William Bingham (1752-1804)

William Bingham

William Bingham was born on April 8, 1752 to William and Mary Stamper Bingham in Philadelphia. At the age of sixteen he graduated with honors from the University of Pennsylvania, class of 1768.

In 1770, Bingham served as British Consul at St. Pierre, Martinique. His service to the British ended in June 1776, when he agreed to serve the Continental Congress in Martinique. During the American Revolution, he secretly dispensed American propaganda, gathered information, arranged for smuggled shipments of weapons to the army, and recruited privateers to prey on British shipping. The last portion of his mission proved to be personally profitable, as Bingham was entitled to a portion of every British cargo taken. When his mission ended in 1780, he returned to the new United States with a fortune. At the age of 28, Bingham was one of the richest men in the nation.

Upon his return, Bingham became a founder and director of the Pennsylvania Bank, later known as the Bank of North America, the first bank in the United States. Often he hosted meetings of some of the most influential men in the state at his estate in Philadelphia. It was at one of these meetings in 1782, forever after known as “Bingham’s Porch,” that Doctor Benjamin Rush convinced Colonel John Montgomery to build a college on the frontier. Bingham became a trustee of the soon-to-be-named Dickinson College, pledging £400 in loan office certificates to the endeavor. He agreed to solicit donations to the college while in England on a mission to restore trade relations from 1784 to 1786. Bingham served on the committee to negotiate a land purchase for the college from the government in November 1786, and two years later assisted the College in its plans to solicit relief from the Pennsylvania Assembly.

Bingham invested in land in Maine, New York, and Pennsylvania. He was president of the Philadelphia and Lancaster Turnpike Company. From 1790 to 1795, Bingham served in the Pennsylvania Assembly, and was a United States Senator from 1795 to 1801. He resigned from the Dickinson College Board of Trustees in 1803, just prior to his move to England where his daughters resided. William Bingham died on February 6, 1804 in Bath, England.

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Dickinson College Archives
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