to the fledgling nation.

 

[BURR]

But when you’re gone, who remembers your name?

Who keeps your flame?

  • In Burn, Eliza takes fire to Hamilton’s letters – incinerates them; destroys them. In Who Lives Who Dies Who Tells Your Story, Eliza keeps the fire of Alexander’s legacy alive – fans the flames, but this time it means something different.

 

[BURR AND MEN]

Who tells your story?
Who tells your story?

[ANGELICA AND WOMEN]

Who tells your story?

Your story?

[WOMEN]

Eliza

[ELIZA]

I put myself back in the narrative

 

  • Full circle: let me be part of the narrative (That Would Be Enough); I’m myself from the narrative (Burn); I put myself back in the narrative.
  • In an interview (one of Phillipa Soo or LMM’s Theater People episodes maybe?? Correct me if you know), they discussed that the “narrative” theme didn’t emerge until they were writing one of the later songs – I want to say this one, but possibly Burn – then LMM retroactively worked it into That Would Be Enough.

 

[WOMEN]

Eliza

[ELIZA]

I stop wasting time on tears

I live another fifty years

It’s not enough

  • Eliza died in 1854, long enough to see interstate railroads, the admission of over 30 states, the California Gold Rush, and the growth of the abolitionist movement. She was 97, and much celebrated as the “last living link to the Revolutionary era” 

[COMPANY]

Eliza

[ELIZA]

I interview every soldier who fought by your side

  • Eliza was dedicated to preserving Alexander’s legacy by creating an honest biography of him – he was still a somewhat maligned character in those days. Her son John Church Hamilton edited her papers, publishing them after her death in 1861.

[MULLIGAN/LAFAYETTE/LAURENS]

She tells our story

[ELIZA]

I try to make sense of your thousands of pages of writings

You really do write like you’re running out of

  • Also true – thousands of Hamilton’s papers survive to this day, and Eliza considered it her life’s work to document and organize them.

[ELIZA AND COMPANY]

Time

[ELIZA]

I rely on—

[ELIZA AND ANGELICA]

Angelica

  • Angelica lived abroad for much of the years that Hamilton took place (you can read her letters too). By the time Alexander dies, she is living much closer to Eliza – though still a trip in 19th century terms – in the Southern Tier of New York (in a town, Angelica, that is still named after her.  I used to go through it on the way to see my grandparents as a kid. You can still see her house.)

[ELIZA]

While she’s alive—

[ELIZA AND ANGELICA]

We tell your story

[ELIZA]

She is buried in Trinity Church

[ELIZA AND ANGELICA]

Near you

Here. 

 

[ELIZA]

When I needed her most, she was right on—

[ELIZA AND COMPANY]

Time

  • As I said above, from 1797 on, Angelica was in the United States.

[ELIZA]

And I’m still not through

I ask myself, “What would you do if you had more—”

 

[ELIZA AND COMPANY]

Time

  • Time is a theme throughout the play – wanting more of it, wanting to make the most of it, not knowing how much of it you have, not being able to speed it up or slow it down. Write like you’re running out of time, don’t throw away your shot, non-stop (unless you’re the other type, and you’re willing to wait for it).
  • 1804 or 2016, this is what you spend every day trying to answer when you love somebody and they die too soon. 

[ELIZA]

The Lord, in his kindness

He gives me what you always wanted

He gives me more—

[ELIZA AND COMPANY]

Time

 

[ELIZA]

I raise funds in D.C. for the Washington Monument

  • Just as Hamilton didn’t live to see the full effects of his financial plan, Eliza didn’t live to see the monument, which opened in 1888 (I refer to The World Was Wide Enough: What is a legacy? It’s planting seeds in a garden you never get to see)

[WASHINGTON]

She tells my story

 

[ELIZA]

I speak out against slavery

  • Here, Washington takes a step back, ashamed: he was maybe our greatest founder, but he may have had it in his power to undo the greatest systemic evil of our country, and he did not.
  • Incidentally, this number was the last one to be staged, it became apparent that the most logical staging was to have the cast stand and surround Eliza.

You could have done so much more if you only had—

[ELIZA AND COMPANY]

Time

 

[ELIZA]

And when my time is up, have I done enough?

[ELIZA]

Will they tell our story?

[COMPANY]

Will they tell your story?

[ELIZA]

Oh. Can I show you what I’m proudest of?

[COMPANY]

The orphanage

  • In case you’re wondering, this is the point in the soundtrack where over 70% of listeners begin crying (fake statistic; feels likely).

[ELIZA]

I established the first private orphanage in New York City

  • “On March 15th, 1806, Elizabeth and a small group of women had gathered to form the Orphan Asylum Society to care for children who were orphaned from epidemics of cholera and yellow fever. Their mission was clear, “To help the afflicted and the needy others have forgotten; to provide them with the education and training they need to become productive, contributing members of society: to help them realize their capacity for happiness and success which belongs to all human beings.…” On May 1, 1806 they opened the doors of the Society’s first home, a rented two-story frame house on Raisin Street. Twelve orphans were admitted in the first six months and by the end of the year, 200 orphaned children had been admitted.”(http://39hwwr39mt3mqsp5fnf1q714zb.wpengine.netdna-cdn.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/09/Read-More…Elizabeth-Schuyler.pdf)
  • Children may be our most vulnerable population, but they also carried the fewest legal protections in the 17th, 18th, 19th and early 20th century – childhood as a concept didn’t really exist, and children were barely better than property. There were not consistent systems in place to care for and house orphaned and abandoned children, and those that existed were poorly regulated. The children’s rights movement didn’t take off in earnest until a few decades after Eliza’s death, when a woman named Etta Wheeler appealed to the ASPCA for help securing protection for a beaten foster child — there was a society to protect animals, but not children. All this to say that an orphanage aiming to educate children and release them into adult society – rather than just house them and work them – was relatively revolutionary and Eliza and her friends were ahead of their time.
  • I know this is a tangent, but it matters: you can read more about Etta Wheeler, and little Mary Ellen McCormack here. The fight for children’s rights and protection is an important chapter in American social history and jurisprudence, but it just isn’t taught.
  • By the way, Eliza did this less than two years after her husband’s death while raising 8 children alone.

