The Stories Behind the Portraits: Thomas Hoyle Mastin

George Caleb Bingham, Thomas Hoyle Mastin, 1871 (Detail) (374)

George Caleb Bingham, Thomas Hoyle Mastin, 1871, Oil on Canvas, 41.5 x 33.5 inches
Kenneth B. McClain Collection, Jackson County Art Museum, Independence, Missouri (Detail)

Thomas Hoyle Mastin, subject of a George Caleb Bingham portrait, was born in McMinn County in southeastern Tennessee on 11 December 1839, the fifth of eight children. When the Civil War began, he was attending Princeton. He left and enlisted as a private in the 16th Battalion (Neal’s) Tennessee Cavalry. Within a year and half, he was promoted to captain   He was captured,  but as the prison train traveled through Indiana, he escaped through a window. After trading clothes with a wood chopper, he walked for several days until he found a town that needed a school teacher.  Three months later, he earned enough money to travel to Boston, where he worked as mule driver for the street car company until he could pay for a ticket on a blockade running ship traveling to Bermuda. In the Caribbean, he fell ill with yellow fever for months.  But, eventually he sailed to the American south and rejoined his regiment.  He fought in the Battles of Shiloh and  Chickamauga.  By the war’s end he was a lieutenant colonel on the staff of Jefferson Davis.[1]

After the war, Thomas Mastin joined his brother John Jerome in the banking business in Kansas City, Missouri. Mastin Bank was one of the “central financial institutions” at “the heart of the immense stock trade,” asserted the father of the cattle drive, Joseph G. McCoy. Mastin invested in the newspaper The Kansas City Times.  He hired Stanford White to design a home at the corner of Armour and Main in Kansas City, Missouri. He commissioned George Caleb Bingham to paint his portrait and one of his son.

During an economic downturn, the Mastin Bank failed. It closed its doors on August 3, 1878.  Creditors carried their disputes to the Supreme Court. While court cases dragged on, Mastin invested in real estate and mining, recouped his losses and again become one of Kansas City’s leading businessmen. He died 24 April, 1905. [2]

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[1] Emma Siggins White and Martha Humphreys Maltby, The Kinnears and their Kin: A Memorial Volume of History, Biography, and Genealogy (Kansas City, Missouri: Kiernan – Dart Printing Company, 1916), 481-482; “Thomas Hoyle Mastin,” National Park Service, Civil War Soldiers and Sailors Database,, accessed May 2012

[2] Joseph G. McCoy, The Pioneer Western Cattle Shipper, Historic Sketches of the Cattle Trade of the West and Southwest, (Kansas City, Missouri: Ramsey, Millett & Hudson, 1874), 248; White, op. cit; Carrie Westlake Whitney, Kansas City, Missouri: Its History and Its People, 1808-1908 (Chicago: S.J. Clarke Publishing Company, 1908), 211, 237, 377-378.

About Patricia Moss

Patricia Moss is an art historian, or art detective if you will, who solves mysteries of 19th century American portraits. She located nearly 70 of Bingham’s lost portraits, a feat acknowledged by the Smithsonian’s Research and Scholar’s Center. From expertise with portraits of George Caleb Bingham (1811-1879), she developed skills that evolved into a comprehensive system based on the scientific method that conforms to the legal and ethical standards of art authentication. Moss served as a guest curator for the Bingham Bicentennial Exhibit, “Steamboats to Steam Engines: George Caleb Bingham’s Missouri: 1819-1879,” (March 10-September 8, 2011) at the Truman Presidential Museum and curated the opening exhibition, “George Caleb Bingham: Witness to History,” (September 2013 –), Jackson County Art Museum, Independence, Missouri. She is also the principal researcher for Fine Art Investigations.
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