Thursday, September 4, 2014

Merchant Princes of Boston: Perkins family line

From "Merchant Prince of Boston. Colonel T. H. Perkins, 1764-1854" Carl Seaburg and Stanley Patterson The Makers of the Mold by Kenneth W. Newcomb Some Merchants and Sea Captains of Old Boston: Being a Collection of Sketches of Notable Men and Mercantile Houses Prominent During the Early Half of the Nineteenth Century in the Commerce and Shipping of Boston

Colonel Thomas Handasyd Perkins, Jr., son of Colonel Thomas Handasyd Perkins, Sr. was known as "Short­-arm Tom" because his right arm was a trifle shorter than his left, a defect, however, which didn't prevent his "landing" it in the right place when occasion demanded. Born October 8 1796 in Boston and died January 14, 1850. He was born in his father's house on Pearl Street. Attended Exeter Academy in Exeter, New Hampshire, where his uncle, Dr. Benjamin Abbott, pictured below was the strict and successful headmaster. Abbott declared he was a very rare fellow because he had "a watch, a fowling piece and a Lexicon," a rare combination at that time.

In his boyhood fights his longer arm sometimes gave him an advantage. He would lead with this left, and his opponent would think that was the extent of his "reach," then suddenly he would swing around the much longer right, catching his adversary off balance. He had been put under the care of his uncle-in-law, Benjamin Abbott, at Phillips Exeter. From there he had gone, not to Harvard, but to St. Mary's Academy and he caused quite a stir and his rascal nature made his father send him off in the Jacob Jones. The ship slipped out of Boston harbor on January 14 with Tom Perkins, Jr., aboard. Companion with him was seventeen-year-old Horace Bucklin Sawyer of Burlington, Vermont. The colonel had privately enjoined Captain Roberts to give the young men neither favor nor indulgence, but to require them to bear their part. This was probably more than young Tom bargained for. The crew felt the two youths were interlopers, but they soon showed they could manage the ropes and sails handily, and were not adverse to swabbing the decks. "Jack," said Sawyer later, "agreed they were no shirks" and soon took them into favor.

Thomas, JR had had an exciting voyage. On its outward trip, the fast-sailing Jacob Jones met one British warship and engaged in a long cannon duel, until the Britisher ran out of shot. Subsequently, the Jones captured two British ships, one loaded with opium, the other with opium and gold dust. The colonel's comment on hearing this was eminently practical: "The crew will all have a handsome interest in defending the ship."
On June 7, the Jacob Jones had arrived off the Pearl River. The port of Canton was blockaded by British warships, and several American vessels were sitting out the war in Whampoa. The Jones was spotted by one of the blockading British vessels, which gave immediate chase, but being a faster ship, the Jones reached the safety of the port.

He was much disappointed not to be received more cordially by Uncle John Perkins Cushing, the head of the firm of J. & T. H. Perkins, who happened to be very much occupied. Young Perkins presented a letter of introduction from his Aunt Forbes, which was met with a curt "There's your desk." Nothing was said for a long time, young Perkins in the mean time spending his time making lamp-lighters, when suddenly Mr. Cushing looked over at him and said, "Is your Aunt as fat as she used to be?" "Ten times fatter" was the reply....A friendship between Mr. Cushing and his young apprentice quickly began, and the two became lifelong friends.

Not many days after their first meeting Mr. Cushing asked the new arrival if he would take an armed boat and go up to Houqua's and get from him a hundred thousand dollars. Perkins got ready for the expedition and then waited around for further instructions, thinking he would need a letter of introduction to the comprador. Mr. Cushing said that this was very unnecessary, as all the business with Houqua was by word of mouth. Houqua invited young Perkins to lunch with him and to attend an old Chinese play which Houqua said had been going on for several weeks. Finally the play was over, Houqua amusingly remarking that "the tide would not wait even for Confucius" and therefore the play must come to an end for the day. The dollars were taken back safely to Canton.