[COMPANY]

The orphanage

[ELIZA]

I help to raise hundreds of children

I get to see them growing up

[COMPANY]

The orphanage

 

[ELIZA]

In their eyes I see you, Alexander

I see you every—

[ELIZA AND COMPANY]

Time

[ELIZA]

And when my time is up

Have I done enough?

Will they tell my story?

[COMPANY]

Will they tell your story?

[ELIZA]

Oh, I can’t wait to see you again

It’s only a matter of—

[ELIZA AND COMPANY]

Time

[COMPANY]

Will they tell your story?
Who lives, who dies, who tells your story?
Will they tell your story?
Who lives, who dies—

[COMPANY]

Time…

Time…
Time…

[FULL COMPANY]

Who tells your story?

See also: 

Hamilton Explained: The Schuyler Sisters

Hamilton Explained: Ten Duel Commandments

Hamilton Explained: Cabinet Battle #1 (As Kanye Rant Tweets)

Hamilton Explained: Appointing A Supreme Court Justice (using Hamilton lyrics to explain the process of nominating and confirming a new SCJ)

Hamilton Explained: Guns and Ships 

 

Mr. Jefferson, Mr. Diggs

Hear ye, hear ye! The Hamiltome is finally here! For those non-Hamilfans, that translates into the Hamilton: The Revolution book, which is basically the Hamilton libretto with margin notes from precious cinnamon roll Lin-Manuel Miranda throughout. Ironically (or maybe not ironically), the arrival of the book comes a day before what would have been Thomas Jefferson’s 273rd birthday. Age ain’t nothin’ but a number. And while I’m waiting for my copy of the Hamiltome to arrive, I figured we could look back at the legacy left by Thomas Jefferson. And by Thomas Jefferson, I mean Daveed Diggs, because our country’s third president was the definition of “your fave is problematic”.

Quick recap on America’s founding father Thomas Jefferson

  • Primary author of Declaration of Independence.
  • He was an aristocrat who owned 7,500 acres of land in Virginia. Thus he believed owning land was the only real wealth in the country, and that farming was the best job ever. That’d be like of Farmer Chris from The Bachelor became the president and was like, ‘Y’alls teachers and business owners and doctors are scientists are NOTHING compared to me and my tractor.’
  • He was super into Native Americans and was an advocate for assimilation policies and peaceful U.S. – Indian treaty alliances.
  • Abraham Lincoln hated him
  • His face is on Mount Rushmore
  • TJ believed banks were the second coming, a sign of all things evil because of its “scheming” ways.
  • He promised to free the 175 slaves his father owned once pops died, but he only freed five – the ones related to Sally Hemings.
  • PS: Sally Hemings was his infamous mistress, who also happened to be his slave. He father some of her kids, but still unclear.

  • Speaking of which, TJ had hypocritical tendencies with his stances on slavery and equality in general. For example, in the Declaration of Independence, you know the thing that says, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness”? He owned a total of more than 600 slaves in his lifetime, and considered women especially “profitable”, since they could bang out kids that would in turn become slaves.
  • As seen in Hamilton, Jefferson and James Madison are out to take down A.Ham – “get in the weeds, look for the seeds of Hamilton’s misdeeds.” They find out Alexander’s paying off some dude – James Reynolds aka husband to Maria Reynolds aka Alex’s mistress – and it’s all a little too ironic TJ wants to out Alex’s adultery, because, uh, Sally.

So instead, we’re going to focus on Daveed, the extremely talented man who plays both TJ and Marquis de Lafayette in Hamilton. He’s way, way less problematic, unless you couldn’t being a first-class rapper and handsome motherf’ker a problem.

Quick recap on America’s faux founding father Daveed Diggs

  • Born and raised in Oakland, California
  • Half Jewish, half black (hear that AEA casting call people?)
  • His first job was at Pier 1 Imports at the age of 15. He spent most of the day unwrapping individually wrapped wooden fish. He hated it. Hasn’t stepped in that store since.

  • Majored in theatre at Brown University
  • He was a substitute teacher. Speak up kids who had to call this dude Mr. Diggs in that one Algebra class.
  • He also was on the track team, focusing on sprinting and hurdles. Bless this picture.

  • At Brown, Daveed was part of a “rappers supergroup” called Soul Cypher. Can you even imagine going to a party and seeing Daveed and co. freestyling??
  • Since he had the chops, Daveed was recruited by Hamilton director Tommy Kail to join Freestyle Love Supreme, the hip-hop improv/theater group he co-created with Lin-Manuel Miranda.

  • Daveed filled in here and there for FLS, becoming one of the regular reparatory members, along with Chris Jackson (George Washington in Hamilton) and James Monroe Iglehart (Genie in Broadway’s Aladdin). It was during a show in New Orleans for a SportsCenter show that Tommy Kail mentioned Lin was doing a play (a rap musical about Alexander Hamilton) and invited him to a reading. He’s been involved with the show ever since.

