Peekskill Story Inspires Project On Life and Death Of Two Hamilton Fishes

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The front page of the Peekskill Evening Star featuring gthe two Hamilton Fishes. The congressman Fish is on the left while the serial killer Fish is on the right.
The front page of the Peekskill Evening Star featuring gthe two Hamilton Fishes. The congressman Fish is on the left while the serial killer Fish is on the right. Photo Credit: Courtesy of Rachel Mason
Rachel Mason at the burial spot of Rep. Hamilton Fish in Garrison.
Rachel Mason at the burial spot of Rep. Hamilton Fish in Garrison. Photo Credit: Courtesy of Rachel Mason

PEEKSKILL, N.Y. -- On Jan. 16, 1936, The Peekskill Evening Star ran two stories on its front page about the death of two people, both named Hamilton Fish.

Artist Rachel Mason has been fascinated by the coincidence and has created a feature film and opera about the two men linked by a date. 

One Fish was from a prominent family in Garrison and served in the U.S. Congress and was speaker of the New York State Assembly. The other Fish, nicknamed Albert, was executed at Sing Sing Prison in Ossining in the electric chair for being a serial killer.

Mason first discovered the link when she was at the Peekskill's Field Library and researched people executed at Sing Sing. She found the Peekskill Evening Star's front page and was captivated. 

"I didn't know what to make of it," Mason said.

Mason later got in touch with Hamilton Fish V, who served as editor of The Nation and currently lives in Peekskill, and she soon became inspired to write music.

The overture of the opera is "The Duel" as the Hamilton name originated from a friendship a family member had with Alexander Hamilton. The Fish family is all buried at St. Phillip's Church Cemetery in Garrison and Mason shot her film in Garrison.

Mason said she wonders if the person who designed  the Evening Star front page noticed the similar names.

"I take that as a leap off into a fantastical world," Mason said. "I've had a wonderful response to it."

Mason spent seven years on the project and the film features actors mouthing the lyrics to the 20 songs in the project. Mason said she is working on a radio podcast and is looking to locate as many people as possible who might remember that unusual front page. 

"It's a fascinating era," Mason said. "I would love to talk to historians or people who lived here during the Great Depression. It's so interesting."

Mason said she hopes to host a screening of her project at the Hudson Valley Center For Contemporary Art In Peekskill.

For more information on Mason's project, visit www.livesofhamiltonfish.com/

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