History of Alexander Hamilton for Kids

On July 3, 2020, to the great excitement of its fans Disney Plus released the musical film, Hamilton. After its release it became one of the most-streamed films of that year. The film was based on the 2015 Broadway musical of the same name.

The Hamilton musical was created by Lin-Manuel Miranda and inspired by the biography he read by Ron Chernow. The musical was first done as a show at Vassar College in 2013, then as an Off-Broadway show in 2015. On August 6, 2015, it had its Broadway premiere at the Richard Rodgers Theatre in New York City. 

As of 2021 over 2.6 million people have watched the live performance of Hamilton, its album has been played on Spotify more than 145 million times, and over 2.7 million people have watched the movie on Disney Plus. Needless to say, Hamilton has been one of the most popular musicals of all time. Whether you’ve seen the musical or not, today we’re going to learn more about the life of Alexander Hamilton, one of the Founding Fathers of the United States. 

Alexander was born on January 11, 1755, on the Island of Nevis, which at the time was part of the British West Indies. Actually, there is some doubt about whether his birth actually occurred in 1755 or in 1757. At 13, his father had left and his mother passed away from yellow fever, and Alexander and his brother found themselves as orphans.  

But Alexander kept going and took on his first job at an early age. He became  a clerk at a local import-export firm that traded with New York and New England. In 1969, Alexander and his brother James ahd to split up. James studied with a local carpenter while merchant Thomas Stevens gave Alexander a home. 

Even though Alexander was only a teenager, he  proved capable enough as a trader. He was left in charge of the business  for five months in 1771 while the owner was at sea. He read everything he could  and later developed an interest in writing. As he read and learned about the larger world, he wanted to leave the island where he grew up. 

In October 1772 Hamilton arrived by ship in Boston and traveled from there to New York City. He lived with Hercules Mulligan who helped Alexander sell cargo. This job helped pay for his education and living expenses.

In 1773, to prepare for college, Alexander filled gaps in his education at the Elizabethtown Academy prep school in New Jersey. It was there that he started learning from William Livingston.

Alexander entered King’s College (now known as Columbia University) in New York City in the fall of 1773 as a private student. They officially admitted him as a full student the next year. His college roommate Robert Troup spoke highly of Alexander’s intelligence. He also admired his ability to speak clearly and lead others.

Once the American Revolution began and After the first battle between American troops and the British in 1775, Alexander and other King’s College students joined a New York volunteer militia, the Hearts of Oak. A military is a small army. Hamilton studied military tactics on his own and was soon recommended for promotion. During a battle , he led a successful raid for British cannons while being fired on. Once they captured the cannons, his militia, the Hearts of Oak, became an artillery company.

On January 3, 1777, Alexander took part in the Battle of Princeton. George Washington rallied the American troops and led them in a successful charge against the British forces. After making a brief stand, the British fell back, some leaving Princeton and others taking up refuge in Nassau Hall. 

Alexander brought three cannons up and had them fire on the building. Then some Americans rushed to the front door and broke it down. The British quickly put a white flag outside one window. 194 British soldiers walked out of the building and laid down their weapons, ending the battle with an American victory.

In 1780 Alexander married Elizabeth Schuyler. Together they had eight children. Alexander eventually graduated from college in 1782. His education had been slowed down by the revolution. Later that same year he became licensed as a lawyer to argue cases before the Supreme Court of the State of New York. They appointed Alexander in July 1782 to the Congress of the Confederation as a New York representative.

Alexander quit Congress in 1783 when the British left New York. He practiced law there in partnership with Richard Harison. He specialized in defending Tories and British subjects. In 1784, he founded the Bank of New York, one of the oldest still-existing banks in America. Alexander helped restore and reopen King’s College as Columbia College. The school had been closed since 1776 and was damaged during the war. 

In 1786, at the Annapolis Convention Alexander drafted a resolution for the constitutional convention. In doing so he was one step closer to realizing his longtime desire to have a more effective, more financially independent federal government.