The idea when first described to me was laughable. A rap musical about Alexander Hamilton—it didn’t make me jump up and down. Once I read the script and heard the songs, I knew there was something great there. Watching Chris Jackson play George Washington for a week, I left thinking that the dollar bill looked wrong. I walked out of the show with a sense of ownership over American history. Part of it is seeing brown bodies play these people. {x}

  • He’s already won two awards for Hamilton – a Lucille Lortel Award and Theatre World Award, not to mention the Grammy he and his castmates won for Best Musical Theatre Soundtrack.
  • Daveed is also part of a trio called clipping., an experimental hip-hop group which combines Sorkin-esque paced raps with experimental sounds and beats only made from field recordings they create themselves.

  • He also spit some rhymes in this video, and although I’m not quite sure how to process this, you should probably watch it anyways.

So if you don’t know, now you know.

Hamilton Explained: Guns and Ships

With only days to go before the release of Hamiltome (Hamilton: The Revolution if you’re not all up in LMM’s twitter), it feels like time to take a stab at explaining some more Hamilton lyrics before we have all of the answers right in front of us.

If you’re just joining us, you can catch up:

Since Guns and Ships has the fastest, hardest-to-catch raps in the whole show, we think it could use a little explicating. As always, please head over to Genius to check out the annotations there, too. We make an effort not to duplicate their comments but there’s obviously gonna be some overlap.

You know how it goes: lyrics are in italics. Our stuff’s in regular fonts. Ready? Everyone give it up for America’s favorite fighting Frenchman!

Guns And Ships

BURR:
How does a ragtag volunteer army in need of a shower

  • You don’t need us to explain that one: here, we are back to the cadence and rhyme pattern of Alexander Hamilton (How does a bastard, orphan son of a whore…). We even land on a similar rhyme (squalor/scholar vs shower/power).
  • But let’s go back to LMM’s explanation of the opening number: “the thing about Hamilton is he spoke in paragraphs. So the opening sentence of our show is this crazy, run-on sentence.” [Source] When we’re talking about the war, instead of Hamilton himself, the questions get more concise. After all, Burr didn’t mince words. Talk less, smile more.
  • “Ragtag volunteer army” sure does check out. Originally a collection of smaller militias, the Continental Army wasn’t established until a ways into the war. If you remember reading about another European helper, Baron Von Steuben, in high school, the army’s hit-or-miss training and discipline will ring a bell.
  • “In need of a shower”: we’ll let General Washington take this one — “Soap is another article in great demand–the Continental allowance is too small, and dear, as every necessary of life is now got, a soldier’s pay will not enable him to purchase, by which means his consequent dirtiness adds not a little to the disease of the Army.” — George Washington, Letter to the Committee of Congress, July 19, 1777 [source]

Somehow defeat a global superpower?

  • Global superpower: A fun anachronism (if you’re a history nerd, anyway.) “Superpower” describes nations that mastered the seven dimensions of state power (geography, population, economy, resources, military, diplomacy and national identity), and was first used in the WWII era to apply to the United Kingdom, the U.S. and the Soviet Union. [source] Through the lens of modern international relations, the British Empire was a major superpower during the 18th century – with thriving trade, an advantageous geopolitical position, and a lot of colonies. Some of whom hated them.

How do we emerge victorious from the quagmire?
Leave the battlefield waving Betsy Ross’ flag higher?

  • So, there’s quagmire – like a gross swamp – and quagmire, like a snafu. But quagmire is also used frequently to describe international conflicts that were caused by muddling where you shouldn’t. [See, e.g.] The “quagmire theory” explains how the U.S. unintentionally got involved in Vietnam, by a series of bad decisions that lead us further and further into the muck as we tried to negotiate several overlapping dilemmas. LMM’s probably using “quagmire” in the “big old mess” sense, but since we’re using other 20th century warfare terms, Burr could also be alluding to the fact that the US (or Britain??) shouldn’t have ended up in this position in the first place.
  • Ah, Betsy Ross, heroine of so many third grade history fair dioramas. She sewed, and possibly helped design, the American flag, and has a particularly adorable house in Philadelphia. [source]
  • Also also. This is fun:

Yo. Turns out we have a secret weapon!
An immigrant you know and love who’s unafraid to step in!

  • Both Hamilton and Lafayette are referred to as immigrants in Act I. Which, on one hand, of course they are. But it’s interesting because it feels almost like we don’t usually refer to anyone as an “immigrant” during the Colonial era. Yet, there were differences between colonists who were born in the (future) U.S.A. and those who came from abroad – even if only in familiarity with the country and its customs. LMM’s goal was to eliminate the distance between the audience and these historical figures, and a part of that is reminding us that then, as now, immigrants could be counted on to get the job done.

He’s constantly confusin’, confoundin’ the British henchmen

  • To name a few: Battle of Gloucester (thanks to excellent reconnaissance work, he helped uncover British positions and defeated Cornwallis – oh, and his leg was still busted from the Battle of Brandywine); Albany (he recruited the Oneida and dissuaded America from a poorly conceived attack on Quebec); Battle of Barren Hill (the outnumbered Continental Army had to retreat, so Lafayette had soldiers in the woods periodically fire on the British Army to make the colonists seem more prolific).

Ev’ryone give it up for America’s favorite fighting Frenchman!

  • This is true. Lafayette was SUPER POPULAR and beloved. Like, the precursor to the popularity of those French Women Don’t Get Fat and French Kids Eat Their Damn Dinner books that are so trendy now. There’s an entire Wikipedia entry about this time he came back to America to say hey. [source]

COMPANY:
Lafayette!

LAFAYETTE:
I’m takin this horse by the reins makin’
Redcoats redder with bloodstains

  • “Horse by the reins” is a popular expression, but maybe was included because artists LOVED to show Lafayette holding onto a pony:

To be fair, it was a popular pose with 18th century military guys. Like Georgian duck-lips.

