Reasons Why Edwin Booth is the Saddest Man to Ever Exist

Ok so I might be being dramatic. But if melancholy be the food of dramatics, read on.


If you recognize his surname, it’s thanks to his brother. You know, the man who shot President Lincoln? Yeah, Edwin was the big brother to John Wilkes Booth. Both were actors, both were incredibly wealthy, and both were incredibly famous in their day. But thanks to the events of April 14, 1865 the Booth name is no longer synonymous with an acting dynasty but with tragedy.

Edwin Booth was more famous than his brother, but his life was far more depressing. What reads like something out of a lonely Lifetime movie actually happened to a real man who really existed (and most of it, far before John Wilkes ever knew Lincoln’s name).

1. Edwin left home at age 12– to babysit his alcoholic father.

Junius Brutus Booth, Edwin’s father, was the most famous actor in America. He also had a drinking problem and was known to down an impressive number of drinks, streaking through public streets, or pass out immediately before curtain, rendering him incapacitated. While Edwin’s siblings stayed home on the family farm in Bel Air, Maryland, hismother sent him to tour with his father to “keep his eye on him.” That’s right, a tiny, adolescent boy was expected to keep tabs on a burly 50 year old man.

“I got you, Dad.”

For seven years, Edwin was his father’s keeper and even once stepped into his shoes when Junius was too drunk to perform. In 1852, Junius struck ill and was sent on a steamboat back to Baltimore. He died of cholera on the voyage. When Edwin’s mother found out her husband was alone when he died, she blamed Edwin and forbade him from returning home.

Edwin returned to Baltimore in 1856 with his pockets full of gold to repay the family’s debts. Forgiven, his mother was overjoyed to have him return and his sisters fawned over his stories from California and Australia, where he had most recently toured with famed actress Laura Keene.

In later life, Edwin noted that his childhood died the day he left to tour with his father.

2. He married the love of his life–only to have her die three years later.

In the late 1850s, Edwin met Mary Devlin, a gorgeous, talented actress, and the two soon fell in love. The two married in 1860 and their daughter, Edwina, was born in 1861.

Mary Devlin Booth and Edwina

The two were passionately in love. In 1863, when Mary was only 22, she became incredibly ill. Edwin was in New York, and was sent urgent telegrams regarding her condition. However, like his father, Edwin was an alcoholic and was too inebriated to even read the telegrams. By the time he was sober enough to reach Mary in Boston, she had already passed. The death of his young wife sent Edwin into a tailspin. He swore off drinking and threw himself into his work.

In 1869, he married his acting partner, Mary McVicker. She was far less talented than his first wife, and her poor performances combined with a failing economy drove Booth’s company into bankruptcy. The two had incredibly clashing personalities and the marriage was not a happy one.

Mary McVicker and Edwin

3. He was the target of an assassination.

Though Edwin was a known Union-supporter (he only voted once in his life, and that vote was for Abraham Lincoln), he took the brunt of hatred directed towards his brother. On April 23, 1879, Edwin was performing the title role in Shakespeare’s Richard II. During his final soliloquy, a man in the balcony was holding a pistol and a copy of the script, following along with Edwin. The man fired three times, and Edwin calmly rose and pointed in the direction of the shots. Audience members restrained the man and Edwin silently left the stage. The man was found to be Mark Gray, a traveling salesman from Iowa. A letter was found in Gray’s hand stating he intended to murder Booth.

4. He had to live in his brother’s shadow.

Edwin was far more talented than his younger brother, but after 1865 he was forever living with his ghost. He withdrew from the stage for eight months after Lincoln’s assassination, fearing for his own life. Even though he never spoke his infamous brother’s name in public, he repeatedly wrote to President Johnson for his body so he could be interred in the family plot in Baltimore. Shortly after his brother’s death, Edwin wrote to their sister, Asia; “Think no more of him as your brother; he is dead to us now, as he soon must be to all the world, but imagine the boy you loved to be in that better part of his spirit, in another world.”