On Monday, May 8, 1815, the ship Jacob Jones, together with the brig Rambler, arrived in Boston harbor and fired salutes to the town. The ships were 108 days out of Canton, loaded with rich cargoes of silk, tea, and other valuables, and were two of the first ships from China since the war had ended. The fresh goods they bore were welcome to merchants, and one young man on the Jacob Jones, completing his first turn before the mast, was joyfully welcomed back by his parents on Pearl Street.

The colonel was not taking any chances. Six weeks after his son returned to Boston in the Jones, he was headed back for China again in the Ophelia, captained by Samuel Hill, a thirty-eight year old mariner, who had been at sea since he was seventeen. Hill had risen in the ranks, at the same time acquiring "a superior and practical knowledge of all the modes of vice and profaneness known among seamen." The Perkins famly knew him well, rated his nautical ability highly, and made him a good offer in order to secure him as captain of the voyage. See Journals of voyages in the ships Ophelia' and Packet', 1815-1822 by Samuel Hill and Samuel Hill Papers 

The Ophelia was carrying a cargo of seventy thousand dollars, and by June 17 this was safely stowed on board along with its complement of twenty-two officers and men. J. and T. H. Perkins had a five eighths interest in the voyage, S. G. Perkins & Company held two eighths, and Bryant & Sturgis took the remaining eighth. On Sunday morning, June 20, the ship was ready for sea. As usual, several of the owners came aboard to ride down the harbor with the ship. The colonel was there to see his nearly nineteen-year-old son off.
During July their weather was mostly pleasant as they sailed down the Atlantic. By the middle of October they were rounding Cape Horn, and early in November they had landed in Valparaiso, Chile. Here the colonel's son showed his temper. Captain Hill tells the story: "On the 13th November, some gentlemen of Valparaiso dined on board the Ophelia by invitation with Captain Edes and Mr. Brown of the Beverly.

We sat late after dinner and perfect harmony prevailed. Towards evening I went on deck and was conversing with Mr. King when I heard some noise and disputing in the cabin. I immediately went below and found Mr. Perkins and Captain Edes warmly engaged in a dispute. I sat some time and after hearing Mr. Perkins make use of very indecent and abusive language to Captain Edes, such as calling him a liar and telling him he would deprive him of a living by his father's influence, etc. I begged Mr. Perkins to desist and not make my company unhappy. He then diverted the same kind of language to me and after repeated attempts to pacify him I urged him to go to his room."
The upshot of the affair was that Perkins left the ship and returned to Boston via London."


Thomas Jr, his cousin, James Perkins, and brother-in-law Samuel Cabot were put into the commissioning business by the elder Perkins brothers, 1 Jan 1817 in Boston

Perkins & Co. (Poulson's American Daily Advertiser, Philadelphia, June 19, 1804.)

The subscribers give notice,
That they have formed a COMMERCIAL ESTABLISH-
MENT at Canton, in China,
With Mr. Ephraim Bumstead, under the firm of
Ephraim Bumstead & Co.
WHOSE services in the purchase of China
Goods, Sales of Merchandise, or the trans-
action of other business, they now tender to their
friends and the public. The terms on which they
execute business, intrusted to them, may be known
on application to Messrs. GRANT, FORBES &
Co. at New York, JOHN STILLE & Co. at Phila-
delphia, or at their Compting-house in Boston.
James & Thomas H. Perkins.
Boston, June 1, 1804.

Thomas' father Colonel T H Perkins spent a good many years of his life in London, where he made many warm friends. He also acquired the reputation of being one of the best-dressed men of his day and of having the handsomest leg in London. While there he served on the staff of General Devereux for over two years. On one occasion the question of wearing knee-breeches or trousers was discussed, and those present decided to ask Major Perkins what his decision would be. His answer was that all men who had bad legs might come in trousers, and, as General Devereux expressed it, "trousers were very scarce that season at Almack's." See Proceedings of the Massachusetts Historical Society 1879

SIMPSON'S PATENT DRY DOCK S. B. Hobart Superintendant Marginal Street, East Boston J. E. Simpson, Proprietor From a photograph Kindness of F. B. C. Bradlee SHOWING MARGINAL STREET, EAST BOSTON, 1854 The well-known ship "Southern Cross" owned by Baker & Morrell and built by Briggs Bros. of South Boston, is in the dock.

