The Schuylers were a prominent Dutch family in New York in the 18th and 19th centuries, whose descendants played a central role in the formation of the United States. Renowned Revolutionary War General Philip Schuyler (1733-1804) and his wife Catherine Van Rensselaer (1734-1803) raised eight children in their Albany home. Catherine Schuyler was the great-great-granddaughter of Killian Van Rensselaer, the original founder of the Dutch colony of Rensselaerswyck. Catherine's marriage to Philip Schuyler linked two of New York's great landholding families. Philip Schuyler was known to care about the education of his daughters and paid for lessons in French, geography, history, writing, arithmetic, music and dancing. Catherine Schuyler raised their daughters with an awareness of their colonial Dutch New York heritage and their connections to members of the prominent Livingston, Bayard, Van Rensselaer and Van Cortlandt families. Interest in the Schuyler family has increased in recent years because of the Tony Award winning Broadway musical, Hamilton: An American Musical, which prominently features the three eldest Schuyler daughters.
The Schuyler Sisters and their Circle will highlight the women of the Schuyler family and will focus not only on their genteel lives, but also on their roles as mothers, social managers, businesswomen, influencers and revolutionaries. The exhibition will discuss the wide-ranging intellectual, social, and political interests of Catharine Van Rensselaer Schuyler and her daughters Angelica Schuyler Church, Elizabeth Schuyler Hamilton and Margaret (Peggy) Schuyler Van Rensselaer – three sisters who witnessed history unfold in Albany, New York, Philadelphia, Paris and London.
The Schuyler Sisters and their Circle will also explore the men the Schuyler sisters married, hosted and befriended. Military, political, and intellectual luminaries of the day including George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, the Marquis de Lafayette, Talleyrand visited the Schuyler home in Albany. British General John Burgoyne stayed at the mansion as a "prisoner guest" in 1777 after the Battle of Saratoga.
As the wife of Alexander Hamilton, Eliza had a front row seat to events that shaped this country in the years immediately following the revolution. For many years, Angelica lived abroad where she entertained royalty, diplomats, and artists in Paris and London. She maintained life-long friendships with the prominent figures she met like Thomas Jefferson and patronized artist John Trumbull. Peggy married Stephen Van Rensselaer III who ranks 10th on Business Insider's list of wealthiest Americans of all time.
The Schuyler Sisters will use clothing, decorative arts, portraits and manuscripts from the Revolutionary Period to the Federal Period to tell the stories of the Schuyler women. The exhibition will be beautifully installed in the second floor galleries of the museum. Mannequins dressed in period clothing will stand beside furniture used by Albany's leading citizens during the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. The Albany Institute has secured the loan of the rarely exhibited John Trumbull portrait of Angelica Schuyler Church with her child and servant from a private collection, and significant loans from the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Avery Library at Columbia University, and Museum of the City of New York among many others.