In 1787, while serving as a New York delegate, he met in Philadelphia with other delegates to discuss how to fix the Articles of Confederation, which were so weak that they could not keep  the Union together. During the meeting, Hamilton argued that the country would need plenty of money if it wanted to have a strong, central government that wouldn’t fall apart. 

While Alexander didn’t play a huge part in actually writing the Constitution, he is to thank for making it happen. Alexander wrote 51 of 85 essays that became known as the Federalist papers. It was these papers and Alexander’s powerful voice supporting the Constitution that helped ensure that the constitution was written in 1788.

When George Washington was elected President of the United States in 1789, he appointed Alexander as the first secretary of the treasury. The nation was facing great foreign and domestic debt because of expenses incurred during the American Revolution. Debt is when a country or individual owes someone else money.

In 1791  Alexander played a huge role in establishing the basis for the U.S. Mint. The Mint is where coins would be created for people to use. They created the Mint in Philadelphia in 1792. The Mint issued its first coins in 1795. There was a ten-dollar Gold Eagle coin, a silver dollar, and fractional money ranging from one-half to fifty cents. 

Alexander stepped down from his position as secretary of the treasury in 1795, leaving behind a far more secure U.S. economy to back a strengthened federal government. Having a strong financial system, which included its own coinage and enough money to spend was very important to the success of the new nation.

During the 1800 presidential elections, Thomas Jefferson, Democratic-Republican, and John Adams, a Federalist, were running for President after George Washington stepped down. . Presidents and vice presidents were voted for separately, and Aaron Burr, intended to be Jefferson’s vice president on the Democratic-Republican ticket, actually tied Thomas Jefferson for the presidency.

Alexander didn’t love either candidate, but went with Thomas Jefferson and this led to him beating Aaron Burr as the candidate for the Democratic-Republican Party. As a result, Aaron Burr would be vice president.

During his first term, Thomas Jefferson often left Aaron Burr out of discussions on party decisions. When Thomas Jefferson ran for re-election in 1804, he removed Aaron Burr from his ticket. Aaron Burr then decided to run for governor of New York but lost. 

Frustrated and feeling left out, Aaron Burr became very angry  when he read in a newspaper that Hamilton had called him “the most unfit and dangerous man of the community.” Aaron Burr was convinced Alexander had ruined yet another election for him and demanded an explanation. 

When Alexander refused, Aaron Burr, even angrier, challenged him to a duel. Alexander accepted, though not happy about it, because he believed that in doing so he would assure his “ability to be in the future more useful.”

Alexander met Aaron Burr at the duel which began at dawn on July 11, 1804, in New Jersey. When both men drew their guns and shot, Alexander was severely wounded, but his bullet missed Aaron Burr. 

Alexander, injured, was brought back to New York City, where he died the next day, on July 12, 1804. His grave is in the cemetery of Trinity Church in downtown Manhattan, New York City. His wife, Elizabeth, went on to survive him by 50 years and spent much of her time researching his life and writing about his legacy to share with others. She also founded an orphanage in memory of Alexander who was an orphan himself.

Alexander’s life didn’t start off easy at all. As an orphan in the West Indies, he often had to fend for himself. But instead of giving up, he found work and learned a new trade and did what he could to stay alive. He also found that by reading he could become smarter and figure out ways to solve his problems. Like Alexander, sometimes life throws challenges at us, and we can learn from his example by instead of giving up and shutting down, by stepping back and looking at our problem, learning something new, and then taking action to make our life better. 

Alexander was also always looking at ways he could improve the world around him. During the revolution he saw that America could become something better than it was. He fought in the war and then using everything he had read began to research ways to make the new country stronger. By reading we can better understand the world around us. Alexander wanted more than anything a better future for his children and the people of the new nation. Think about your community and what you might do to make it a better place.

Finally, Alexander will be remembered for the ideas he wrote in the Federalist Papers, which people all over the world have read in designing their own governments. If you get a chance, read some of the ideas he shared there. 