  • “Redcoats” – the nickname of the British army, due to their snappy red coats.
  • During this line, I can’t help but think of Jay-Z (I know we’ve mentioned Empire State of Mind before, but whatever, it’s a modern classic): I make a Yankee hat more famous than a Yankee can. Lafayette makes a redcoat redder than his red coat can.

COMPANY:
Lafayette!

LAFAYETTE:
And I’m never gonna stop until I make ‘em
Drop and burn ‘em up and scatter their remains, I’m

  • Lin-Manuel Miranda has said that hip hop had to be the language of this musical because it allowed for more syllables per measure than any other genre. [source] This is the fastest verse, at 19 words in 3 seconds, which makes this the hardest one to sing along to but I’m trying; we’re all trying. [source]
  • Oh, look who’s better at English than all of those Englishman (an immigrant, of course!).

COMPANY:
Lafayette!

LAFAYETTE:
Watch me engagin’ em! Escapin’ em!
Enragin’ em! I’m—

  • We covered escapin’ em above (Battle of Barren Hill). How about engagin’ em and enragin’ em? The Yorktown campaign. Lafayette cut Cornwallis’ naval troops off, and again used his fun trick of random attacks by Continental troops to make their forces seem larger.

COMPANY:
Lafayette!

LAFAYETTE:
I go to France for more funds

COMPANY:
Lafayette!

  • Lafayette went to France in 1779, where he tried to persuade France and ally Spain to attack Britain. Also, his son was born that winter – named George Washington Lafayette.

LAFAYETTE:
I come back with more

LAFAYETTE AND ENSEMBLE:
Guns
And ships

  • Yes, but. France got very “the check’s in the mail” with the ships and the fleet took a while to arrive. Also included in the deal: General Rochambeau and 6,000 soldiers.

And so the balance shifts

  • The phrase “turning point of the American Revolution” was probably drilled into your head to describe the Battle of Saratoga at some point during AP US History. It was a pivotal victory, sure. But gaining a tactical ally in France helped tip the balance from “global Superpower” England and the “ragtag volunteer army in need of a shower.” Hundreds of years later, we still debate whether the U.S. could have won the revolution without French aid.

WASHINGTON:
We rendezvous with Rochambeau, consolidate their gifts

  • Rochambeau shows up in the colonies, hangs back for a long time because there aren’t enough forces to really do anything, kind of pulls an Emma Watson and chills at Brown for a while. He marches his guys over to rendezvous with Washington in Mount Kisco NY, home of the Ragtime house which is ALSO Samantha Parkington’s house, who knew. It did not exist in 1781. From there, they marched together to Yorktown. It was quite a trip.

LAFAYETTE:
We can end this war at Yorktown, cut them off at sea, but

  • Lafayette trapped the British by land at Malvern Hill while the French fleet blockaded the British. Yorktown didn’t stand a chance.

For this to succeed, there is someone else we need:

WASHINGTON:
I know

WASHINGTON AND COMPANY:
Hamilton!

  • Also Baron Von Steuben, whose forces Lafayette joined with, but who is not relevant to this musical production.

LAFAYETTE:
Sir, he knows what to do in a trench

 

  • Which maybe doesn’t seem like a Revolutionary War thing, but it is – the scrappy Americans and French dug a trench to help with the cutoff of Cornwallis’ troops. [source]

Ingenuitive and fluent in French, I mean—

  • Before there was spellcheck, there was A.Ham, who proofed Lafayette’s petitions for more supplies. [source]

WASHINGTON AND COMPANY:
Hamilton!

LAFAYETTE:
Sir, you’re gonna have to use him eventually
What’s he gonna do on the bench? I mean—

  • Hamilton was “manning George’s journal” and had to drop some major hints before he was handed a command of Lafayette’s light infantry battalion. [source]

WASHINGTON AND COMPANY:
Hamilton!

LAFAYETTE:
No one has more resilience
Or matches my practical tactical brilliance—

  • Or, as George says in the letter they’re singing about, “I am convinced that no officer can with justice dispute your merit and abilities.” [source]

WASHINGTON AND COMPANY:
Hamilton!

LAFAYETTE:
You wanna fight for your land back?

COMPANY:
Hamilton!

WASHINGTON:
I need my right hand man back!

  • This was a push-and-pull between Washington and Hamilton throughout the war: Washington wanted Hamilton as his “right hand man” while Hamilton wanted field experience.

WOMEN:
Hamilton!

LAFAYETTE:                                                        MEN:
Ah! Uh, get ya right hand man back                        Get your right hand man back!
You know you gotta get ya right hand man back      Your right hand man back!

I mean you gotta put                                           Hamilton!
some thought into the letter                                 Ha—
but the sooner the better                                     Ha—
To get your right hand man back!

  • There was a lot of letter drama in the 1780s. Hamilton delivered one of George’s letters for him, stopped to chit-chat with Lafayette, and Washington got pissy about it. So Hamilton flounced off and quit for like a handful of months until he got the Yorktown commission. [source]
  • “The letter, the sooner the better” – reference either to Please Mister Postman by the Marvelettes, or to the children’s rhyme (deliver the letter, the sooner the better, the later the letter the madder I getter… I think there’s more, I’m so old that I sent letters as a child so you’ll have to bear with me.)

WOMEN, MEN:
Hamilton, Hamilton!
Ha— ha—!