Though the two frequently fought over political views, one instance even involved Edwin picking John up by his shirt collar and literally throwing him out on the street, Edwin was forced to repeatedly take the blame for him after John’s death, as if being the elder brother, he could have done something to prevent it.

5. Pretty much everything he did was dripping with melancholy.

“I’m Edwin Booth and I’M SAD.”

Sometime after the assassination, Edwin attended a New York party, when he noticed a bronze cast of someone’s hands on the mantel. He picked them up, and asked the host who they belonged to. When the host said “Abraham Lincoln,” Edwin silently placed them back on the shelf.

Even his onstage persona was full of sadness. His Hamlet was so revered because of his new acting style. While his father was loud and dramatic, Edwin was more subtle, quiet, and softer–popularizing realism.

There are numerous accounts of John Wilkes’ womanizing ways and his charm. Edwin appeared to be the exact opposite, quiet, withdrawn, and dedicated to his work, especially after the death of Mary Devlin. Though I suppose a lifetime of heartache and the fast road to adulthood won’t make you the life of the party.

Though the Booth name is thought to be traitorous today, in New York City, Edwin is remembered and respected within the theater community. The city that Edwin called home for much of his life holds numerous monuments to the famed Shakespearean actor. The Booth Theater on West 45th street was named after him in 1913 and remains to be the first and oldest theater named after an actor. (Though one of their first productions, however, was Our American Cousin- the comedy Lincoln was attending when assassinated). Near Union Square is Gramercy Park, a small private 2-acre park that is only accessible by residents who pay an annual fee or Player’s Club members, which holds a statue of Edwin at the center. Booth founded The Player’s Club in 1888 to promote “social intercourse between members of the dramatic profession and the kindred professions of literature, painting, architecture, sculpture and music, law and medicine, and the patrons of the arts . . .” His apartment, which lays upstairs from the actual club, remains the same as it did when he died on June 7, 1893.

Edwin’s bedroom. Unseen, but a photo of his infamous younger brother is placed on the mantle.

Further Reading:

Prince of Players: Edwin Booth by Eleanor Ruggles
My Thoughts Be Bloody: The Bitter Rivalry That Lead to the Assassination of Abraham Lincoln by Nora Titone
Genius, and other essays: Edwin Booth by Edmund Clarence Stedman
The Player’s Club website

Advertisements

More Than A Ghost Story: Harpers Ferry

This weekend, I took a drive with some old friends and visited Harpers Ferry, WV.  Known for it’s rich Civil War history (John Brown’s raid, anyone?), this pretty little town–a population of only 285–is perfect for a hike and a history lesson.

We started our day trekking up the most popular trail, Maryland Heights. Topping at 1,600 feet, Maryland Heights features picturesque views from the Blue Ridge mountain range.

We passed the Naval Battery, which protected Harpers Ferry from Stonewall Jackson’s Valley Campaign in 1862. At the top of the mountain is the Overlook, where most of the pictures of the day were taken.

1069401_10153012860370315_1471772655_n

1010337_10153012859360315_366382141_n

A train came through the mountain while we were exploring!

From this height, you can see where the Potomac and Shenandoah Rivers combine, making the cusp of the town of Harpers Ferry. If hiking isn’t your ideal of fun on a humid summer day, there are a variety of tubing and kayaking tours that take you down the Potomac River.

After the hike, we made our way back down the mountain to explore the town. The main focus of downtown is the history of John Brown, the abolitionist who attempted to start an armed slave revolt by appropriating a national arsenal in town.

994211_10153012861655315_959862433_n

The “fort” John Brown and his men barricaded themselves inside after they failed to retain the arsenal.

While some buildings are open and functioning as restaurants, shops, and inns, most are used as self-guided museums, allowing visitors to learn and visit at their own pace.