Colonel Perkins, described in last year's brochure -"Old Shipping Days in Boston" -- and a partner of Baring Brothers in London. On another occasion a marquis had driven six horses through the streets of London and had been fined, as this was against the municipal regulations. Major Perkins declared that the offender hadn't known how to do it, and he promptly made bets with all the people in the room that he could drive his six-in-hand about the Park without being fined. The next morning the same party of men scrambled into their seats in the drag and the six-in-hand started on its way about London. In a short time a "bobby" ordered them to stop, remarking that it was contrary to the law to drive six horses about the streets of London. "I am aware of that," answered Colonel Perkins. "Then I must summon you," replied the officer. "I am Colonel Thomas H. Perkins of Park Lane," was the reply, "and I am not breaking that regulation. If you will take the trouble to inspect my off-wheeler you will perceive that he is a mule and I know of no regulation which prevents a gentleman from driving five horses and a mule to his drag if he pleases." None on the drag had noticed the mule, and when they did see it there was a shout of laughter from every one, with the exclamation, "You have won, Tom," and the "bobby" remarked, "Damned Yankee trick that," as Colonel Perkins touched up his horses and started for home.

General Devereux praised Colonel Perkins very highly while he was his staff officer. One day a number of men were having a discussion and the Marquis of Hertford said he knew a certain thing was so. Some one else asked him how he knew this, and he replied, "Because Tom Perkins told me so." Again the questioner rather carelessly asked who Tom Perkins was and why he should always be quoted. The questioner again was admonished by the Marquis, who replied that Tom Perkins was a young man whom he ad­mired and respected; that he admired any man who could knock Richmond through a window, and respected a young man who when he came to hunt with them not only brought nags enough to horse himself but had spare mounts for some of his own impecunious relatives. He further stated that he had seen the questioner riding some of Tom's horses himself. There was a shout from all those in the room, and the questioner declared that he was sorry He had spoken." When Colonel Perkins returned to America he purchased a house at Nahant which was owned at one time by General Charles J. Paine, the famous yachtsman. Perkins was always fond of the water and was an excellent hand in steering a small boat. Captain Dumaresq came back from Baltimore and described a very beautiful schooner which Perkins bought, and made a match with her against the "Sylph," which was to be sailed by John Perkins Cushing and Capt. R. B. Forbes. The race was to a buoy off the outer light in Boston Harbour, it being agreed that the first boat around should drive a boat-hook into the buoy and the next boat should take it out.

Members of the Cushing family, May 1, 1848. From left: Anna Louisa Cushing (1834-1923); Sarah (Wayland) Cushing (married 1843, died 1875), Thomas Parkman Cushing’s third wife and the sister of Francis Wayland, president of Brown University; Andrew John Cathcart Sigourney (1824-1869), Sarah Cushing’s stepson from her second marriage; Thomas Parkman Cushing (1787-1854); Sarah Cushing (1832-1915); and Martha Ann Cushing (1837-1887). Photo by Thomas Michie.

Thomas Jr married Miss Jane Francis Dumaresq and they lived in Boston, first on Chauncy Street and then at 1 Winthrop Place. He became a partner in the firm of J. & T. H. Perkins, and was so successful that in 1834 he built a house of his own at 1 Joy Street, where he passed many years. From

