Hiram Bingham III was born in Honolulu, Hawaii before the United States annexed Hawaii (1875). His grandfather was descended from Deacon Thomas Bingham who immigrted from England to Connecticut in the early colonial period (1650). The Binghams were part of the 19th century missionary movement. His grandfather (1789-1869) was the first Protestant missionary in the Hawaiian Islands. His father, who was also a missionary, who worked in the Gilbert Islands. Bingham is best know as the archeologist who discovered the Inca settlement of Machu Picchu on a National Geographic funded expedition (1911). Machu Pichu was important because it was arare Inca settlent that the Spanish had not found and destroyed. Bingham married Alfreda Mitchell (1900). They had seven sons. They subsequently divorced and married Suzanne Carroll Hill (1937).
His grandfather was descended from Deacon Thomas Bingham who immigrted from England to Connecticut in the early colonial period (1650). The Binghams were part of the 19th century missionary movement. His grandfather (1789-1869) was the first Protestant missionary in the Hawaiian Islands. His father, who was also a missionary, who worked in the Gilbert Islands.
Hiram Bingham III was born in the Honolulu, which was then in the Kingdom of Hawaii (1875). This was before before the United States annexed Hawaii (1898). We do not know much about his childhood on the Islands. He was one of many missionary kids who traveled east, most importantly to China and left their imprint on the 20th century.
Hiram's initial schooling was on Hawaii (1882-92). He attended O'ahu College (Puahou School) He then went to the states to pursue more rigorous academic studies. He attended the renowned Phillips Academy, at Andover, Massachusetts--America's most respected preparatory school for 2 years. He then attended Yale University where he was awarded a BA (1898).
He then returnedco Hawaii, working as the superintendent of a mission in Honolulu for a few months. He then worked for a few months as a chemist with the American Sugar Company. At the time, sugar cane was the primary crop on the Islands. He returned to the States for graduate work. He studied at the University of California, Berkeley (1899-1900). And the Harvard University (1900-05). He studied history and political science. He was awarded a Ph.D. at Harvard (1905).
Bingham taught history and politicsfor a short period at Harvard and Princeton. He was a Preceptor at Princeton for 1 year. During his studies he developed an interest in South America. He decided he was more interest in field work than a standard academic career. He decided to travel the route Bolívar--the path the Liberator Simon Bolívar took in his famed military campaign of 1819. Bingham recorded his observations in his first book--Journal of an Expedition Across Venezuela and Columbia. He decided to follow that up by following another historic trail--Spanish trade route from Buenos Aires, Argentina to Lima, Peru. Part of those routes followed Inca roads. The trip provided the information for his next book Across South America (1911).
Bingham was not an archaeologist. He was a history-political science professor. As a orofessor he had gotten interested in Latin American history which led to his travels and books on South America. He served as delegate to the First Pan American Scientific Congress at Santiago, Chile (1908). Returning home through Peru, a local prefect convinced him to visit the pre-Columbian city of Choquequirao. Here he apparaently caught the archaeology bug.
Bingham organized the Peruvian Expedition to the poorly studied south eastern Peruvian Andes (1911). This is the expedition for which he is best known. He found the last Inca capital--Vitcos. It was from here that the Inca continued to resist the Spanish. Here the Spanish tracked down and killed the last Inca--Túpac Amaru, Manco's son. The event was well recorded in history, although the location of Vitcos which was more of a jungle camp than a great Inca city had been lost. Bingham climbed Mt. Coropuma--21,763 feet. The next year Bingham came across Machu Picchu (1912). This was a remote Inca outpost northeast of Cuzco while he was looking for Vitcos. Machu Pichu was an unknow Inca site, lost to history. Bingham is best know today as the archeologist who discovered the lost city of Machu Picchu on a National Geographic funded expedition. Machu Pichu was not a city. It was a very important find because it was a rare Inca settlent that the Spanish had not found and destroyed. His book Lost City of the Incas contains many errors, but Bingham did not have access to the extensive subsequent scholarship on the Inca. His book was just the begonning of the effort to understand Machu Pichu. Some have questined whether Maxhu Pichu was relly lost. Such arcguments are essentially irreleevent, rather like questioning whether Colubus was the first European to reach America. It was Bingham who first brought Machu Pichu to the attention of the public mind and launched studies of the site.
