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New York Public Library Exhibit Uncovers Real Alexander Hamilton

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- When you hear the name "Hamilton" these days, you probably think of musical acts and costumes.

But as CBS2's Magdalena Doris reported, the New York Public Library wants to shift the focus to Alexander Hamilton himself. The library is exhibiting one-of-a-kind artifacts from the founding father that tell his real life story.

Hamilton is as hot as can be, taking over the spotlight more than 200 years after his death on July 12, 1804.

"He got a lot farther by working a lot harder; by being a lot smarter, and by being a self-starter," said Henry Yen of Virginia, "and by 14 he was placed in charge of a trading charter."

Yen, of course, was quoting "Hamilton" the musical. But just who was Alexander Hamilton, besides the first Secretary of the U.S. Treasury, the guy on the $10 bill, and the subject of an 11-time Tony-winning musical that employs his last name as its title?

"He went to Kings College, which is now Columbia College," said Emma Luxenburg of South Windsor, Connecticut.

The New York Public Library is answering questions about Hamilton as it uncovers the man in "Alexander Hamilton: Striver, Statesman, Scoundrel."

CBS2 got a look at the new exhibit inside the library adjacent Bryant Park. It features documents from Hamilton's life – some of them in his own handwriting – uncovering his rise to become the nation's first Secretary of the Treasury.

Hamilton made his way from orphan in the West Indies to American military hero.

"He showed so much promise that people on the island took a collection and sent him to America," said New York Public Library curatorial associate for exhibitions Kailen Rogers.

In his own words, published for the world to see, Hamilton confessed to his shortcomings.

"We also have him admitting to an affair in a very public way," Rogers said.

Pride actually took Hamilton's life. Two days after dueling with political rival Aaron Burr, Hamilton died of a gunshot wound in Greenwich Village.

"There could have been an easy way out of it, but he decided that he needed to defend his honor," Rogers said.

The exhibition is free and open to the public until the end of the year.

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