WASHINGTON:
Alexander Hamilton
Troops are waiting in the field for you
If you join us right now, together we can turn the tide
Oh, Alexander Hamilton
I have soldiers that will yield for you
If we manage to get this right
They’ll surrender by early light
The world will never be the same, Alexander…

  • Once again, we return to the style of Alexander Hamilton.
  • Solders that will yield for you – Washington’s hesitation about appointing Hamilton to a command wasn’t that he thought Hamilton wasn’t up to it. It’s that there were other, longer-serving officers who would take it as a slight. Appointing Hamilton required not only regular soldiers to yield, but also an officer to yield his expected promotion. [source]
  • “The world will never be the same” is a motif throughout the show, alluding not just to Hamilton’s desire to make a difference but to be KNOWN for making a difference. After their little falling out, real-life Washington also appealed to Hamilton’s ego.
  • The Battle of Yorktown was an important strategic victory, so the world really was never the same.

Questions, Comments, and Concerns: The Pilgrims on PBS

Last night, the Pilgrims aired on American Experience, and we all learned that the Mayflower was a floating piece of garbage that carried miserable people to a land of despair and death. HAPPY THANKSGIVING.

Question: Is Ken Burns Involved?

Ken Burns is behind all of the best American Experience episodes. I also had a semi-crush on him back when I assumed he looked like Richard Attenborough, which actually doesn’t help matters and if anything makes it worse, never mind, let’s pretend I never said that.

[It’s Ken Burns’ brother, Ric, who did this one, by the way.]

Comment: Plymouth Rock is the worst.

 

 

Anyone been to Plymouth Rock? It’s a literal rock, and it’s not even that big, and there’s honestly no way they could have known that it was THE rock. A crowd of people stand on a platform above the rock and your mom just wants to get a good picture and you just want to go on the replica boat.

Comment: Governor Bradford Was The Eliza Hamilton Of Plymouth

… in terms of being the person who controlled how it was represented in history. And also the Alexander, in terms of writing like he’s running out of time.

Comment: It’s like practically the ONLY thing to do in 17th century England was go to church and the Puritans were like “oh no, this is too fun and interesting, better make CHURCH less FUN.” (No offense, church.)

I mean I’ve never been at church and been like “wow, this music is too good right now. Everyone’s breath is amazing and I am entertained by this decor.”

Concern: They Were A Straight-Up Cult

PBS even said. Ken Burns’ brother Ric said. America wasn’t founded so much on the concept of freedom of religion, so much as by a handful of religious crazies, plus other people who thought there was maybe gold here.

Question: Is a boat being ‘seasoned’ a good thing?

Because it kind of just sounds like a way to say “an old boat.” Granted, the Titanic was brand-spanking-new, but.

Comment: “Two miles an hour;” “Chamber pots everywhere;” “Voyage from hell.”

But on the plus side: two dogs.

Comment: The Pilgrims were heading for the Hudson river, but look, I think we’ve all ended up in Provincetown by accident a time or two.
Concern: PBS says it’s “necessary to ask who the savages were,” but I think we all know.

It’s the people who rode a poop-boat to go camping because church was too fun in England.

Comment: That moment when the pilgrims find a rotting skull on the beach and it has blonde hair on it:

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Question: Did Dorothy Bradford kill herself or fall off a boat?

Anyone’s guess, to be honest.

Concern: 50% of the population died by springtime and Bradford was just like, maybe if I don’t write it in my diary nobody will know?

And you know why he did that? Because they propped up the DEAD BODIES AS HUMAN SCARECROWS SO THE INDIANS WOULD THINK THEY WERE GUARDS. I really did need to use all of those caps.

 

Comment: The Mayflower was sold for scrap.
Question: What really happened at the real first Thanksgiving?

Sounds like not much. They ate dinner.

Concern: These people sure did like decorating with dead bodies.

Propping up pilgrims as human scarecrows, hanging up Indian heads in the  town square – just bury them, guys. Just be normal. I’m getting serial killer vibes from all of y’all. The ornament adorning Bradford’s wedding was a head on a pike and linen soaked in blood.

Comment: William Bradford married a 32-year-old woman.

See, all of the relatives I’ll have to see this week?

Comment: Sitting here during this discussion of the high price of beaver like:bingley-giggles.gif

 

“The beaver saved them” – Ken Burns’ brother Ric I guess.

Concern: So, Bradford gets buried in a grave.

Guess the town had all the disembodied heads they could handle.

Comment: Nope, One More Reference To A Head On A Pole Before We Go.
Question: Are we supposed to think Bradford’s journal is legit when a guy just found it in a book store right before the Civil War when there was a “battle” between New England and Southern historians?
Comment: “Somewhere, William Bradford might have smiled.”

But probably not because he’s the kind of man who got married under a rotting head on a stick right?

They Were Astronauts: Mad Men, Time Travelers

In season 4 of Mad Men, school-marmish secretary Ida Blankenship died in the offices of Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce. Bert Cooper remarked that Miss Blankenship wasn’t just a fusty old lady:

She was born in 1898 in a barn. She died on the 37th floor of a skyscraper. She was an astronaut.

Ida was not even 70 years old, but her lifetime stretched from an era of horse-drawn transportation to one of live television broadcasts and international flights.

If Mad Men characters were real people, most of them would be much older than Ida Blankenship. Don Draper is now roughly 90 years old – give or take a few, because, you know, Dick Whitman and everything. Joan is 84, and Peggy is about to turn 75. At 61, even little Sally Draper is getting AARP mailers and gearing up for retirement.

That’s right: Sally Draper is only a few years younger than Miss Blankenship.

The magic of old-fashioned style: Peggy actually looks younger in 1970 than she did in 1960.