From The New England Historical & Genealogical Register and Antiquarian Journal, Volume 17 Jane Frances Rebeccau Dumaresq, daughter of James Dumaresq, was m. 14 May, 1820, at Trinity church, Boston, by Rev. John Sylvester Gardiner, to Lieut. Col. Thomas Handasyde Perkins; he was an officer of the Liberal Army of Columbia, promoted 1818 to Lieut. col. of Bolivar Rifles, and appointed chief of staff to Major-General Devereaux. They had six children: Thomas Handasyde Perkins, b. 1823, m. Elizabeth J. Chadwick; Augustus Thorndike Perkins, b. 1827, m. Susan H., dau. of Henry Timmins, Esq.; Philip Dumaresq Perkins, b. 1829; Francis Codmanl Perkins, b. 1830, d. 1842; and Louisa Dumaresq Perkins, b. 1831, m. William Morris Hunt; Col. Perkins d. Jan. 20, 1851; his wife d. 1856.

The Perkins-Dumaresq yacht, which was called the "Dream," rounded the buoy first, and the Colonel drove his boat-hook into it and succeeded in first reaching home. The boat-hook never was brought back, and for years afterwards, when Colonel Perkins met Captain Forbes on Temple Place or on the Common he used to yell: "Ben, ahoy! Where is my boat-hook?"

To their house came many of the important people of this time; -- Harrison Gray Otis, Judge Story, Samuel Appleton, Thomas L. Winthrop, Daniel Webster, Nathaniel Amory, Major Joseph Russell, Mr. and Mrs. Everett, Augustus Thorndike, Francis Codman, Charles Hammond, J. P. Cushing, Thomas and Lothrop Motley, Louis Stackpole, Henry Cabot, Col. T. G. Carey, W. H. Gardiner, and others. Pic of Harrison Gray Otis, nephew of revolutionary orator James Otis, Harrison G Otis served in the US Congress

                                      Daniel Webster "Godlike Dan" and "Black Dan"

His father's house in Temple Place was the rendezvous of all the important people of the day. Mention is often made of the wonderful Thanksgiving dinners there, which were attended by four generations, those present often numbering over sixty, and occupying two rooms for the dinner-table. Upon these occasions it was always customary after dinner for the youngest child to walk down the entire length of the table, and it is recorded that the last one to achieve this feat was a great-grand-daughter, now Mrs. F. C. Shattuck, who was then about five years old.

When Colonel Perkins realized that he was about to die he said to a friend of his: "I am about as good as Gus Thorndike, Jim Otis, or Charlie Hammond, and almost as good as Frank Codman. I shall go where they go, and that is where I wish to go." In a few weeks this fine gentleman died, in the year 1850.

The white flag with two letter T's and a blue border, flown by Tuckerman, Townsend & Co., was known in many ports of the world. but chiefly in Palermo, Singapore, Penang, Calcutta, and other Eastern ports. The head of this house was Gustavus Tuckerman, Jr., who was born in England in the year 1824. It had been intended that he should go to Harvard College as his elder brother John Francis Tuckerman had done, but owing to a change of plans he went into the office of Curtis and Greenough. He was sent by this firm in 1847 to Palermo, Sicily, as its representative to attend to the purchase and shipment of the cargoes, sending, as he deemed most profitable, cream of tartar, shellac, wine, fruit, licorice, paste, linseed, etc., etc., to Boston. He represented the firm a second time in 1849, passing another year at Palermo, and his letters of introduction at both times brought him in contact with many interesting people.

On his return he was made a partner in the firm of Curtis & Greenough and in 1851 married Emily Goddard Lamb, a daughter of Thomas Lamb, president of the New England National Bank of Boston. Alfred Greenough died about this time, and Tuckerman formed a partnership with Thomas D. Townsend, who was also in the firm of Curtis & Greenough, under the firm name of Tuckerman, Townsend & Co. In 1852 Tuckerman sailed for India to represent the new firm.

The most reliable captain sailing for this house was Captain Mea­com, who has been described by Mr. Tuckerman as one of the old-­fashioned sort who would take good care of his vessel and be honest for his owners. He was the oldest trader who called at Calcutta and was privileged to wear a pennant on holidays and was called "Com­modore," both old customs of that port.