Downtown Harpers Ferry

Downtown Harpers Ferry

988614_10153012862370315_832939491_n

White Tavern Hall

There are several exhibits throughout town, devoted to Storer College, the water conservatory, John Brown, Meriwether Lewis, and Civil War history. I was especially excited to see that Thomas Jefferson was a presence here, having visited briefly in 1783 while traveling to Philadelphia with his daughter, Patsy.

Jefferson stood on a rock, which still stands today, and commented on the view that he saw in his only published book, Notes on the State of Virginia. 

“The passage of the Patowmac through the Blue Ridge is perhaps one of the most stupendous scenes in Nature.”

Full quote can be found here.

The view Jefferson described.

The view Jefferson described.

Jefferson Rock

Jefferson Rock

Harper House, where the Jeffersons stayed while in Harpers Ferry.

Harper House, where the Jeffersons stayed while in Harpers Ferry.

But another story from Harpers Ferry that’s lurking around every corner are the ghost stories. It seems that every soul that has stayed here has found it impossible to leave, from the likes of John Brown to John Wilkes Booth. The Harpers Ferry Ghost Tour has been rated #1 Ghost Tour on Trip Advisor, and they run every day at 8:00pm.   A selection of ghost stories from the area can be read here.

There’s no doubt the town is spooky, half the buildings look abandoned and there seems to be a permanent mist hugging the mountains, but we saw no paranormal activity on this trip.

Harpers Ferry is the perfect day-trip for those interested in hiking, history, or just looking to be transported back in time for a few hours. Though a lost cost trip–parking is $10, but everything else, excluding meals and souvenirs, are free, you’ll leave with far more than the chill down your spine.

941220_10153012858720315_674999327_n

Panorama of Maryland Heights

Panorama of Maryland Heights

 

 

“Remember the Ladies.”

Men have written history books, but the women set the score. Here is a small sample of my favorite historical ladies.

1. Abigail Adams

There’s a reason Laura Linney was chosen to portray her in the John Adams HBO miniseries: it was simply perfect casting. Abigail tops many a badass ladies list not only because she married one president and gave birth to another. Abigail was unlike any woman of her time.

Where most men in the 18th century considered their wives only as cooks and baby makers, John Adams constantly sought out his wife’s opinion on many political matters. When John was in Philadelphia during the summer of 1776, she wrote to her husband, urging him to “remember the ladies” during America’s fight for independence. If you love a good romance, a selection of the hundreds of letters they wrote to each other can be found in My Dearest Friend. It’s because of these letters that we have such a documented grasp on the amazing woman she was. Abigail was also an advocate of a woman’s right to own property and education. She believed that women should not submit to their husbands, but should be educated and treated more as equals.

Remember the Ladies, and be more generous and favorable to them than your ancestors. Do not put such unlimited power into the hands of the Husbands. Remember all Men would be tyrants if they could. If particular care and attention is not paid to the Ladies we are determined to foment a Rebellion and will not hold ourselves bound by any Laws in which we have no voice or Representation.”

Abigail to John Adams, March 1776

Abigail is the definitive woman of the Revolution due to her wit, charm, and intelligence. She was unmatched during her time and still revered today.

2. Martha Jefferson

Unlike Abigail, we know practically nothing about the woman who stole Thomas Jefferson’s heart. We aren’t even completely sure the above silhouette is hers. But we do know she was supposedly incredibly beautiful and kind. She was described as exceedingly intelligent, very musical, advanced in needlework, and ran Monticello when her husband was away.

She started the production of beer at Monticello, which Thomas continued for the rest of his own life. Neighbors and even their own slaves adored Martha, and she was often found in the kitchen helping prepare meals when she wasn’t ill. During her term as First Lady of Virginia, she raised fund to support the American troops and joined with the Ladies Association of Virginia to raise $300,000 for linen shirts for Washington’s freezing army.

Martha died when she was 33, after being married to Jefferson for only 10 years. Jefferson never remarried. Her kind and caring nature lives on throughout the numerous places in Charlottesville, Virginia named after her, including Martha Jefferson Hospital.