Thanks for listening to this episode about Alexander Hamilton and be sure to tune in next Monday for an episode about the creator of the musical, Lin Manuel Miranda.

History of Mahatma Gandhi for Kids

Have you heard ever heard of a country called India? India is between China and the Middle East and much of it is surrounded by the Indian Ocean. India is home to one of the world’s oldest civilizations and for many years was one of the richest countries in the world. Over one billion people live in India. It has more people than any other country in the world, second only to China. 

In the 1800s the British Empire ruled many countries of the world including America. During the American Revolution the Patriots fought off the British King and his soldiers and became their own free country. At the time of our story the British Empire was still in control of India. This is the story of how India came to be free and the man who helped make it happen.

In 1869 in the city of Porbander, India a boy named Mahandas Ghandi was born in a small home to a simple family. The Ghandis were good people. The father was a leader in the city and his mother was a very religious woman. She taught her children to pray and read scriptures such as the Bhagavad Gita, the Vegas, and some texts from the Bible and Quaran. The Ghandis were Hindu, so they didn’t drinking wine or eat meat. Ghandi’s mother also taught the family to fast — which means going without food for a certain period of time. She believed it gave them strength and self control. 

When Mahandas was little he was very playful and sometimes liked to cause trouble. Often he would chase down dogs and twist their ears. He also loved to listen to classic Indian stories, such as the stories of Shravan and Harischandra, which were epic tales about virtue and adventure. These stories taught good principles and helped Mahandas want to be a good person.

At age nine Mahandas started school and there learned math, history, language and geography. He was just an okay student and pretty shy and had trouble speaking. This made him very nervous when he had to speak in front of his class, but he did like books and learning.

At this time in India people got married very young. Mahandas was 13 when he married a girl named Kasturba. When Kasturba was 17 they had their first baby, but sadly she didn’t live very long. This same year Mahandas also lost his father, so it was a very hard time for him. But later Mahandas and Kasturba had four more children, so it made them happy to be parents.

Next Ghandi decided to travel to London, the capital of the British Empire, to go to college to become a lawyer. A lawyer is someone who helps others work with the law, the rules that keep a country in order. Ghandi’s parents were worried while he was there he wouldn’t live his religion, that he would eat meat and drink alcohol and do other things they didn’t approve of. But when he left he promised them he would stay faithful no matter what. And Ghandi did live up to his word, he stayed strong in his Hindu religion while he was away from home. This is called commitment and dedication to something you believe in.

Ghandi learned a lot about the English people while he was in London. He had always been shy and at first school was difficult, but instead of giving up he joined a group that taught him how to speak louder and more clearly and with lots of practice he became a very good speaker.

After finishing college, Ghandi got a job working for a shipping company in South Africa. At this time the British Empire also ruled South Africa. In South Africa Ghandi was treated badly by the English because he was from India. Once when he was on a train they didn’t let him sit with other people. They picked him up and threw him off the train. Ghandi was so upset by this he refused to leave the train station until they let him on the next train. This is called a protest. Finally, they let Ghandi back on the train. Many times Ghandi was treated badly because he was from India. He started to think England shouldn’t be in control of India anymore. 

When Ghandi moved back to India and he was determined to do everything he could to make India a free country. He began speaking and writing about what the India people needed to do to become free. But Ghandi was a peaceful person and didn’t believe in hurting others to become free. Instead they would peacefully protest and use civil disobedience — which means finding other ways to make your point other than violence. 

One thing England did to control India was tax the things they bought, this meant charging extra for food and clothes and keeping the money. So instead of buying clothes and salt from England, Ghandi decided to make his own clothes and salt. He learned how to make his own clothes and started wearing them. Thousands of other India people started doing the same. This made the British upset, because they were losing money. To make his own salt, Ghandi began a journey to the ocean. He walked over 200 miles to make salt in the ocean. People all over India followed him and did the same. All across the world people saw what Ghandi and the India people were doing and sympathized with them. Ghandi was put in jail many times for his actions. He would go without eating until they would set him free. What Ghandi was doing was very difficult, but he was sacrificing his owns desires for the country and people he loved.

