(Courtesy of the NYPL)

The NYPL is currently in the midst of a two-year project that aims to digitize around 50,000 pages of their early American manuscript collections. They're up to 20,000+ images so far, which are already available online. One of those is the diary of Elizabeth De Hart Bleecker, whose father was Anthony Lispenard Bleecker, who you know for Bleecker Street. The complete diary tracks her life from 1799-1806, which she began at 18 years old. It includes everything from entries about shoe shopping, to the Burr-Hamilton duel, which she had inside info on.

"The day after Alexander Hamilton was killed in a duel, his widow visited with Bleecker," the NYPL notes. "When the increasingly volatile economies of New York and the United States ruined men, and sometimes even drove them to suicide, Bleecker had the inside scoop and knew the grisly details." Here are the transcriptions of Bleecker's entries regarding Hamilton's death, which the NYPL's Mark Boonshoft has kindly provided us with:

  • July 11, 1804, "A fine cool day... A duel was fought at Hoboken between General Hamilton and Col. Burr in which the former receiv'd a mortal wound in the side—he was brought over to Greenwich to the house of Mr. Wm. Bayard."
  • July 12, 1804, "A fine day... General Hamilton is still alive but no hopes of his recovery... about two o'clock the great Hamilton died." "Some of the bells were muffl'd and toll'd for the death of General Hamilton."
  • July 13, 1804, "A fine day... Mrs. and Miss Hamilton were here."
  • July 14, 1804, "A fine day... General Hamilton was buri'd with Military Honors-it was one of the purest and most affecting procession[sic] ever witness'd in this place I believe."
  • July 15, 1804, "A cloudy day... Mr. McDonald and I went to Church—the Episcopal Churches are hung in black for the loss of our justly lamented Hamilton—The Bishop gave us a very handsome funeral sermon."

The Hamilton-Burr page. (Courtesy of the NYPL)

The diary is a bit difficult to read, and includes 400 pages of handwritten entries, but the NYPL has been steadily posting about specific entries, which offer not just a glimpse into the life of a young woman at that time, but also of New York City. If you want to read a more personalized version of history, you could likely look up the date of any major event and find Ms. Bleecker's take on it. She even saw "the laying of the cornerstone of City Hall in 1803... [and] heard and wrote about public disturbances, crimes, and court cases, and she watched as New York officials tried to contain fires and prison breaks."

Elizabeth lived with her family at 178 Pearl Street, which appears to be long gone.

The full diary can be found here, and was digitized as part of the Library's Early American Manuscripts Project, which is funded by the Polonsky Foundation.