3. Elizabeth Hamilton

Elizabeth (or Eliza or Betsey, as Hamilton called her) was the envy of all 18th century women when she won the heart of Solider heartthrob, Alexander Hamilton. Together they had eight children before Hamilton’s untimely death in 1804 (See Duel!). Eliza outlived her husband by fifty years, passing away at the age of 97 in 1854. Throughout her life, she staunchly defended her husband against critics and even stood by him during personal scandals. She devoted her life to protecting her husband’s image, hired assistants to sort his papers and recruited biographers to tell his story.

Even though her husband left her with a brood of children and mountain of debt, Eliza never remarried. Instead, she focused her energy on helping those less fortunate by co-founding New York’s first private orphanage, the New York Orphan Asylum Society. In her later years, Eliza lived in Washington DC, where she and Dolley Madison raised money to fund the Washington Monument.

4. Sybil Ludington

We all know the rhyme, “Listen my children and you shall hear/Of the midnight ride of Paul Revere.” But Paul Revere wasn’t the only midnight rider, though he is the most famous.

On April 26, 1777, 16-year-old Sybil Ludington mounted her horse, Star, and rode 40 miles, more than twice the distance Revere rode, from Carmel, NY to Mahopac, to Kent Cliffs anad Farmers Mill before returning home, warning residents of the British marching on nearby Danbury, Connecticut.

During the nearly nine hour ride, she galloped through mud and rain, and defended herself against a highwayman with a large stick. Though the soldiers arrived too late to save Danbury, Sybil was hailed as a hero and was even congratulated by General George Washington.

Since 1979, the Sybil Ludington 50k Footrace is held in Carmel, NY and traces her famous route.

Do you have a favorite historical lady? Leave her name and cause in the comments below!

“For God’s Sake, John, Sit Down!”

Ah yes, the Fourth of July. A day off work and an excuse to eat to excess while lighting explosives. America.

Though we have celebrated this holiday for hundreds of years, few know that John Adams was the one who foresaw the pomp and circumstance of July 4th. “I believe that it will be celebrated by succeeding generations as the great anniversary festival,” he wrote in a letter to his wife, Abigail. “It ought to be celebrated by pomp and parade, with shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires, and illuminations from one end of this continent to the other…”

You're welcome, America. Now blow up some explosives. INDEPENDENCE!!!

You’re welcome, America. Now blow up some explosives. INDEPENDENCE!!!

If you’re so inclined you can also listen to Mr. Feeny himself (William Daniels) as John Adams sing about this in the musical 1776.

Most of the parties happen in the late afternoon or after sundown. That leaves a decent chunk of the day to lounge around in anticipation for the festivities to come. Why don’t you sit down and give 1776 a watch on Thursday? It’s a bit of a doozy (nearly three hours!) but a hilarious interpretation of the events of the summer of 1776. Franklin’s a bit of a creep, Adams is always angry, Jefferson is swoon-worthy, Lee is hilarious, and Hancock just wants to go home. (You can rent it for $2.99 on Amazon! Do it! Start a new tradition before you put your liver into overdrive! Or drink and watch it! Take a shot every time someone tells John Adams to sit down! Don’t worry, you’ll catch on fast.)

"WON'T SOMEBODY OOOOOOOPEN UP A WINDOW!????"

“SOMEONE OUGHTA OPEN UP A WINDOOOOOOOOW!!!”

Documentaries can be dry and a book is hard to swallow in day. A film isn’t. Granted, you’ve been bottle fed the story of the Declaration of Independence since you could wipe your own butt, but I’m sure there’s at least one aspect of it you never knew.

There was originally a slavery clause in the Declaration of Independence? Yup! New York abstained from voting on anything of importance? Sure thing! The delegates fought so much that a motion to even discuss Independence almost didn’t pass? You betcha!