Sometimes the Indian people wanted to use guns and weapons to fight the British leaders, but Ghandi continually taught that this was the wrong way. He used scriptures of many different religions to show that peace was a better way. When his people did start to fight Ghandi would go without eating for many days until they stopped. The people often stopped because they loved Ghandi and didn’t want him to be hungry.

Eventually, England let India become free. The amazing part of this story is that it came about without a big war and lots of people dying. This was truly a miracle and Ghandi showed the world that freedom can come about through peaceful ways. The Indian people and Ghandi celebrated. They were so happy to be in control of their own country. The time after this was very challenging as they figured out how to be on their own, but it gave them a chance to make their own choices and be a free people.

Not long after India became free Ghandi passed away, but his mission was complete and the Indian people and people all across the world will remember him as someone who loved his people and gave his life for them.

In life it’s easy to focus on yourself and what makes you happy. Its natural for us to want to take care of ourselves, which is important to some degree. But giving of ourselves to help others is also very important. It’s important to share and to think about what makes others happy. Spend some time thinking about what makes others happy and then do something about it. Next time you have a treat think about how happy it will make others to taste it, too. If you are playing with a toy, think about how your brother or sister or friend might enjoy playing with it. 

Ghandi believed in being peaceful. Next time someone wants to fight with you or argue, think about a more peaceful way you can deal with the problem. You never know, in the end someone who you think is an enemy might become a friend.

History of Benjamin Franklin for Kids

Have you heard of a Founding Father before? A Founding Father is someone who helped start the United States of America. Benjamin Franklin was a Founding Father. Some have also called him the First American, because he had so many of the traits that would become known as American, such as hard work and independence. Independence is when you do something for yourself. 

Ben Franklin was born in Boston Massachusetts to a very large family. He had 17 brothers and sisters! His family didn’t have very much money so he only went to school for 2 years. But he did spend a lot of time reading on his own. He also learned to write and enjoyed doing it.

When he was young he worked for his older brother who was a printer. A printer would print newspapers and books for other people. Printing was important, because it was the best way to share an idea at that time. Printers would use little metal letters and build entire pages of words and sentences, then use black ink to make copies of the metal letters. Because Ben was working for his older brother he was called an “apprentice.” An apprentice is someone who is learning to become a master at a certain skill like printing. 

While Ben was working as a printer he also liked to write for the newspaper. He would use a fake name Silence Dogood to write in the newspaper. He pretended to be an old lady and wrote funny jokes. Many people in the town thought this was very funny and didn’t know it was Ben writing the jokes. 

After a few years Ben left his brother’s shop and started working for a new printer. His job was to set the metal letters in the big printing machine. He was also a clerk, a shopkeeper and a bookkeeper. He liked to stay busy and to learn all he could while he was working.

Around this time, when he was 20 years old, Ben formed a group including other Americans who also liked to read. Books cost a lot of money to buy, and there were no libraries, so Ben and his friends started their own library. They shared the books they read and met together to talk about what they read. Later in his life Ben would help start some of the first libraries in America because he knew reading and learning were so important.

After working for other printers for many years, Ben started his own printing shop. He wrote about his own ideas and used parts of the paper to talk about good morals. Morals are the things that are good to do in life — like being honest, being kind, not stealing and working hard. Ben made lists of what he wanted to do better each day then at the end of the day checked the boxes on what he did good at and made note of what he needed to do better. He believed improving each day was very important.

Ben was very interested in science and invention. He studied electricity. At the time no one had electricity, which means they had no lights or electronics like we do today. Ben saw lightning during a storm and guessed that it must be electricity. Sometimes when lightning hit tall buildings it started fires. Ben had the idea to put a metal pole on the top of buildings, so when the lightning struck the pole it would go into the ground instead of start fires. This invention was called a lightning rod. Many people think that Ben used a kite to discover lightning was electricity, but he really just wrote about the idea and someone else tried it.

