‘Hamilton’ Set Designer David Korins’s Americana Picks

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When he made his pitch to design the set for Lin-Manuel Miranda’s hip-hop musical Hamilton in 2015, Korins made no bones about it to director Thomas Kail. Quoting the show’s taglines, Korins told Kail that he deserved the job because he was “young, scrappy and hungry.” His choice of words was clever, but what clinched the deal was the reputation of Korin’s New York-based production company and impressive credits, which now include shows ranging from Annie on Broadway to Kanye West at Coachella. To research his Hamilton set – an ingenious arrangement of wooden stairs, ropes, pulleys and bricks – Korins visited Albany’s Schuyler House (Hamilton married one of the Schuyler sisters and flirted with another) and read Ron Chernow’s 800-plus-page biography as well as letters by the man himself. “The authenticity of the words resonates with me,” says Korins of Hamilton’s writings. Given his deep knowledge, it was natural that we ask him for his picks from our upcoming Americana Week, which includes a sale devoted to Alexander Hamilton. Click ahead to discover Korins’s personally curated selections.

© Photograph by Matt Furman

‘Hamilton’ Set Designer David Korins’s Americana Picks

  • Alexander Hamilton, Autograph letter draft to an unidentified recipient, 1796. Estimate $25,000–35,000. To be offered in Alexander Hamilton: An Important Family Archive of Letters and Manuscripts on 18 January.
    “I have spent so much time in the last five years thinking about Hamilton and what a prolific writer and thinker he was…I am particularly drawn to the letter regarding the Presidential election of 1796, and its historical significance. This moment in history is told through the song ‘One Last Time’ in the musical Hamilton, when Washington informs Hamilton he is resigning from the presidency and Jefferson will be running. I can only imagine the significance of the words ‘shall not be Jefferson’ to Hamilton, given their contentious relationship.”  

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  • American parcel-gilt silver cigar stand, Edward C. Moore for Tiffany & Co., New York, circa 1870. Estimate $5,000–7,000. To be offered in The Iris Schwartz Collection of American Silver on 20 January.
    “I love the storytelling aspect of this piece – a woman carrying these oversized baskets, offering up a gift to the object’s owner.” 

  • Sheldon Peck, Young Woman in a Paneled Room, circa 1825. Estimate $30,000–50,000. To be offered in Important Americana on 20–21 January.
    “I love to think about this woman as someone’s mother or daughter, and what  her clothing and expression say about the time period. I love looking at something like this through the eyes of someone living in 2016 – it is just so crazy to think that this was probably  very normal attire for that time period.” 

  • American silver coffee pot from the Ridgely family, Charles Louis Boehme, Baltimore, circa 1805. Estimate $15,000–25,000. To be offered in The Iris Schwartz Collection of American Silver on 20 January.
    “The mixed media of this object – the wooden handle and silver body – seem so contrasting, but together they tell a story.” 

  • James Edward Buttersworth, Racing in New York Harbor. Estimate $250,000–350,000. To be offered in Property from the Collection of E. Newbold and Margaret du Pont Smith on 21 January.
    “I love the way the angles of the sails and the waves match. You get a sense of the speed and the treachery of the race. Something about this painting feels so iconic and so purely American to me.” 

  • Alexander Hamilton, Letters to Eliza Schuyler, 1780. Estimates $40,000–60,000 (left) and $25,000–35,000 (right). To be offered in Alexander Hamilton: An Important Family Archive of Letters and Manuscripts on 18 January.
    “These letters are particularly interesting to me, knowing that Eliza burned most of the letters Hamilton wrote to her during their courtship – a fact that is so poignantly recounted in the song ‘Burn.’ I love that some of these notes survived and help tell their story.”  

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  • An unusual American silver “Arts and Crafts” candle stand, Dominick & Haff, New York, 1881. Estimate $3,000–4,000. To be offered in The Iris Schwartz Collection of American Silver on 20 January.
    “I love the uniqueness of this object. It’s like a caricature of a person holding up a candle, which I think is really fun and interesting.” 

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