The Mad Men crew witnessed as much change in the second half of the 20th century as Miss Blankenship did in the first. Contrast the first scene between Peggy and Joan with the last. In 1960 Joan told Peggy that the way to be indispensable at work was knowing what kind of liquor to stock for your boss. Working as collaborators was out of the question. By 1970 (spoiler!), Joan proposes that she and Peggy become partners in a production company. In 1960, Joan told Peggy to “always be a supplicant;” in 1970, they’re both bosses.

During the first seasons, Mad Men’s costuming reflected early ’60s style — which, of course, owed a lot to the straight-laced 1950s. Men wore suits, women wore skirts, and pillbox hats were a hot accessory. By the last season, we saw glimpses of the fashion world we live in now. Characters wore casual clothing – jeans, even! – in settings they wouldn’t have dreamed of in 1960. Early on she dressed like a cat from a Richard Scarry book, but the Sally of 1970 could almost be mistaken for a teenager of today. Some of Mad Men’s 1970 styles look dated to us now – Pete Campbell has the semi-Medieval haircut of every man in my family’s 1970s photo albums – but most wouldn’t look out of place in a hipster neighborhood. By 1970 our modern fashion culture had emerged: much less formal and easier to maintain than the early ’60s looks, owing at least in part to all of the Joans and Peggys who were now working and didn’t have hours each week to press laundry.

RIP Sally’s knee socks.

Then there’s advertising. A few years ago I saw an old diner sign for pie. It said: “it is so good!” That’s it. That was advertising of the 1940s or so: tell them the pie is good. By the early seasons of Mad Men, more sophisticated targeted advertising had materialized. Pitch meetings involved discussions like “what kind of person uses this product?” and “who does the person using this product want to be?” By the finale, the public’s aspirations had changed. No longer striving for the middle class, suburban post-war ideal, the consumer of the 1970s wants to be enlightened, free-spirited and original. He wants to buy the world a Coke. With an ad concept that’s sure to get people talking, by 1970 we’re even looking at the start of viral marketing.

When I look at how the changing world affected these characters from 1960 to 1970, I have to wonder what would have happened to them after that. Throughout the 1970s, the firm probably focused on the youth-oriented marketing that was so successful in the Coke pitch. After all, the baby boomers had aged into that lucrative 18-35 demographic. Don Draper, at least trying to be a steady presence in his kids’ lives, stayed away from hardcore ’70s drug use. Sally had a misspent youth, as was the style of the time, and was just about the right age to hit the Studio 54 scene. Joan would have been hard at work at Holloway Harris. And Peggy… I can see the 1970s being Peggy’s decade, with the world finally getting a little closer to catching up with her. She and Stan would have made a great team both at work and out of it, and I’m sure Peggy got really into macrame decor, the ERA and oversized lapels. She would have spearheaded the firm’s pitch for a public service spot during the Oil Crisis. Baby Kevin probably ended the decade very wealthy indeed, because I can’t imagine Roger Sterling lasting that long.

The 1980s is when most of our characters would have seen a big payout. Most of our former “young professionals” would be in their 50s, the prime of their careers. Pete Campbell is still a weenie in the ’80s, because “Pete Campbell is a weenie” is an immutable truth. As a company man at Learjet, he probably made major bank targeting the Reagan-era business travel demographic. Don would find himself going back to the all-American family advertising of the early 60s, now that boomers were settling down with kids. Can’t you just see Joan getting really into ostentatious 1980s fashion as her production company booms?  Trudy is absolutely the kind of ’80s woman who decorated with ducks in bonnets. And of course, little Tammy Campbell would have graduated from Dartmouth in 1986.

Think of the popular advertising of your 90s childhood – all the neon and weird surfer slang. Some of it was coined by young ad execs, but there’s a good chance that those Nickelodeon Magazine and Sunny D spots were pitched by an aged Don Draper type. By the 1990s, the clunky typewriters are all replaced with computers, and 60-something Mad Men sat in front of desktop monitors waiting for the dial-up to turn on. This is probably the decade when most of our characters retired. 1990s Joan may be the world’s fiercest grandmother, with Kevin hitting his 20s and 30s. If Holloway Harris is a success, though, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Joan keep working into her 70s.

With the 2000s recession, most of our characters would be relieved to have left the work force. But maybe someone like Peggy would have kept working into the information age. All of these characters who used rotary phones are now face-timing their grandchildren on iPads. 90-year-old Don probably gets a kick out of online advertising.  If you’re reading this as a 20- or 30-something, Sally is probably close to your mom’s age. Can you picture a middle-aged Sally moving her kid into college in the 2000s, or an adult Sally tuning into Oprah every day after work? Or maybe her trips into the seedier parts of New York City are a sign that she ended up living the Bohemian lifestyle that Betty never had.

Back to 1970: in the Mad Men finale, Don was hanging out with his weird friends and I saw something unmistakable. It was the same exact cooler that accompanied my family on every road trip throughout my whole childhood. Then I did a little math. Let’s say one of my parents got that cooler in 1970 – reasonable, since they were college students at the time – and I remember traveling with it in 1992. The duration between 1992 and now is greater than from 1970 to 1992. In other words: I’m as far from my own childhood as my childhood was from the Mad Men era. The show was set in another time, but I’m from another time, too. When we were kids, the world was full of a lot of the same people, attitudes, and even tangible objects that had been there in the 1960s and 1970s. The other day, my dad mentioned that when he was a kid, all of the “old people” were folks who were alive in the 19th century – and now there are only 5 people left from that century. My brother added that the year he was born is as long ago today as the Korean war was when he was born.

It’s not just Ida Blankenship, and it’s not just Mad Men: we’re all time travelers. We’re all astronauts.