Ben also invented a certain type of eye glasses called bifocals, which allowed someone to see differently depending on the part of the glasses they were looking through.

Ben also liked to play chess. He also created the first Fire Department and helped start some of the first universities in the United States.

Because of his newspapers and his inventions and other achievements Ben Franklin became very well known in America and across the ocean in Europe. When many Americans disagreed with England about taxes, Ben was on the side of the Americans who wanted change. He wrote about his ideas and even helped Thomas Jefferson write the Declaration of Independence. The Declaration of Independence was a paper they wrote to tell England they wanted to be their own country and to be free.

A war began between America and England, so Ben took a ship across the ocean to ask for France’s help. The French people loved Ben Franklin. He liked to wear a fur hat and talk about science and his inventions. They thought he was interesting and fun to talk to. France ended up helping America fight and later win the war against England. 

In his new country, Ben helped put together the first Constitution. The Constitution was a list of laws to help the country stay together and work well. To the end of his life Ben did all he could to help make America a strong country. 

Earlier we talked about some of the morals, good things we should do, that Ben wrote about in his paper. Ben wasn’t a perfect person, like all of us, but he wanted to do good things. 

He wrote about temperance. Temperance is not doing too much of something such as eating. We need good food for our bodies, but too much of it isn’t always a good thing. We can usually tell by how our stomachs feel when we are eating.

He also taught about silence. Sometimes it’s good to speak up, but other times it’s better to listen and think about what we should say. If we don’t think before we speak, we often say things we don’t really mean.

Order means to think about what we are doing and have a plan. We shouldn’t spend all our time doing the same thing, but giving the right amount of time to each good thing.

Frugality means to be careful with the money that you have. It’s easy to want to spend all of your money, but it’s better to spend money on what you need and to save some. It’s ok to spend some of your money on fun things, but not all of it.

Industry means to stay busy doing useful things. Each day we can make a plan of what we want to do and then get to work. Having fun is good in its own time, but we should also spend time learning, helping others, and getting chores and other things done.

Justice means treating others well and doing our best to make things fair.

Cleanliness means we should take care of our bodies by keeping them cleaning, bathing each day, and brushing our teeth.

Like Ben, we can do our best to live by these teachings each day. You could even keep track of your goals like Ben did in his journals and checklists. You can also read and learn and come up with new ideas that will help other people like Ben’s lightning rod. You can also be courageous and stand up for good things like Ben did during the Revolution. 

History of Abraham Lincoln for Kids

Abraham Lincoln was born in 1809 in Kentucky to parents who were very poor at the time. They lived in the middle of the woods in a very small log cabin his father built. The woods were full of wild animals and no one else lived nearby. Every night Abe and his family slept on a hard dirt floor. When Abe was old enough to work he and his father, Thomas, ate a small breakfast, picked up their axes, and ventured off into the thick woods to chop down trees to make the land flat for farming. It was very hard work and they worked all day long. Abe became very strong chopping wood. He also began to grow very tall for his age. He grew so much that his pants became too small and because his parents were poor they couldn’t afford to buy him new ones. Some people thought he looked funny because he was so tall and skinny, but they liked Abe because he was kind and funny. 

In Abe’s town there wasn’t a school, so most days he just worked. For a short time a teacher lived a few miles away so Abraham did learn a little, but just enough to read and write. Once Abe learned to read it became his favorite thing to do. He only had a couple books, but he spent any free time he had reading. When he learned something new he repeated the words over and over until he knew them by memory. He also wrote new words down. This helped him remember the words so he could use them later. 

After Abe and his father cleared the land of trees, they began farming. Most days he’d take a book out to the field and read in between planting. His mother, Nancy, read to him and his sister. She knew learning was very important and taught Abe this from a young age. Abe loved his mother very much.

