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Silhouette portrait of Sybil Moseley Bingham

1924.496 (RS130200)


Hollow cut silhouette of a woman facing left. Curled tendrils of hair and frilled collar have been inked in. Mounted in a brass spandrel frame with foliate and bead borders and rosette decoration.


Sybil Mosely Bingham married Hiram Bingham the same week she met him. Both were already missionaries and his financee had balked at going with him to Hawaii. She was a school teacher to the Native American Iroquois community at Canandaigua, NY who had come to town for the ordination of Bingham and Thurston before they embarked for Hawaii. She began the first school on the islands and she and her husband helped to create a written version of Hawaiian in order to translate religious texts for their pupils and potential converts among the Native Hawaiian population. They had six children, two of whom died. Their eldest son also became a missionary and a D.D. from Harvard. His son, Hiram Bingham III, became an explorer, "discovering" Macchu Picchu in 1912, ater leaving academia for politics. He served as Connecticut's governor and senator. In addition to their silhouettes, the Bingham's had their portrait painted in the month they waited for the brig "Thaddeus" to depart. That portrait, by Samuel F. B. Morse, is kept at the Yale University Art Gallery. The Yale library holds the Bingham family papers, including an unpublished journal kept by Sybil during her years in Hawaii. By 1840, suffering from poor health, she returned to Massachusetts with her husband. She passed within the year. Hiram sketched the Hawaiian landscape (later engraved by Hawaiian students at the Seminary), and authored numerous books on the Hawaiian islands (or Sandwich Islands as they were called early on). His library, including all of the Hawaiian language volumes published on the press they imported for use by the Hawaiian Seminary students, is held by the American Antiquarian Society. After Sybil's death Hiram re-married and continued to travel throughout New England for the next seven years, raising money and consciousness for the Foreign Missions. Sybil appears to have been well-known among the missionary community. Two of her children remained in Hawaii and became missionaries and/or married missionaries. Her daughter Lydia, who married Reverend Coan (also a missionary) published a short biography of her mother. The artist of this silhouette, Margaret Byron Doyle, was also a prominent member of that same Foreign Missions Society. Her father, William Massey Stroud Doyle, painted portraits and cut silhouettes at his Columbian Museum in Boston. Margaret clearly received training from her father, as she also painted portraits and cut silhouettes, often signing them as he did with only her last name, "Doyle." At least three of her painted portraits were copied as engravings and published. One of these, of Reverend Baldwin, received some noteriety in the local press in 1824. Margaret Doyle married Boston engraver John Chorley in 1825. See the object file for details on the Bingham family and their descendants.
Doyle, Margaret Byron, d. 1830 (Artist)
She married Hiram Bingham in 1819 and left for Hawaii within a month. She did not return to Massachusetts until 1840.
"M.B. Doyle" (handwritten)
"Mrs. Bingham / missionary To Owhihu / no. 1924.496." "The frame and / Silhouette were / Received sepa- / rately. / Silhouette / 1924.496 / Frame 1927.806" (handwritten)
glass (material)
paper (fiber product)
Object type
Massachusetts (United States)
Descriptive terms
glass (material)
paper (fiber product)
5 1/4 x 4 1/2 x 3/4 (HxWxD) (inches)
Accession Number
Credit Line
Gift of Mrs. James P. Tolman
Related Items
Title Picture Frame Accession number 1927.806


M.B. Doyle #

AvatarPosted by A. Britton on September 2, 2010
"M.B. Doyle" probably refers to Margaret Byron Doyle, the artist daughter of portraitist Wm. M.S. Doyle. (cf. C. Moore. "William Massey Stroud Doyle." In: Gerard C. Wertkin, ed. Encyclopedia of American folk art. Taylor & Francis, 2004).

Thank you #

AvatarPosted by Adrienne Donohue on September 2, 2010
Thank you for suggesting the correct maker. It does seem likely based on the inscription that Margaret Byron Doyle is the maker rather than her father, William M.S. Doyle. I appreciate feedback like this that enables us to make our object records as accurate as possible.

Adrienne Donohue
Collection Manager
Historic New England

Hiram and Sybil Bingham #

AvatarPosted by Barbara Young Morgan on September 13, 2014
I am a descendant of Sophia Bingham, first child of Hiram and Sybil Bingham - and currently doing research to tell her story. I am also on the board of the Hawaiian Mission Houses Museum where lots original resource documents are held and made accessible to the public. Here are some corrections to your description:

Hiram was ordained on Sept. 29, 1819 and Sybil met him then. They were married on October 11 in Hartford CT and left Boston on the "Thaddeus" on 10/23.

Sybil had been teaching in Canandaigua but it is quite questionable that one would call it a Native American Iroquois Community.
She was also recently disappointed in not being able to marry another missionary - but the marriage of Hiram & Sybil was a very good one.

They had 7 children all born in HI - only 5 lived:
1. Sophia Moseley b. 1820 - d. in IL 1887
  (married William A. Moseley)
2. Levy Parsons b. 1822, d. 1825
3. Jeremiah Evarts b. 1824 d. 1825
4. Lucy Whiting b. 1826 d. 1890 in FL
  (married Rev. Charles Reynolds)
5. Elizabeth Kaahumanu b. 1829 d. 1899 HI
6. Hiram Jr. b. 1831, d. 1908 Baltimore but lived most of the last part of his life in Hawaii
  (married Clara Minerva Brewster)
This couple became missionaries to the Gilbert Islands and translated the bible into that language)
7. Lydia Denton b. 1834, d. 1915 in HI

Sybil Bingham did not die the year after she returned to the U.S. - They departed Hawaii on 1840, arrived in NY in early 1841. Sybil died in East Hampton, MA in February 1848 at a dwelling made available by Samuel Williston who also allowed the three younger children to go to Williston Academy. She was originallu buried in the Williston family plot because they had no money. Her great grandson moved her bones to the cemetery in New Haven, next to Hiram's grave - and with Naomi on Hiram's other side.

While she was alive and after her death, Hiram was always trying to raise the funds for himself and his family. He also had held out a hope of returning to Hawaii but by 1846 it was clear he was not. He wrote his memoir "21 years in the Sandwich Islands" but had to sell it by subscription so he traveled alot. When he finally married Naomi Morse he was able to stay put in New Haven and help her run her school.

The three younger children lived together in Hawaii with one spouse (Hiram II's wife Clara) after about 1866 when Lydia - then Lizzie - led the Kawaiahao Seminary. Lydia did not marry Rev. Titus Coan until 1874 (in his 70s? and she was 40) I think to help him write his book. His first wife had died and children were grown. He died in 1882 and Lydia went back to live with her siblings. Lizzie never married.

Please feel free to contact me if you have questions about these facts.

Binghams #

AvatarPosted by Barb Young Morgan on September 13, 2014
Sorry - the correct death year for Levy Parsons - the first boy of Hiram and Sybil is 1823 (typo)

Also of note is that both first daughters Sophia and Lucy were sent back to the U.S. at about age 8 - as were about 20 of the first children of missionaries who stayed in Hawaii - they felt their children had options for education and religious instruction back with family but the natives did not. so they chose to focus their efforts on the reasons they had come. Later - when Punahou School was started, missionary parents felt they had an option. Hiram and Sybil are credited with founders of the school because it was established (in 1841) as the Binghams left and on the land that Queen Kaahumanu & other chiefs had "given" to the Binghams (however missionaries were not allowed to own anything).