I’m quickly reminded of the recent Spielberg film, Lincoln. Though we obviously knew the 13th Amendment was passed, many watched the final scene with baited breath. 1776 is incredibly similar. At the very least, you’ll notice that 18th century politics doesn’t differ too much for today.

The musical also does an excellent job of rounding out some Founders who aren’t the household names Adams, Jefferson, and Franklin are. John Dickinson is Adams’ main opposition. A delegate from Pennsylvania, Dickinson believed that independence was necessary but the time to declare it could wait. Adams, obviously, disagreed and Dickinson gets to sing a really cool song about being a conservative. (I’m serious. It’s one of my favorite songs in the whole show. Anyone doing a reverse gender 1776? Call me. I do great renditions in my car when driving to work.)

Fun fact. This song was cut from the theatrical movie release because President Nixon thought it was a personal jab towards him.

If this is too much of a history lesson overload, don’t worry there’s a romantic break. The only two female characters in the show are Abigail Adams and Martha Jefferson. Abigail only appears in visions John has and their dialogue is based upon the actual letters of the Adams’. Martha Jefferson is introduced when Thomas refuses to write the Declaration of Independence because he misses his wife and Adams is forced to send for her. She also gets an awesome song.

She’s really into dudes that play the violin…

If you’re someone who knows a lot or nothing at all about the Congress of 1776 and the passing of Declaration of Independence, you’ll learn something while watching 1776. And you won’t even know it.

“…all my wishes end, where I hope my days will end, at Monticello.”

If you’re a fan of Thomas Jefferson or just American History in general, put Monticello on your next-to-visit list. The gorgeous plantation was built on top of a 850 foot high mountain in Charlottesville, Virginia, about an hour outside Richmond, starting in 1769. It wasn’t finished until 1809, though Jefferson continued to work on it until his death in 1826.

I was lucky enough to visit Monticello this past Saturday and was completely in awe of this amazing home.

9112471612_491bc03452_o

Jefferson went to William and Mary to study natural philosophy, but in his downtime he learned law, languages, and architecture.  And yes, Monticello’s design came out of the brain of a man who was untrained but not uneducated. Jefferson was obsessed with architecture and Monticello (which is Italian for ‘little mountain’) was heavily influenced by neoclassical design.

9110249559_b314f97b21_o

The house itself is a sight to behold, a beautiful 43 room structure, but the grounds are equally as magnificent.  Unlike any other plantations, Jefferson built long L-shaped terraces jutting from each wing and placed the necessary servant rooms (kitchen, smokehouse, wine and beer cellars, etc.) underneath each terrace.

South Terrace

South Terrace from below

North Terrace from above

North Terrace from above

Jefferson first moved to Monticello in 1770. The house was far from being completed and Jefferson lived in a one room building, called the South Pavilion.

South Pavilion

South Pavilion

When Jefferson married Martha Wayles Skelton in 1772, he brought his new bride to Monticello’s South Pavilion. Their first child, Patsy, was born there in late 1772.

South Pavilion interior

South Pavilion interior

After Martha died, Jefferson left for France in 1984 as America’s Ambassador. While living abroad, Jefferson fell in love with European architecture and rebuilt Monticello to fit this new obsession. Monticello’s most noticeable addition was a dome that capped the top floor. A beautiful apartment, the dome was rarely used because it was hot in the summer and cold in the winter.

Inside, Monticello boasts thirteen skylights (the first house in America to do so), 18 foot high ceilings in various rooms, eight fireplaces, and a dumbwaiter which brought wine from the cellar to the parlor, to name a few attributes. Today, about 1/3 of the glass in the houses windows and doors is original.

Jefferson's greenhouse off his private wing.

Jefferson’s greenhouse off his private wing.

Monticello started its life as a tobacco plantation, but due to the damaging effects of the plants on the soil, Jefferson later switched to wheat.  He also grew over 300 different types of vegetables, various herbs, and ran an orchard and a vineyard.

