Sparked by the phenomenal success of Hamilton: An American Musical, the Albany Institute of History & Art has organized the exhibition The Schuyler Sisters and Their Circle (July 20 – December 29, 2019). There is no better place than the Albany Institute to develop and mount this exhibition. After all, the Institute was founded in 1791, when their dear friend and house guest, George Washington was President. The Albany Institute is also partnering with Schuyler Mansion State Historic Site, which is presenting a Women of Schuyler Mansion tour.
Interest in the Schuyler family has increased in recent years because of the Tony Award-winning Broadway show. The Schuylers were a prominent Dutch family in New York in the 18th and 19th centuries, who played a central role in the formation of the United States. Renowned Revolutionary War general Philip Schuyler (1733-1804) and his wife Catharine Van Rensselaer (1734-1803) raised eight children in their Albany home. Hamilton: An American Musical prominently features the three eldest Schuyler daughters: Angelica Schuyler Church, Elizabeth Schuyler Hamilton, and Margaret (Peggy) Schuyler Van Rensselaer.
Catharine Schuyler was the great-great-granddaughter of Killian Van Rensselaer, the original founder of the Dutch colony of Rensselaerswyck. Catharine'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. Catharine Schuyler raised their daughters with an awareness of their colonial Dutch New York heritage and their connections to members of the prominent Ten Broeck, Livingston, Bayard, Van Rensselaer, and Van Cortlandt families.
The exhibition discusses the wide-ranging interests of Catharine and her three eldest daughters Angelica, Elizabeth, and Margaret (Peggy)— sisters who witnessed history unfold in Albany, New York, Philadelphia, Paris, and London. 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 and Their Circle also explores the men the Schuyler sisters married, hosted, and befriended. Military, political, and intellectual luminaries of the day including George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, and the Marquis de Lafayette visited the Schuyler home in Albany.
The exhibition uses clothing, decorative arts, portraits, and manuscripts from the Revolutionary Period to the Federal Period to tell the stories of the Schuyler women. Twenty-four public and private institutions and individuals have lent their treasures for display. A rarely exhibited John Trumbull portrait of Angelica Schuyler Church with her child and servant is on loan to the exhibition from a private collection, and there are additional significant loans from Columbia University (including Eliza Hamilton's wedding ring from the Rare Book and Manuscripts Library), Fort Ticonderoga, Seth Kaller, Inc., New-York Historical Society, Metropolitan Museum of Art, and the Museum of the City of New York among many others. The Albany Institute is thrilled to bring these objects associated with the Schuyler sisters together in their hometown and showcase them in a special exhibition sure to thrill visitors- from history buffs to Hamilfans!