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Hiram Bingham

In office
December 17, 1924 – March 3, 1933
Preceded by Frank Bosworth Brandegee
Succeeded by Augustine Lonergan

In office
January 7 – January 8, 1925
Lieutenant John H. Trumbull
Preceded by Charles A. Templeton
Succeeded by John H. Trumbull

In office
1923 – 1925
Governor Charles A. Templeton
Preceded by Charles A. Templeton
Succeeded by John H. Trumbull

Born November 19, 1875(1875-11-19)
Honolulu, Hawaii
Died June 6, 1956 (aged 80)
Washington, D.C.
Nationality American U.S.
Political party Republican
Spouse(s) 1) Alfreda Mitchell (div.)

2) Suzanne Carroll Hill

Children Jonathan Brewster Bingham
Hiram Bingham IV
Charles Tiffany Bingham
Brewster Bingham
Mitchell Bingham
Woodbridge Bingham
Alfred Mitchell Bingham
Alma mater Yale University
University of California-Berkeley
Harvard University
Religion Protestant Christian
Military service
Service/branch United States National Guard
United States Army Signal Corps Aviation Section
United States Army Air Service
Rank Captain
Lieutenant Colonel

Hiram Bingham, formally Hiram Bingham III, (November 19, 1875– June 6, 1956) was an American academic, explorer and politician. He rediscovered the Inca citadel of Machu Picchu in 1911 with the guidance of local Indigenous farmers. Later, Bingham served as a member of the United States Senate.


Early life

Bingham was born in Honolulu, Hawai'i, to Hiram Bingham II (1831–1908), an early Protestant missionary to the Kingdom of Hawai'i, the grandson of Hiram Bingham I (1789–1869), another missionary. He attended O'ahu College, now known as Punahou School in Hawai'i from 1882 to 1892. He went to the United States in his teens in order to complete his education, entering Phillips Academy in Andover, Massachusetts, from which he graduated in 1894. He obtained a degree from Yale University in 1898, a degree from the University of California, Berkeley in 1900, and a degree from Harvard University in 1905. While at Yale, Bingham was a member of Acacia Fraternity. He taught history and politics at Harvard and then served as preceptor under Woodrow Wilson at Princeton University. In 1907, Yale University appointed Bingham III as a lecturer in South American history.


Bingham was not a trained archaeologist. Yet, it was during Bingham's time as a lecturer– later professor– at Yale that he discovered the largely forgotten Inca city of Machu Picchu. In 1908, he had served as delegate to the First Pan American Scientific Congress at Santiago, Chile. On his way home via Peru, a local prefect convinced him to visit the pre-Columbian city of Choquequirao. Bingham published an account of this trip in Across South America; an account of a journey from Buenos Aires to Lima by way of Potosí, with notes on Brazil, Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, and Peru (1911).

Bingham was thrilled by the prospect of unexplored Inca cities, and in 1911 returned to the Andes with the Yale Peruvian Expedition of 1911. On 24 July 1911, Melchor Arteaga led Bingham to Machu Picchu, which had been largely forgotten by everybody except the small number of people living in the immediate valley (possibly including two local missionaries named Thomas Payne and Stuart McNairn whose descendants claim that they had already climbed to the ruins in 1906). Also the Cusco explorers Enrique Palma, Gabino Sanchez and Agustín Lizarraga are said to arrived to the site in 1901.

Bingham returned to Peru in 1912 and 1915 with the support of Yale and the National Geographic Society.

Machu Picchu has become one of the major tourist attractions in South America, and Bingham is recognized as the man who brought the site to world attention, although many others helped to bring this site into the public eye. The switchback-filled road that carries tourist buses to the site from the Urubamba River is called the Hiram Bingham Highway.

Bingham has been cited as one possible basis for the "Indiana Jones" character.[1] His book Lost City of the Incas became a bestseller upon its publication in 1948.[2]

Peru has long sought the return of the estimated 40,000 artifacts, including mummies, ceramics and bones, Bingham had plundered from the Machu Picchu site. On 14 September 2007, an agreement was made between Yale University and the Peruvian government for the return of the objects.[3] Though on April 12, 2008 the Peruvian government stated that they had revised previous estimates of 4,000 pieces up to 40,000.[4]

Prior discoverers of Machu Picchu

Soon after Bingham announced the existence of Machu Picchu others came forward claiming to have seen the city first, such as the British missionary Thomas Payne and a German engineer named J. M. von Hassel.[5] Recent discoveries have put forth a new claimant, a German named Augusto Berns who bought land opposite the Machu Picchu mountain in the 1860s and then tried to raise money from investors to plunder nearby Incan ruins. An 1874 map shows the site of Machu Picchu.[6]

