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From a painting - By George Richmond
One of the best known merchants of his time. He was partner of Russell & Sturgis, and of Russell, Sturgis & Co.; of Russell & Co., after the consolidation of the two latter firms. He was later partner and, finally, head of Baring Brothers of London.
RUSSELL STURGIS'S grandfather, who bore the same name, visited the Daniel Bacons on Cape Cod, and while there he met and married Elizabeth, the daughter of Mrs. James Perkins. Mrs. Perkins was the daughter of Thomas Handasyd Peck, who left some interesting letters concerning the lives of the Bostonians of the early days. Of her it is related that during the Revolutionary War there was much sickness among the English troops in Boston and the English general was advised to get assistance from Mrs. Perkins, who was known to be very capable. She replied, as was quite natural at that time, that she would aid them "as sick men but by no means as soldiers." After the war Mrs. Perkins and her son-in-law returned from the Cape to Boston.
Russell Sturgis, the grandson and well-known Boston and Canton merchant, was born in Boston in 1805, went to Harvard at the age of twelve, and in 1828 made his first voyage abroad in the "Boston," with only two fellow-passengers. He had settled down in this city as a young lawyer and would probably have continued in this profession had he not overheard John. P. Cushing speak of the unwillingness of a certain person to go to China. "I wish I had that chance offered me," remarked Sturgis. In a few days the opportunity was given to him by Mr. Cushing and he sailed for Canton in 1833.
Eventually Sturgis entered the firm of Russell & Sturgis of Manila and Russell, Sturgis & Co. of Canton, and in 1840 the latter house consolidated with Russell & Co., Mr. Warren Delano being taken in as a member of the firm. Two years later Russell Sturgis became a partner. The East had a great fascination for him, and in tact for all the men who went out there from Boston. The life there was new and interesting to them, and they assumed great responsibilities; they lived a life of great freedom, although they were not allowed to go outside the "Factory" reservation. Besides being called "foreign devils" they were also described as "a ghostly tribe of barbarians," as "uncouth beings with fiery hair" as "a strange people who came to the Flowery Kingdom from regions of mist and storm where the sun never shines," even as "wild, untamed men whose words are rough, and whose language is confused." During the opium war, Russell Sturgis's son, Julian Sturgis, who wrote a short memoir of his father, describes how each member of Russell & Co. had to do some of the housework. Lots were drawn and the duty of cook fell to Capt. R. B. Forbes, who was soon deposed from his position by Warren Delano for presenting to his fellow-captives a dish of ham and eggs which was mistaken for some sort of leather. John C. Green, who was the head of Russell & Co., tried his hand at boiled rice, which resembled a mass of glue, so the story goes. A. A. Low, father of Seth Low, was ordered to set the table after having produced some boiled eggs that resembled grape-shot. To kill time they played whist, and hunted rats with a terrier, which latter fact led the Chinese to believe that the "Fan-Kwae" were holding a continuous feast. Julian Sturgis also mentions the Canton Regatta Club, which was founded in 1837, thereby causing a protest to be issued by three of the Co-Hongs, who believed that great danger would arise from its formation. The protest reads as follows: --
"On the river boats are mysteriously abundant; everywhere they congregate in vast numbers; like a stream they advance and retire unceasingly. Thus the chances of contact are many; so are accidents even to the breaking of one another's boats, to the injury of men's bodies, while more serious consequences might ensue!
HOUQUA, MOUQUA, PWANKEIQUA."
"More better no go," warned Houqua, in his pigeon English.
