Silhouette portrait of Sybil Moseley Bingham

Collection Type

  • Art






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.


Descriptive Terms

paper (fiber product)
glass (material)


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, after 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 The Yale library holds the Bingham family papers, including an unpublished journal kept by Sybil during her years in Hawaii.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.


"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)

Additional Identification Number



Doyle, Margaret Byron, d. 1830 (Artist)


5 1/4 x 4 1/2 x 3/4 (HxWxD) (inches)

Credit Line

Gift of Mrs. James P. Tolman

Accession Number



1819 (She married Hiram Bingham in 1819 and left for Hawaii within a month. She did not return to Massachusetts until 1840.)


Massachusetts (United States)

Related Items

Title Picture Frame Accession Number 1927.806