During Tuckerman's second trip to India, in 1859, the firm of Tuckerman, Townsend & Co. lost a great deal of money owing to adverse business conditions which virtually ruined the old India trade. On his return he decided to dissolve the firm rather than to continue on borrowed capital which was offered him at that time. He there­fore brought his family to New York City and accepted the position of treasurer of the Hazard Powder Company. His heart was ever true to the old business, however, and he always loved to remember the old days in the India trade, and the ships and captains of the square-riggers that his firm had owned and chartered.

Joseph Tuckerman, a cousin of Gustavus Tuckerman, was in business with Josiah Bradlee, and gave up this position to act as super­cargo of the "Cowper," Owned by Russell & Co. Some years later he brought back a shipload of Eastern merchandise to New York, arriving during the panic of 1837. As he approached his home his father opened the window and greeted him with these cheerful words: "Joseph, we are all ruined, you're ruined." It was true; they were bankrupt, as the goods brought no bids. Tuckerman was not dis­couraged by this adverse fortune, but set out to make his living in some other line. One day he was riding on the Camden-Amboy Railroad, the train being drawn by the famous English locomotive "Johnnie Bull," which was imported from England a few years before. He at once realized the value of iron for the railroads, entered the iron business, and recouped his lost fortune. Here is an obit for Daddy T H Perkins the only survivor they say that could recall the Boston Massacre

Colonel Thomas Handasyd Perkins,Sr.  or T. H. Perkins (December 15, 1764 – January 11, 1854) son of James Perkins and Elizabeth Peck
According to Philanthropy Hall of Fame Perkins was born in Boston, the sixth of eight children to one of the colony’s most successful wine merchants. Not long after his fifth birthday, young Thomas crouched inside his father’s shop as the Boston Massacre raged outside. It marked the beginning of a turbulent time. Thomas’ father died in 1773, forcing his mother, Elizabeth, to provide for the family. She opened her own merchant house, trading china, glass, and wine. She scratched together enough to send her three sons to preparatory school, hoping that they would all attend Harvard.

Perkins Sr. married Sarah "Sally" Elliott (1768-February 25, 1852) on March 25, 1788, in Boston, Massachusetts. See Owls Nest: A Tribute to Sarah Elliott Perkins By Edith Perkins Cunningham, Perkins family, Eliot family
They had three children: Colonel Thomas Handasyd Perkins, Jr. ("Short-arm Tom"), whose daughter Louisa married the Boston painter William Morris Hunt; Elizabeth Perkins Cabot (1791–1885); and Caroline Perkins Gardiner (1800–1867).

                                                              William Morris Hunt

  Mrs. William Morris Hunt (Louise Dumaresq Perkins)
His nephew John Perkins Cushing was active in Perkins' China business for 30 years; the town of Belmont, Massachusetts is named for his estate. His great nephew Charles Callahan Perkins became a well known artist, author and philanthropist like his grandfather James Perkins.




Other merchants and sea captains of old Boston: being more information about the merchants and sea captains of old Boston who played such an important part in building up the commerce of New England, together with some quaint and curious stories of the sea 

John Perkins Cushing, called "Ku-Shing" by the Chinese, sailed for China when only sixteen years old, to take the position of clerk in the counting-house of his uncle, Colonel Thomas Handasyd Perkins. The head of the firm in China at this time was Ephraim Bumstead, who was soon obliged to leave Canton on account of illness, and died at sea. Young Cushing, therefore, arrived in China at this early age to find that he was the only representative of the Perkins firm in the East. Colonel Perkins, on hearing of Mr. Bumstead's death, at once prepared to go to China, but just before sailing he received letters from the young apprentice, who presented the condition of affairs in such a favorable light that the intended journey was abandoned. Cushing managed the affairs of the firm so skilfully that the consignments continually increased. He was soon taken into partnership with the Perkinses and continued with them until the consolidation of their firm with Russell & Co. in 1827. 

