1812 -1888

Business associate of Williams Howland in Macao.

American diplomat, art collector, writer and

merchant in the East India and China Trade.

Personal Life

Gideon Nye was born in North Fairhaven, MA.

His family were longtime residents of the area, having settled in Sandwich, MA in 1637.

His father was Gideon Nye and his mother was Sylvia Hathaway.

He married Mary E. Washburn in 1846; she died in New York in 1870.

Their daughter Ellen E. Washburn was born in 1846 and died in New York in 1860.


Gideon moved to China in 1831, where he worked for the Hathaways of New Bedford, MA.

In 1843 he formed the firm Nye, Parkin & Co. later known as Nye Brothers & Co.

The company was prosperous for many years.

From Sarah’s Journal it is obvious that the Nyes were well-off.

They had one of the most beautiful homes in Macao,

threw lavish parties,

and had fancy items, such as a spy glass!


Art Collection

Sarah talks about the large collection of illustrated papers, books and engravings they were shown while in Macao.

Nye amassed a large collection of paintings in England between 1845 and 1850, many of these Old Masters.

The paintings were exhibited in New York for several years.

After Nye’s death an attempt was made to keep the collection together, but it was dispersed.

Many are in the Gideon Nye collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art.


Gideon Nye lived in China for 55 years.

He arrived before foreign trade was opened in Shanghai.

His first-hand accounts were of interest, and he published several books.

Later Life

Unfortunately, Nye’s business collapsed in 1856

after becoming over-invested during a down market.

He remained in China, appointed as Vice Consul of the United States in Canton.

He died there in 1888.

“The flags of the consulates, custom house and foreign ships in port

were at half-mast two days

in token of public esteem and sorrow.”

Obituary from the New York Times
Go To Journal
Go To People