Vineyard

Vineyard

Vegetable garden and Garden Pavilion

Vegetable garden and Garden Pavilion

View from the Garden Pavilion

View from the Garden Pavilion

Monticello was also home to at least 200 slaves during Jefferson’s life. They lived on Mullberry Row, named for the Mullberry trees planted along the path. More than 20 structures were built along this small stretch of land. Unfortunately, all that stands today are stone foundations and the fireplace from the joiner’s shop.

9110250495_91322b301e_o

Jefferson died in his bedroom at Monticello on July 4, 1826. He had been slipping in and out of consciousness for days and it’s believed he held on only to die on the 50th anniversary of our country’s independence. Jefferson requested to be buried at Monticello and even wrote his own epitaph. He is buried alongside his children and wife.

Jefferson's grave marker

Jefferson’s grave marker

Jefferson’s presence is felt throughout the house and the grounds, whether or not that presence is actually him or not is up to the visitor to decide. In a few pictures I took, though it was a clear and beautiful day out, orbs and hazy blobs show up in the photographs. Could it be Jefferson himself coming back to check on the house he loved so dearly? Take a visit to Monticello and decide for yourself!

Further reading:
Monticello website
Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello by William L. Beiswanger
Twilight at Monticello by Alan Pell Crawford

Reasons Why Thomas Jefferson is Cooler Than You

As I’ve said in a previous post, Thomas Jefferson was a total babe. Tall, ginger, athletic, and brainy, he’s probably tied with Hamilton for foxiest Founder. Yes, the water starts to get murky when it comes to slavery and his ancestors, but take that (granted rather large) section out and you’ve got a pretty snappy dude. I mean, the fact that he’s the Founder that people turn to time and time again to attribute false quotes to stands the test of time. (For future reference, literally every single Jefferson quote can be checked here, Facebook and meme users!) So before you chalk TJ up to being just another stuffy dude in a wig, keep these in mind.

  • He pretty much invented “foodies.” Jefferson loved food. He loved it so much, he’s responsible for some of our favorites today. Macaroni and cheese? You can thank Jefferson, not Stouffer’s.
  • He was an inventor. What? Is writing the Declaration of Independence and founding the University of Virginia not good enough for you, Tom? Swivel chairs? Jefferson. Helped improve a letter duplicator? Jefferson. Granted, it wasn’t modern in the slightest, but for someone who wrote as much as he did, it let him have two copies of each letter and saved his hand from cramps.
Thomas Jefferson's letter duplicator- a polygraph

Thomas Jefferson’s letter duplicator- a polygraph

  • Hand cramps were important to Jefferson because he broke a ton of bones throughout his life. In the summer of 1785, he broke his right wrist in Paris while jumping over a fence. He was trying to impress Maria Cosway, a married woman he was attempting to woo. He was 42 years old. For the rest of his life, the wrist was deformed. In 1821, at age 75, Jefferson fell off a step at his home, Monticello, and broke his left wrist.
  • He built and rebuilt Monticello numerous times throughout his lifetime. When he died, he considered it still to be unfinished.
MonticelloWater

Monticello today.

  • He was probably the most passionate person in the world about the separation of church and state. (Rule of thumb, if you’re using a Jefferson quote to defend religion, he didn’t say it). He founded UVA as one of first non-religion affiliated universities in the United States. He also read the Bible, the Torah, and the Quran. In his Bible, he cut out any inconsistency he could find within the New Testament and rearranged them in another book in, what he believed, was a “more coherent narrative.”
  • His bed was too small for his 6’2″ frame and had to sleep partially sitting up or curled up. He slept between 5-8 hours a day and always rose with the sun. Sometimes he’d get up even earlier and just study books for fun.
Jefferson's awesome alcove bed.

Jefferson’s awesome alcove bed.

