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Ranger Stories
The Ranger Stories series offers an insider's look at the national parks that ring New York Harbor.

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A Ranger Story

Alexander Hamilton's Unlikely Rise

In this episode of Ranger Stories, park historian Steve Laise recounts the rise of founding father Alexander Hamilton from humble beginnings on the island of Nevis in the Caribbean to Washington's right-hand man and, ultimately, Secretary of the Treasury. Co-author of The Federalist Papers, which argued for adoption of the Constitution, Hamilton was instrumental in establishing a strong central government and sound financial footing for the new nation.

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Steve LaiseSteve Laise is Chief of Cultural Resources for the National Parks of New York Harbor, Manhattan Sites. He is informally known as the park historian.

About his job -- and the path that took him there -- Steve has this to say:

In my case, a life-long interest in history began with my grandfather. I lived in Washington, D. C. and my grandparents were in nearby Fairfax County, Virginia. As my grandfather and I walked the Manasses battlefield, his description of the first battle of the Civil War almost came to life before my eyes. What an interpreter! When we got to Henry House Hill, he made me see General Jackson standing "like a stone wall." I was entranced. My grandfather also had an extensive library of American History which he encouraged me to try to read. Many of those great books were far above my "reading level" but I got the idea that all of them contained exciting stories like he had told me.
In college at William & Mary my major was in philosophy. My graduate work at Penn and teaching job were in philosophy as well. However, I never lost my initial fascination with the "stories" of history. So, I turned to the history museum field and started as director of education at the Mariner's Museum in Newport News, Virginia. That position evolved into a combination of curatorial and interpretive responsibility for museum exhibits. This allowed me to connect the exciting stories with real historic objects and images. What could be better?
I've now been with the National Park Service for eighteen years, all in the New York City parks. Although my job titles have changed from time to time, I have always been able to do the research, utilize the collections, and present our part of our common American history to the public. I think that our history is the "glue" that binds us together as a people, whether our families have been here for generations, or we have only just arrived. Our history is a complex mosaic, lightened by idealism but also darkened by occasions of our failure to match those ideals. In either case, it is filled with great stories!

For information on Alexander Hamilton's home in Manhattan, see our Hamilton Grange page.

Alexander Hamilton array Top left: Alexander Hamilton as an officer in the New York Artillery in the Revolutionary War. Top right: Title page of The Federalist Papers, whose 85 essays in support of ratification of the Constitution were written by Alexander Hamilton, along with James Madison and John Jay. The essays are among the most important works available for interpreting the original intent of the Constitution. Middle: The Hamiltons at home at the Grange with some of their eight children. Bottom: The duel between Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr in Weehawken, New Jersey, which resulted in Hamilton's death.