In 1844 Russell Sturgis retired from business and came home to Boston to join his children, who had been sent there to school, their mother having died in Manila in 1837. Sturgis then married again, his wife being Julia A. Boit, a sister of Robert A. Boit's mother. He found the scale of living in that day more expensive than he had expected and therefore decided to return with his family to the East. He was to sail on the "Canada" from Boston to London, where he was to connect with a ship that was to take him eastward. The expressman who brought in the family luggage from Jamaica Plain was delayed by an open drawbridge and failed to get to the wharf until after the vessel had sailed. Sturgis and his family decided not to sail without the luggage and had to wait over for the next boat. It is said that when he found the delay occurred through no fault of the expressman, he treated the expressman so kindly that the man was so surprised and overcome that he immediately burst into tears. The steamer on which they finally crossed did not arrive in London in time to catch the boat sailing eastward, therefore Sturgis and his family had to remain a number of weeks in London before making connections. During this time he was asked by Mr. Bates, the senior member of Baring Bros. & Co., to become a partner in the firm, which position he accepted, finally becoming head of the house. It was jokingly said in the family that if it had not been for the dilatory expressman Mr. Sturgis would never have become head of the firm of Baring Bros. & Co. He never returned to this country, dying in England in 1887.
Mr. Sturgis's genial, hearty, and kindly personality is well remembered by many Bostonians whom he warmly welcomed and sumptuously entertained at his town house in Carlton House Terrace and at his country place, first at Walton-on-Thames and later at Leatherhead. His American guests were often astonished at his up-to-date information, and accurate memory of births, marriages, and deaths among his acquaintances in Boston, as he always showed a genuine and constant interest in all his friends in this country. He was one of the generous contributors to the Boston Art Museum when its new building was built in Copley Square by his son John H. Sturgis.
COLONEL THOMAS HANDASYD PERKINS JR.
Colonel Thomas Handasyd Perkins, Jr., son of Colonel Perkins, described in last year's pamphlet, was invariably 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. While he was in London there was no one skilful enough to box with him and so his friends recommended that he go to a curious old African sparrer, named Richmond, who had such long arms that he could button his breeches at the knee without stooping at all. During the first lesson Colonel Perkins was at first hit very hard, but later retaliated by fighting the African backwards until he was knocked into the window and would have gone completely through had not his antagonist and his friends pulled him back by the ankles. After he had extricated a few pieces of glass from his arms, he said with great respect for his amateur sparring partner: "Golly, Massa Major, how you do hit wid dat right of yours! Why, I radder be kicked by old Massa's black mule dan hab you hit me again like dat. No, by golly, I don't want any mo' of dat hitten here." It is interesting to record that Richmond was born at Richmond on Staten Island. He became a body-servant to General Earl Percy when the English took possession of Long Island during the Revolution, and later accompanied his master to England, where he served him for a number of years. He then took up prize-fighting and soon became a champion.
Another example of the Colonel's strength and agility was shown when he and the well-known actor James Wallack were leaving the Federal Street Theatre in Boston. A man very much under the influence of liquor rushed at them with a knife, whereupon Colonel Perkins parried the blow and felled the assailant to the ground, but himself received a bad wound. It was later discovered that the attacker was none other than Junius Brutus Booth, the actor, who doubtless was jealous over the success of Wallack, and who had intended his blow for his rival instead of for Colonel Perkins.
When Colonel Perkins first went to China he was very young, and very homesick, and was much disappointed not to be received more cordially by John Perkins Cushing, the head of the firm of J. & T. H. Perkins, who happened to be very much occupied when he arrived. Young Perkins presented a letter of introduction from Mrs. Forbes, a sister of his father, 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, and the conversation again ended. This may have been the same aunt who asked one of the younger members of the family to put a pillow in the small of her back. The reply came, "You haven't any small to your back, Aunty." 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. The Chinaman promptly appeared when he knew an American had arrived to see him, and invited him ashore, saying in his pigeon English, " Hi ya, my welly glad sabe that son my olo flen, Mr. Perkins, my welly much chin chin you, askee come ashore, come ashore; as for dollar, can hab, yes, can hab leckly." While the money was being counted out, 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.
Colonel 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."
THOMAS HANDASYD PERKINS
Son of 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."
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
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.
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?"