 

Gigantic Old-Fashioned Wool Bathing Suits For Every Body

Memorial Day is here, and Memorial Day means the beginning of summer*! And summer means bathing suits! And bathing suits mean bathing suit shopping, and bathing suit shopping means falling further and further into despair as a cheerful shopping attendant tries to bring you ill-fitting bikinis, ending up like a real-life version of a late-80s Cathy comic. ACKKKK!!!

It doesn’t have to be like this. Once upon a time, swimwear experienced a golden age, when toned abs and cellulitic thighs alike were covered by thick woolen fabric. I’m talking about the 1860s through the 1920s, the bathing suit’s zenith.

So, like so many fashion magazines, we thought we would help you find a bathing suit. Nay, not just any bathing suit, the absolute perfect old-timey bathing suit for your body type. Spoiler: it probably weights over 5 pounds and comes with a superfluous belt.

* Also technically, solemn reflection for those who have gone before us. But mostly barbeques! [Source: my Facebook feed]

Apple Shaped

The real challenge for the apple-shaped woman is choosing between a two-piece (which is going to expose your midsection), or dealing with clingy Lycra and spandex adhering to your belly. However, in the 1880s you could let it all hang out (and then immediately cover all of it with wool). For ladies who carry their weight in their (neatly corseted) midsection, these full, proud pantaloons lead the eye down and balance your proportions. Bonus: the giant legs makes your feet look like Barbie feet tacked onto a My Buddy doll.

Pear Shaped

In the present day, ladies with serious hip-thigh situations spend a lot of time looking for bathing suit bottoms that actually cover their entire butt. In 1864, these styles from Godey’s Lady’s Book had your ass covered! As well as your knees, calves, and forearms. Note the shape of these swim costumes, which flare out… shall we say generously? from the waist. Today’s fashion is all about trying to camouflage your derriere, but this is a suit that says “oh, these hips are on purpose.”

Petite

Hey there, little lady! What better way to take advantage of your petite proportions than dressing like an actual pixie? You know everyone’s thinking it, anyway. Note the zig-zag hem on the far left, a style that says “I made this outfit out of a flower petal.” The style is complemented by criss-cross lace-up shoes, telling everyone on the beach “yeah, I could be a ballerina with this petite body shape and delicate swim dress.” The sassy turban at far right indicates “I’m Bohemian! But I mean, Bohemian in the “La Boheme” sense. I might have consumption. But look how petite!” Carrying a blanket around, like our friend in the “maillot” style,  reminds other beach-goers that you are very tiny and cold.

Hourglass

With its kicky sailor collar, sodden wool skirt, and improbably small waist, the only way this suit could better enhance your hourglass figure is if your bosom gradually filled with sand if somebody tipped you over.

Athletic

 

You’ve worked hard at the gym. You run, you lift, and summer time is the big payoff. So leave the pantaloons at home, because you have toned your way into this formfitting tank dress. In case people couldn’t tell that you work out by your awesome quads and triceps, you can steal a robe from an actual prizefighter to let them know you’ve been putting in your hours at the gymnasium.

If you’re prepared to rock this style, you will be showing a LOT of skin – so don’t let it get all burned and gross. Sport a straw witches’ hat with a four-foot brim to keep away unwanted sunbeams and attention. If you look this good, you gotta ward off those crowds somehow.

Full-Figured

This demure nautical romper will cover up everything you want covered, and even some things you probably don’t.

23 Skidoo! Downton-Era Slang For Every Vocabulary

Downton Abbey came back for its fourth season last night (for our more law-abiding North American readers anyway), and that talkie is the cat’s. I’m not just beating my gums here — the ’20s were the start of our modern pop-culture age, and the slang was the bee’s knees.

Incorporate some of these phrases and you’ll sound like your favorite sheik or sheba in no time!

23 skidoo! – leave quickly

  • Example: The coppers are busting the gin mill. 23 skidoo!

And how! – I agree with you SO HARD.

  • Example:

Herman: Those flappers sure are showing a lot of ankle!

Hattie (showing a lot of ankle): And how!

Bank’s Closed: stop making out

  • Example: It’s a speakeasy, not a hootenanny. Bank’s closed, Sam and Ida!

Beat one’s gums – to talk a lot of nonsense

  • Example: Lula says the stock market’s going to tank, but I think she’s just beating her gums.

Beef – a complaint. Actually, just like how we use it now. Thanks, ’20s!

  • Example:

Myrtle: What’s your beef?

Maude: You borrowed my stockings and got rouge all over the knees!

bee’s knees – really, really awesome

  • Example: Boy, Josephine, these movies that you have to read sure are the bee’s knees!

bimbo – a macho, overly manly man

  • Example: Reginald’s always lifting barbells on the boardwalk. What a bimbo!

blind date – a date with a stranger. Actually, just like how we use it now. No thanks, ’20s!

  • Example: George missed his blind date with Thelma because he was stuck on top of a flagpole.

blotto – drunk

  • Example: Mabel is completely blotto off that moonshine!

bubs – boobs, but way more fun to say

  • Example: Now Mabel’s showing her bubs! Geraldine, get her home!

cancelled stamp – a shy, wallflower-y girl who’s not very fun.

  • Example: Say what you will about Mabel, at least she’s not a cancelled stamp like old Gertie!

cat’s pajamas – particularly great. Often abbreviated to just “the cat’s.”

  • Example: Ida and Roger think dance marathons are the cat’s pajamas!

dead soldier – empty beer bottle

  • Example: Clean the dead soldiers off the field, boys! A football game’s starting and they could scratch our leather helmets!

drugstore cowboy – a guy who hangs out in public trying to look good and pick up ladies. See: the text of No Scrubs.

