Compliments of Hamilton and Sargent


Compliments of Hamilton and Sargent

A Story of Mystery and Tragedy on the Gilded Age Frontier

Maura Jane Farrelly

496 pages
17 photographs, 2 illustrations, 5 genealogies, 5 maps, index


July 2024


$29.95 Pre-order

About the Book

In Compliments of Hamilton and Sargent Maura Jane Farrelly explores the history of the Gilded Age United States, using the lives of three people from prominent East Coast families who moved to Wyoming to start over as her guide. Robert Ray Hamilton was a state lawmaker from New York and the great-grandson of Alexander Hamilton. John Dudley Sargent came from a long line of Brahmin families in New England that included several colonial governors and the famous painter John Singer Sargent. Edith Drake Sargent was the eccentric and musical daughter of a New York banker who had made a fortune selling short.

All three experienced some form of humiliation after newspapers speculated on their possible shameful secrets: bigamy, blackmail, murder, incest, baby-selling, mental illness, and more. All three fled to Wyoming, believing distance and remoteness would hide their shame. But by the 1890s the West was no longer a place where anyone could hide. Just as many today are learning that the internet has opened up a vast wilderness of information to exploration and settlement—enabling our mistakes and transgressions to follow us for years—so, too, did Hamilton and the Sargents learn that technology and the growing power of celebrity journalism made it difficult for anyone in the West to leave a scandal-ridden past behind. Compliments of Hamilton and Sargent is a story about the early demise of our right to be forgotten.

Author Bio

Maura Jane Farrelly is an associate professor of American studies at Brandeis University. She has worked as a reporter in Atlanta, Washington DC, and New York. Her books include Papist Patriots: The Making of an American Catholic Identity and Anti-Catholicism in America, 1620–1860.


“Enchanted by an evocative photograph of a woman playing her violin outside a log cabin with the majestic Teton Mountains in the background, Maura Jane Farrelly decided to look into the story behind it. Her historical detective work unearthed intersecting trails and unforgettable tales of murder, suicide, social scandal, and much more––all firmly set in the context of America during its Gilded Age. A remarkable work of research and storytelling, Compliments of Hamilton and Sargent proves that if a picture tells a thousand words, it can also hide thousands more.”—Dayton Duncan, coauthor of The National Parks: America’s Best Idea
“Maura Jane Farrelly is a marvelous writer and gifted storyteller who brings a finely honed sense of time and place to this remarkable book. Compliments of Hamilton and Sargent is many things at once—an enthralling triple biography, a fascinating work of historical detection, a compelling dialogue between past and present, a brilliant meditation on the historian’s craft, and a vivid portrait of a modernizing United States that manages to be both sweeping and intimate. By reconstructing the intertwined stories of Robert Ray Hamilton, John Dudley Sargent, and Edith Drake Sargent, Farrelly reminds us of the extraordinary significance of seemingly ordinary lives.”—Wendy Gamber, author of The Notorious Mrs. Clem: Murder and Money in the Gilded Age

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations
Author’s Note
Prologue: Stories
1. Revolutionary Legacies
2. Blueberries and Timber
3. The Fourth Estate
4. Charity Begins at Home
5. Off with Their Heads
6. The Cable Railway Grab
7. Baby Waifs
8. Cowpunching
9. One of God’s Garden Spots
10. Final Resting Places
11. Like Cures Like
12. Marymere
13. Little Girls
14. Katharine and Catherine
15. Family Matters
Epilogue: Strings

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