It would be an understatement to say that Hiram Bingham III, Connecticut’s famous archaeologist, explorer, professor, pilot, politician, and best-selling author who likely was the inspiration for the fictional adventurer Indiana Jones, accomplished much in his lifetime. It remains an irony, however, that one of Bingham’s most well-known accomplishments was also one of the most fleeting: In 1925, Hiram Bingham III was both sworn in as Governor of Connecticut and resigned his post — all within the span of 24 hours.
Born in Honolulu to a Connecticut couple who were Protestant missionaries to Hawaii, young Hiram traveled to Massachusetts for private schooling as a teenager and proceeded to acquire degrees from Yale, UC Berkeley, and Harvard, developing an interest in both American politics and Latin American history, the latter of which was a relatively new academic field of study. Bingham became a lecturer in the subject at Yale University, and embarked on several archeological expeditions in South America in the early 1900s, the most famous of which led to his “discovery” of the ancient Incan fortification of Machu Picchu, with the help of local guides.
Bingham’s discovery of Machu Picchu, and the bestselling book Lost City of the Incas that followed, made him a minor celebrity; his experiences as a pilot in the Army Air Force fighting overseas during World War I made him a hero. In the 1920s, Bingham turned his full attention toward politics, and successfully ran for Lieutenant Governor of Connecticut in 1922. Two years later, he was encouraged to run for governor by the Republican Party, and handily won the election in November 1924. However, earlier that year, one of Connecticut’s two U.S. senators, Frank Brandegee, committed suicide, sparking an unexpected special election to fill his vacant senate seat. The state Republican Party also nominated Bingham for that office, and Bingham — whom no one would ever accuse of being short on ambition — accepted and won.
Unable to serve in two separate offices concurrently, Bingham chose to be sworn in as Governor for a single day and then resign, thereby allowing his Lieutenant Governor to assume the office without the need for another special election while he himself served as a U.S. senator. On January 7, 1925, Hiram Bingham III was formally sworn in as Governor of Connecticut in Hartford amid a patriotic parade and later attended the extravagant Inaugural Ball hosted by the Governors Foot Guard. The next morning, he tendered his resignation and was sworn in as a United States Senator by a senate clerk in Hartford before promptly leaving for Washington D.C., thereby ending what was the shortest gubernatorial tenure in Connecticut history. Bingham’s term as Governor was certainly one for the record books in terms of length, but to the indefatigable academic, explorer, and politician, it was just one more stop on his way to bigger and better things. Two new governors inaugurated in the span of 24 hours, today in Connecticut history.
Carol W. Kimball, “Hiram Bingham III: Governor for a Day,” The New London Day
“Hiram Bingham III: Machu Picchu Explorer and Politician,” connecticuthistory.org