Colonel Perkins was born in his father's house on Pearl street and later attended school at Exeter Academy, where the master declared he was a very rare fellow because he had "a watch, a fowling piece and a Lexicon," a rare combination at that time.
He 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. 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. 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.
The most popular of the Boston Fayal captains. He commanded the "Azor" on most of his voyages.
Captain Edmund Burke of the "Azor" was the most popular of all the Fayal captains and usually made very fast voyages owing to the fact that he always trimmed the sails to take advantage of every puff of air. His mate, a man named Davis, was an excellent navigator. although with but little education. He was not at all ashamed of the fact that he was a self-made man, and often said jokingly that he had only three days of school in his life: "The first day school didn't keep; the second day the teacher was sick; and the third day I played hookey."
One of the men in Captain Burke's crew sailed with him for eleven years, and every one, both passengers and crew, was very fond of him. Once when it became necessary to cut away the masts on one of the voyages into New Bedford four Portuguese sailors in the crew, who had been on the ship for over four years, were so filled with grief at being forced to raise a hand against the ship they loved so much that they wept bitterly all the while they were hacking at the masts with their axes.
On his first voyage in the
"Azor" in 1855 the following were among the passengers bound to Fayal: Mr. and
Mrs. J. P. Dabney, Olivia Dabney, C. P. Webster, E. W. Pomeroy, Edith Dabney,
and F. Kinnicutt, Jr. The Dabney family was associated with Fayal for many years
and thought little of making a trip there. The following words are taken from an
old log of the "Azor."
"Sweet Barque, it is
From all bilge-water free,
Of thee I sing;
Barque of the noble prow,
So clean from top to toe,
Long mayest thou to and fro
The Dabneys bring."
While on the way from Fayal to Boston in 1865, Captain Burke encountered tremendous gales, and when nine hundred miles from Boston fell in with the ship "Gratitude," which was in such a leaky condition that all of her passengers had to be transferred to the "Azor," which had been rechristened "Fredonia." Three hundred and twenty people were transferred with great difficulty, which increased the "Fredonia's" list from fifteen to a total of three hundred and thirty-five persons, and to provide quarters for them all it was found necessary to throw overboard thousands of boxes of oranges. More severe weather was encountered and the thermometer dropped to zero, necessitating the constant hammering of the rigging by the sailors to keep it clear of ice. Several times the vessel was blown to sea as she was about to enter Boston Harbour, and as their food consisted chiefly of oranges, which had now been almost all consumed, the consequences might have been disastrous. Finally port was safely made, and Mayor Lincoln and many of the good citizens of Boston took prompt steps to relieve the sufferings of the unfortunate passengers. The cargo which was thrown overboard from the " Fredonia " was insured, but by getting rid of it before the people from the "Gratitude" came aboard, the insurance was forfeited. Generous Bostonians again came to the rescue, realizing that the captain could not have acted otherwise, and raised the amount of the loss by popular subscription.
Some months later Captain Burke sailed to Lisbon, and on arriving at that port the officials informed him that there was a quarantine against arrivals from certain ports in the United States, as smallpox had broken out there. The Americans were much amused when they were further informed that all ships sailing from America were exempt from quarantine, except those from New York, Philadelphia, Chicago and Cincinnati.
On one of these tough voyages to Fayal one of the passengers, undoubtedly a poor sailor, as will be observed by the reader, composed the following verses, which may prove amusing: --
A PSALM OF THE SEA
A. C. SICKFELLOW
Tell me not in cheerful numbers
Life is hateful -- life's disgusting,
Short the nor
the bark swift sailing,
friends, nor doctor either,
Than to ride
with ocean demons
Rolling on the
You lose your
meals -- don't lose your temper,
Let us, then,
while onward gliding,
Not for comfort
in our sorrow,
BY S. B. S.
(From Passenger's Log of the "Azor" in possession of Mrs. Clara D. Benton, of Michigan, daughter of Captain Burke.)