  • Jefferson’s wife, Martha, died in 1782, when she was only 33 and her husband 39 years old. On her deathbed, Jefferson promised he would never remarry. After she died, it is reported that he had to be forced from the room to his library by his sister, where he fainted. After the funeral, he didn’t speak for three weeks. It is during this time that it is believed he destroyed every portrait and letter from his wife, effectively erasing all memories of her.  Shortly after her death, Jefferson started remodeling Monticello once again. He never spoke of Martha’s name again.
  • He could speak French, Greek, Latin, Spanish, and Italian. When he read the classics, he read them in their original language. He loved books so much, he drove himself into debt. After the Library of Congress was destroyed in the War of 1812, he donated 6,487 of his own books to establish the new library.
Jefferson's books in the Library of Congress

Jefferson’s books in the Library of Congress

  • Thomas Jefferson died in 1826. On the Fourth of July. His last words are reported to be, “Is it the Fourth?”

Thomas-Jefferson-Wearing-Patriotic-Sunglasses--87705

 

 

What Hogwarts House Would The Founding Fathers Be In?

Everyone loves Harry Potter and the only thing that people love more than Harry Potter is trying to determine what house they’d be placed in. Remember when Pottermore was released and the site crashed over and over as people clamored to get sorted and the promptly abandoned their accounts? Exactly.

So let’s clamp the sorting hat onto the Founders’ heads and see where they place.

George Washington
Gryffindor

Ah, Mr. Washignton. The big kahuna. Of course he’d be Gryffindor. He led the thousands of his soldiers to defeat the British, the strongest army in the world. He was known for keeping his cool under pressure (or just keeping his cool at any time–the man wasn’t known for his emotions). He was chivalrous, a completely perfect example of a Virginia gentleman. Washington was not nearly as avid a reader as Jefferson but he was far more skilled in horseback riding and dancing. He was a leader, not only to the people of his time, but to the millions of Americans today.

Other Gryffindors: James Monroe, John Adams

Thomas Jefferson
Ravenclaw

Bookish and silent, but with a pompous air, Jefferson is the dictionary example of a Ravenclaw. If drafting the Declarations of the Rights of Man and the Declaration of Independence wasn’t enough of example of his brains, perhaps his innovative inventions of a letter duplicator and the world’s first example of the office “spinny chair” will convince you. Instead of people who complain of the lack of things to make their lives either, Jefferson not only drafted them, but made them himself. His habit of reading and buying books literally helped put him in millions of dollars in debt (by today’s standards) by the end of his life. He was incredibly knowledgeable about other cultures, and is the person who introduced such food as creme brulee, champagne, macaroni and cheese, broccoli, tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, and peanuts to the States.

Other Ravenclaws: Benjamin Franklin, James Madison

Alexander Hamilton
Slytherin

Some may argue that Hamilton belongs in Gryffindor, but the two houses are different sides of the same coin. Hamilton’s drive and cunning nature (hello–slandering Aaron Burr) makes him lean more towards the snake. He was also more self-centered than his Gryffindor counterparts.  But Slytherin isn’t all Malfoys and Voldemorts. It’s thanks to Hamilton’s determination that he left Nevis on a scholarship and went onto become a part of history. And of course, along the way were a variety of scandals (like Maria Reynolds) which makes him lean more on the Slytherin side. He was brave, of course, but the combination of his desire for power,  brains, and ambition keep him in the green and silver.

Other Slytherins: Sam Adams, Aaron Burr, Edward Rutledge

Marquis de Lafayette
Hufflepuff

Sweet, sweet Lafayette. Never seen a day of battle, and yet ships himself to help fight a war in a country he’s never visited before. Such good intentions and so, so friendly and helpful, the Marquis belongs in Hufflepuff. He was Washington’s personal cheerleader and the picture perfect sidekick. Imagine his little French accent screaming support for freedom. Adorable. But he’s also a perfect example that Hufflepuffs aren’t useless. Mr. French Enthusiasm’s dedication rallied thousands of French troops which helped us actually win the war.

Other Hufflepuffs: Richard Henry Lee, Rev. John Witherspoon