The Inca until the early 15th century were but one of a large number of tribes situated in the Andes and narrow coastal plain from Chile north to Colombia. The tribes shared many common cultural cahracteristoics. The Inca were possessed with a messianic creed which taught that they were destined to dominate the world. They proceeded to conquer and assimilate neighboring tribes in southern Peru around Lake Titicaca. at the beginning of the 15th entury the Inca was just one of large number of Andean and costal tribes. Then there was an amazing explosioin out of their mountain domain and within 100 years carved out an emense empire. Theh absorbed conquered peoples relatively beningly as long as thy accepted the Inca Sun God. The Inca had a genius for public administration, enineering, as well as military strategy. One of their mostal notable inovations was the construction of a road network allowing the rapid movement of armies. Runners operating rather like pony express riders moved messages with great rapidity from th most remote imperial outposts to the capital at Cuzco. Eventually this network streached the length of South America from cebtral Chile to southern Colombia--over 2,500 miles. Terraces were carved out of steep mountains, creating cultivateable land. These teraces were notable engineering achievements. The Inca were master weavers. The nobility wore garments woven from vicuńa. The common people wore garments wove from the more course llama wool. There was no written language, but records were kept by uipus--colored and knottd strings. The most important Inca ruler was Pachacuti (He Who Shakes the Earth) who regined from 1438-1471 and helped create the administrative structure needed for a great empire. The Incan Empire was operate on a system of state socialism. The Empire's output was the property of the Emperor or Inca and he distribute the food and clothing that wa produced among his subjects as he saw fit. To the Inca, the gods resided in their native Andean mountains. The Inca placated the gods with offerings of corn, chica, meat, and occasionally human sacrifices. The Inca were conquered and systematically plundered by Spanish conquistadors. The gold and silver treasures were smelted down and thast bullion as well as the humble potato fundamentally changed European society.
Bingham married Alfreda Mitchell (1899). She was the granddaughter of famed jewler Charles L. Tiffany.
They had seven sons. Here we have a photograph of the Bingham family. In the photos he is with his family. The first one was taken at the family summer home in Connecticut in 1908 (figure 1). Pictured from left to right and back to front are his father Hiram II, his son Hiram IV, Hiram III, his Aunt Lydia Bingham Coan, his wife Alfreda Mitchell and his other sons Alfred, Charles and Woodbridge. The boys in the summer photograoh wore white clothing and went barefoot.
The boys had destinguished and varied careers of their own.
Woodbridge (1901–1986) was a college professor.
Hiram Bingham IV (1903–1988) was a diplomat and World War II hero.
Alfred Mitchell Bingham (1905–1998) was a lawyer and author.
Charles Tiffany (1906–1993) was a doctor.
Brewster (1908–1995) became a minister.
Mitchell (1910–1994) was an artist.
Jonathan Brewster Bingham (1914–1986) became a Democratic Congressman,
Hiram and Alfreda subsequently divorced. He married Suzanne Carroll Hill (1937).
Bingham's attention was turned from South America by Workld War I (1914). He was commissioned a captain in the Connecticut National Guard (1916). He became an aviator just as America entered the War (1917). He organized the United States Schools of Military Aeronautics (May 1917). He was promoted lieutenant colonel in the Aviation Section of the U.A. Army Signal Corps. He briefly commanded the flying school at Issoudun, France where American pilots were trained (1918). This was closed down aftervthe Germans asked for an Armistice.
Bingham after After the War pursued a political career. He was a Republican who served as Lieutenant Governor of Connecticut (1922-24). He was elected Governor of Connecticut (1924). He only served 1 day. After his election, he decided to run in another electuon to fill a senatorial vacancy created when Senator Frank B. Brandegee committed suiside. President Calvin Coolidge appointed him to serve on the President's Aircraft Board (1925). At a time when aviation was still a novelty, the press began calling Bingham "The Flying Senator". He was elected for a full Senate term (1926). He served as Chairman on the Committee on Printing and served on the Committee on Territories Insular Possessions . Here he was especially interested because of his background. The Senate censured him in a rather unorthodox incident involving a staffer/lobbyist (1929). He ran for another Senate term (1932). Like many other Republicans he lost in the Democratic landslide following the Wall Street Crash and deepening Depression.
After his Senate terms, Bingham served on the Board of the Washington Loan and Trust Company, and as Vice President of the Colmena Oil Company. He authored two biographies. After Pearl Harbor which launched the Pacific War (1941), Bingham began lectured on the South Sea Islands at Naval Training stations. After World War II he served as Chairman of the Civil Service Commission's Loyalty Review Board as the United States was wrestling with the issue of Communists in government (1951-53). He was an active a member of the Royal Geographical Society and the National Geographical Society. He died in Washington, D.C. (1956).
Miller, Char. Fathers and sons: The Bingham family and the American mission (Temple University Press, 1982).
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