Mr. Cushing relates an incident that happened concerning one of the Chinese merchants called Yeeshing, with whom he had business transactions, showing the honesty and unselfishness of the average Chinese merchant. On the occasion of the great fire in 1822, large amounts of merchandise were destroyed. Mr. Cushing had placed with Yeeshing five thousand pieces of crapes, valued at $50,000, to be dyed, and there was no insurance upon them, as nothing of the kind existed at Canton. A day or two after the fire Yeeshing entered Mr. Cushing's office....The honest Chinaman had saved Mr. Cushing's crapes, but had lost his own dwelling and its contents, with most of his own goods. Cushing returned to Boston a few years later, having been most successful in his China venture, and soon after his arrival married the only daughter of the Rev. John Sylvester Gardiner of Trinity Church, Boston. It was rumored at the time of his engagement that there was much disappointment among the young marriageable belles of Boston, who, as some one expressed it, "beset him like bumblebees about a lump of sugar." 


Cushing and his young wife had a wonderful house at Watertown, now a part of Belmont, the latter town being called after the name of his place. His house was one of the finest and most comfortable of any in or near Boston, and was a double one,—a house within a house,—so as to be warm in winter and cool in summer. The spacious grounds and beautiful gardens were open to the public, and thousands of visitors went out there each year. Once when the assessors called upon him to question him as to his taxes, he asked, "What is the entire amount to be raised?" The sum was named by the assessors, whereupon Mr. Cushing said, "You can charge the whole amount to me." The homestead is now the residence of Colonel Everett C. Benton.
Cushing's sons used to spend their week-days in Boston with their grandmother, Mrs. Gardiner, in order to be near school, and on Saturdays, as Mrs. R. B. Forbes relates in one of her letters, the large Cushing carriage came to Temple Place—at that time usually referred to as " The Court "—to take the boys home to Belmont. Mrs. Forbesalso speaks of the wonderful children's parties given by Mr. Cushing, to which the boys and girls of Boston looked forward with joy,—of the haystacks; of the ponies for the children to ride; of the music; of the fire-balloons; of the dancing on the lawn, with the well-known dancing-teacher Papanti in charge; and of the procession of the children to the supper-table. Copley once said that one of these parties was the prettiest scene he had ever witnessed. 

The fete of June 17, 1840, seems to have been especially attractive, and as the children left the grounds they shouted, "Hurrah for Cushing forever!" There were many boys and girls there whose fathers were on the water or in foreign countries, and one little child on being asked where his father was, answered, "Dear papa done Tanton" (gone Canton). The mention of Temple Place suggests the remark of an old Bostonian to whom a certain family had given an opinion that he thought to be wrong; with a twinkle in his eye, he said, " I dare say they are wrong; you know, they do not live in Temple Place!" The Cushing townhouse stood where Nos. 25 and 27 are to-day on Temple Place.
Cushing was very fond of the Perkins family, and often brought to the house presents of large boxes of the finest white sugar. He spent much time at their house, and when one heard "deuce, ace, tray," it was safe to assume that either William Appleton or Cushing was engaged in a backgammon contest with Colonel Perkins. Cushing enjoyed at the Perkins house the often-described cambric teas, the dipped toast, the oblong squares of gingerbread marked out so carefully in parallel lines, and the delicious East India preserves; he was also one of those present at the last Thanksgiving dinner that the Colonel and his wife had together. He took an active part in public enterprises, and was one of the most benevolent and respected citizens of the State. He was of a very retiring disposition, and it is believed that there is no picture of him in existence.

Massachusetts State Representatives Edward Whitman Chapin, Benjamin Connor Currier, John Cushing, John Edward Fitzgerald, Jesse Edson Keith, Asa Porter Morse, Andrew Marathon Morton, Daniel Augustus Patch, John Perkins, Francis Edward Porter, John Warren Regan, Nathan Beebe Seaver

Clipper-Ship Captains
Lauchlan McKay
Philip Dumaresq

1 comment:

  1. VERY INTERESTING. Read "Barons of the Sea" for more about these Boston Brahmin families.