Marriage and family

He married Alfreda Mitchell, granddaughter of Charles L. Tiffany, on November 20, 1899, and had seven sons: Woodbridge (1901–1986) (professor), Hiram Bingham IV (1903–1988) (diplomat and World War II hero), Alfred Mitchell Bingham (1905–1998) (lawyer and author), Charles Tiffany (1906–1993) (physician), Brewster (1908–1995) (minister), Mitchell (1910–1994) (artist), and Jonathan Brewster Bingham (1914–1986) (Democratic Congressman).[7] After a divorce he married Suzanne Carroll Hill in June 1937.

In 1982 Temple University Press published Char Miller's doctoral dissertation on the Bingham family titled "Fathers and sons: The Bingham family and the American mission."


Bingham achieved the rank of captain of the Connecticut National Guard in 1916. In 1917, he became an aviator and organized the United States Schools of Military Aeronautics. He served the Aviation Section, U.S. Signal Corps and the Air Service, attaining the rank of lieutenant colonel. In Issoudun, France, Bingham commanded the primary Air Service flying school.



In 1922, Bingham was elected Lieutenant Governor of Connecticut, an office he held until 1924. In November 1924, he was elected Governor. On December 16, 1924, Bingham was also elected as a Republican to serve in the United States Senate to fill a vacancy created by the suicide of Frank Bosworth Brandegee. Bingham defeated noted educator Hamilton Holt by a handy margin. Now both Governor-elect and Senator-elect, Bingham served as Governor for one day, the shortest term of any Connecticut Governor.

Bingham was re-elected to a full six-year term in the Senate in 1926.

Senator Bingham was Chairman of the Committee on Printing and then Chairman of the Committee on Territories and Insular Possessions. President Calvin Coolidge appointed Bingham to the President's Aircraft Board during his first term in the Senate; the press quickly dubbed the ex-explorer "The Flying Senator".

Bingham failed in his second reelection effort in the wake of the 1932 Democratic landslide following the Great Depression and left the Senate at the end of his second term in 1933.

During World War II, Bingham lectured at several United States Navy training schools. In 1951, Bingham was appointed Chairman of the Civil Service Commission Loyalty Review Board, an assignment he kept through 1953


Censure In The Senate

The Senate Judiciary Subcommittee investigated an arrangement between Bingham, his clerk, and a lobbyist who agreed to pass information on to Bingham's office after executing a plan that was irregular, "even by the standards of his day." Bingham took his clerk off duty, and paid his salary to the lobbyist, thus allowing him to attend as a Senate staffer to closed meetings of the Finance Committee's deliberations on tariff legislation.

The initial ruling of the Judiciary Subcommittee was a condemnation of Bingham's scheme; but recommended no formal Senate action. Subsequently, Bingham decided to label the subcommittee's inquiry as a partisan witch hunt, provoking further Senate interest which eventually lead to a Resolution of Censure that passed on November 4, 1929, by a vote of 54 to 22.[8]


On June 6, 1956, Bingham died at his Washington, D.C. home. He was interred at Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Virginia.

See also

Eternity in their Hearts by Don Richardson, Regal Books, Ventura, CA, 1981. ISBN 0-8307-0925-8, pages 34–35


  1. ^ The trail less trampled on in USA Today by Gene Sloan, September 23, 2005: "The iconic mountaintop citadel, discovered less than a century ago by American explorer Hiram Bingham, the inspiration for Indiana Jones, is a thrilling reward after days of exertion."
  2. ^ Lost City of the Incas biographical profile from the United States Senate website
  3. ^ [1]
  4. ^ Perú en reclamo por Machu Picchu
  5. ^ The fights of Machu Picchu: Who got there first? - The New York Times
  6. ^ So, was the 'lost' city of Machu Picchu ever lost? - The Independent
  7. ^ Portrait of an Explorer, biography of Bingham by his son Alfred, Iowa State University Press, Ames, 1989. ISBN 0-8138-0136-2
  8. ^ U.S. Senate: Art & History Home > Historical Minutes > 1921–1940 > Senator Censured in Lobbyist Case

External links

United States Senate
Preceded by
Frank Bosworth Brandegee
United States Senator (Class 3) from Connecticut
Served alongside: Frederic Walcott
Succeeded by
Augustine Lonergan
Political offices
Preceded by
Charles A. Templeton
Governor of Connecticut
Succeeded by
John H. Trumbull


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