The Life Summary of Sylvanus B. Phinney

When Sylvanus B. Phinney was born on 27 October 1808, in Barnstable, MA, his father, Timothy Phinney, was 24 and his mother, Olive Gorham Bourne, was 30. He married Elizabeth Cordelia Hildreth on 8 May 1832, in Massachusetts, They were the parents of 3 sons and 1 daughter. He lived in Barnstable. He died on 7 April 1899, in Barnstable, at the age of 90, and was buried in Barnstable.


In 1830, he founded the Barnstable Patriot, Cape Cod’s oldest newspaper. He was an outstanding business man and politician. He served as collector of customs under Presidents Polk, Pierce, Buchanan and Johnson. He was also secretary of Barnstable Savings, president of Hyannis Savings and Hyannis National banks. He was a clerk of the Cape Cod Central Railroad, a member of the Democratic National Convention in 1844, 1853, and 1857. He also was president of the Cape Cod Unitarian Conference, president of the Barnstable Agricultural Society, a Mason, and a major in the 1st Regiment of the Massachusetts Militia.

Phinney-Jones House and Museum

The museum is furnished and styled as a ship captain’s home as it would have been in the 1800s. Exhibit rooms showcase period furnishings, daguerreotype, marine paintings, maps, porcelain, glassware, crockery, and other vintage curio items. In the reception area, visitors can learn about Barnstable’s fishing, ice trade, salt manufacturing and cranberry industries through artwork, photographs, and industry specific artifacts. In the dining room, visitors can imagine how the ship captain’s wife might have served a formal dinner to her guests with the vast array of china and silver on display. In the adjoining hallway, a wall map of Cape Cod by cartographer H.F. Walling gives visitors a glimpse into how people understood their world in 1858. In the parlor, visitors can view the extensive butterfly collection, stereoscope viewer and melodeon which where used to entertain the ship captain’s family and their guests. In the kitchenbedroom, and children’s room, visitors can find an engaging collection of period furniture, kitchen gadgets, quilts, vintage clothing, and antique toys, all of which provide a glimpse into daily family life in the Victorian era. For lovers of maritime history, there are ship models, antique navigational equipment, hand carved ivory, scrimshaw, and other maritime memorabilia from the Golden Age of Sail on display in the maritime room. Lastly, visitors can find an array of antique hand tools, farm implements, and Native American projectile point collection in the adjoining toolshed

Visitors can explore the museum areas on their own or take a guided tour, about 40 minutes, led by one of the museum’s knowledgeable docents. BHS docents are available to answer visitor questions about the museum’s exhibition, share information about its collection, and provide interpretive insights and historical context to the varied exhibits on view.