TRENTON - A New Jersey dentist believes an engraved piece of cow horn that goes up for auction next month symbolized the American dream for a man who was key to the founding of the United States and is now the focus of a blockbuster hip-hop Broadway musical.
A descendant, an arms appraiser, and a forensic documents expert said they believe Alexander Hamilton used the horn to carry gunpowder.
The powder horn is inscribed with his name and 1773, the year Hamilton, born out of wedlock on the Caribbean island of Nevis and later orphaned, entered what today is Columbia University. Hamilton would have used it leading troops during the Revolutionary War and as an aide to Gen. George Washington.
It could have been by his side above the banks of the Hudson River in Weehawken, N.J., when the man who was the nation's first treasury secretary was mortally wounded in a duel with Aaron Burr in 1804 and died at age 49.
"It's a symbol of hopes and aspirations, and it's such a positive symbol of his future," dentist Warren Richman said.
Richman acquired it from a patient in 1990 and spent years trying to document its authenticity and studying its etchings, which include a unicorn.
He hopes someone will purchase the powder horn and perhaps donate it to a museum.
It goes up for auction in person, online and by telephone on what would have been Hamilton's birthday, Jan. 11, at Sterling Associates in Closter, N.J. The opening bid is expected to be $10,000.
Hamilton has lately become the unlikely subject of a smash hip-hop musical on Broadway that is the hottest ticket in town. Written by and starring Lin-Manuel Miranda, the show tells the true story of how an orphan immigrant from the Caribbean rose to the highest ranks of American society, as told by a young African American and Latino cast.
Hamilton was a sold-out sensation this year when it debuted at the Public Theater, with people paying well over 10 times the $120 ticket price and a crush of fans seeking tickets through a lottery. When it moved to Broadway, President Obama was among the many notables who came to see it.
The show, which regularly pulls in $1.5 million a week to sold-out audiences, has won awards from the Outer Critics Circle, the New York Drama Critics' Circle, and the Drama Desk, and it is sure to be a candidate for multiple Tony Awards at the end of the theater season. Hamilton's cast album became the highest-debuting cast recording on the Billboard Top 200 in more than 50 years.
The musical has spurred people to visit the New York City home that Hamilton built in 1800, which today, after being relocated twice, is the Hamilton Grange National Memorial.
Visitation is up almost 250 percent a month since the show opened on Broadway, said John Warren of the National Park Service. There were 6,735 visits in October 2015, up from 2,004 visitors in October 2014, Warren said.
The Hamilton family was deeply in debt when he was killed in the duel, and his family had to sell many of his possessions. But the home, in the Hamilton Heights section of Manhattan named for Hamilton, does have some of its original furnishings, Warren said.