  • Example: Bernice bobs her hair, and next thing you know she’s taken off with some drugstore cowboy!

Dumb Dora – an unintelligent lady

  • Example: Maxine’s such a Dumb Dora – you can get better conversation out of a silent film!

gasper – cigarette

  • Example: Harold says that gaspers can make you sick, but I think he’s just beating his gums.

giggle water – booze

  • Example: Slow your roll, Mabel. Enough of that giggle water.

half-seas over – drunk

  • Example: Mabel is completely half-seas over off that moonshine!

handcuff – engagement ring

  • Example: George has the handcuff on ol’ Thelma and he’s never at the speakeasy anymore.

icy mitt – to coldly blow off a person who’s trying to get with you

  • Example: Now that Ruth’s a coed, she’s giving all of the townies the icy mitt.

Let George do it – something that you’d say to get out of work.

  • Example: I don’t want to work on my financial planning for 1929. Ah, let George do it!

Moll – a gangster’s lady-friend

  • Example:

Moll: No, Irene, this is just the name my parents gave me. I’m not affiliated with the mafia. But I hope my great-granddaughter will be named after me, because what are the chances that the name Molly would be associated with a seedy subculture again in 100 years?

ossified – drunk.

  • Example: Mabel is completely ossified off that moonshine!

quilt – an alcoholic beverage that keeps you warm

  • Example:

Mabel: I sure am cold after that sledding party! Somebody get me a quilt.

Ethel: Oh, you’ve had quite enough, Mabel.

Mabel: I meant a literal quilt, though.

petting pantry – a movie theater. Still relevant for anyone who’s gone to the movies only to realize that it was apparently the couple’s show.

  • Example: Let’s go to the petting pantry! There’s a new Louise Brooks flick. And I want to make out.

So’s your old man – a response to somebody who said something that irritated you. Sort of a “your mama” for the 1920s crowd.

  • Example:

Phyllis: I saw your beau Jimbo at the petting party with Olive. He’s courting a hussy!

Gladys: So’s your old man!

sheba – girlfriend (or a good-looking lady). For millenials, that usually translates to “this girl I’m kind of hanging out with, I don’t know.”

  • Example: Arthur’s sheba is Lucille.

sheik – boyfriend (or a good-looking man). Millenials: “that guy I’ve been seeing or whatever, not really sure what we are.”

  • Example: Lucille’s sheik is Roy. Don’t tell Arthur.

spifflicated –  drunk

  • Example: Mabel is completely splifficated off that moonshine!

struggle buggy – a car’s backseat

  • Example: Wow, it sure is easier to neck in a struggle buggy than it was in a regular buggy! I always felt like the horses were watching.

Tell it to Sweeney! – I don’t believe you. Tell it to someone who does.

  • Example: Sick from gaspers, Harold?! Tell it to Sweeney!

zozzled –  drunk

  • Example: Mabel is completely zozzled off that moonshine! I think she might have a problem.

Old trends don’t die as soon as a new one starts. Case in point: 40-something women who still dress like they did in the class of ’87. So, some of the early ’20s Downtoners were still using their World War I and Edwardian-era slang. It’s not too late to start using these words, too:

balmy on the crumpet –  crazy

  • Example: Henrietta is wearing bloomers! She’s gone balmy on the crumpet.sybil

blue devils – feeling down in the dumps

  • Example: Aminta has the blue devils because her best corset just broke.

beaver – a man’s beard

  • Example:

Jonesy: Why the long face, Jamesy?

Jamesy (whose face is hairless):  I can’t give Clorinda what she wants. I’m a baby-faced boy, but she likes the beaver.

Jonesy: Perhaps she can find a beard elsewhere.

boner – a mistake

  • Example:

Ronald: I made a real boner while I was courting Flossie in her parents’ parlor. I think I really ruined my chances.

Donald: A boner while courting in her parents’ parlor? What was it?

Ronald: A boner while courting in her parents’ parlor.

cheese it! – stop it!

  • Example: Cheese it, Edmund! You have to take your cod-liver oil!

clergyman’s daughter – a whore

  • Example: Bridget’s a clergyman’s daughter, and mark my words, in ten years her little Mabel will be just as bad.

cootie – crabs

  • Example: Bridget has cooties.

curtains – the end

  • Example: So… I guess that means it’s curtains for you and Bridget, then?

fittums – a great fit

  • Example: Constance, your new hobble skirt is just fittums!

jumping jesus – a fanatic

  • Example: I mean, I’m as excited about the coronation as anyone, but Nigel is a bit of a jumping jesus about the whole thing.

off his chump – crazy

  • Example: Now Henrietta wants to vote, as well? She’s off her chump.

pad the hoof – walking

  • Example: Ready to pad the hoof to the magic lantern show? It’s really the best entertainment option at this point in history.

pipe off – lose interest (in a romantic relationship)

  • Example:

Edwardine: Why did you pipe off Simon?

Thomasine: He spent more time with his hair tonic than I did on my pompadour!

Razzle-dazzle – to go out there, stir up some trouble, and get some ladies!

  • Example:

Bert: Shall we go razzle-dazzle, Simon?

Simon: I’m actually less interested in razzle-dazzling than you might think.

Teagie – tea gown

  • Example: You know, calling it a teagie makes it seem like it would be pretty casual, but it takes like three handmaids to change into this thing.

What priced head have you? – How bad’s the hangover?

  • Example: You really hit the music-hall hard, Basil. What priced head have you?

yeah – yes

  • Example

Charles: In 100 years’ time, will old people still get mad when you say “yeah” instead of “yes?”

Charlotte: Yeah.