When Abe was only nine his mother became sick and died. He and his family were very sad. Not long after this, his father left him and his sister for nine months while he went to find a new wife. Can you imagine being left alone for that long? Somehow Abraham survived, finding help from caring neighbors. Eventually, his father returned with their new mother. When Abe saw on the road he ran and hugged her, even though he didn’t know her. He was just happy to have a mother again. 

Sarah turned out to be a very good mother to Abe. She found him new books and was kind to him. Abe’s father Thomas was hard on him. He was also known to be a very good storyteller. This was a talent Abe picked up and was known for later in his life.

Once Abraham was old enough to be on his own, he left home and started working for himself. He knew that by working hard, he could improve his life. He had a job moving goods down the river, then later worked in a store. Once while working in the store, someone paid the wrong amount of money. That night Abe walked very far to return the money. This is where he got his nickname “Honest Abe.” Honesty means telling the truth. 

One day in town Abe went to the courthouse and saw a lawyer arguing a case. A lawyer is someone who understands the law and often helps defends others when they need something. When Abe heard the lawyer speaking, he decided being a lawyer was what he wanted to do. Without going to a big school, Abraham read and studied and repeated words on his own until he knew everything he needed to to become a lawyer. This took lots of time and practice but soon he became very smart and understood the law. He passed all the tests he needed and before long became a lawyer. He traveled from town to town on his horse helping others.

While working as a lawyer, Abe became interested in politics. Politics involves law and government and voting in new leaders. Abe wanted to become a leader so he could shape and change the country for the better. His first job in the state government was the House of Representatives. Later, he was part of the U.S. House of Representatives. There he helped pass laws to build railroads and support banks so the state could grow and improve.

At the same time slavery was a tragic problem in United States. Slavery is when someone is forced to work without any pay. Many Americans had slaves that they treated very poorly and made them work very hard. Abe knew slavery was horrible and was against slavery it spreading to the new states in America. He argued this against another leader named Stephen A. Douglas. These arguments became very intense at times, because Americans were very upset about slavery, either being for it or against it. 

At this time Abe ran for President of the United States. Many Americans in the South were against Abe being president, because they wanted to keep slavery. Also, many Americans thought Abe could never win because he was just a farm boy from the woods who didn’t have very much money or schooling. But Abe cared about helping the country and to everyone’s surprise he won and became the President of the United States! The people who loved Abe were very excited that such a caring man had become  their new president.

But Southerners who wanted to keep slavery were angry and wanted to break off from America. They said they would form a new country where they could keep their slaves. This was called The Civil War, because it was a war between two parts of our country, the North and the South. Soon very dangerous fighting began and many soldiers on both sides died. It was a very sad time for the United States.

Abraham Lincoln wanted more than anything to keep the country together. He believed America was stronger and better as one country. But he was also very sad to see soldiers dying on both sides. Some wanted to quit the fight, but Abe was determined to not give up. He gave the Gettysburg Address and his bold words inspired Americans to follow him. He also worked to create new laws to stop slavery even when it was unpopular to do so. 

Finally, the war came to an end when General Robert E. Lee surrendered to the North. It was a time of much celebration for the North. Many lives had been lost, but in the end the country stayed together and the slaves became free. Some leaders may have been harsh to the losing side of the war, but Abraham Lincoln was determined to show kindness and mercy to the South and do all he could to rebuild the broken country.

Not long after the war ended, while Abe was watching a play in Ford’s Theater he was shot by the assassin John Wilkes Booth. The Americans who loved Abe were very sad at this news. They had lost the president who cared for them and saved the country. But having done all he could, Abraham Lincoln has gone down in history as one of the greatest presidents of all time.

Like Abe, no matter where you were born or to whom, you can decide to improve yourself and be a good person. Abe had very little, but he read everything he could and studied and worked until he could make a living for himself. He also decided to help his country by running for different offices in the government. These aren’t easy jobs, but when good people lead they can make a great difference. Like Abe, you can be aware of what is going on in your own communities and in your country. And when you’re old enough you can vote for good leaders and even become one yourself. Just remember, no matter your circumstances, if you make the decision to improve yourself and do good things, you can do it!