Col. Thomas H. "Short-Arm Tom" Perkins, Jr.

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Thomas Handasyd Perkins, Jr.

Birthdate: (53)
Birthplace: Boston, Suffolk, Massachusetts, United States
Death: January 14, 1850 (53)
Boston, Suffolk, Massachusetts, United States
Place of Burial: Cambridge, Middlesex, Massachusetts, United States
Immediate Family:

Son of Thomas Handasyde Perkins, Sr. and Sarah Elliott
Husband of Jane Frances Rebecca Dumaresq
Father of Thomas Handasyd Perkins, III; Augustus Thorndike Perkins; Phillip Dumaresq Perkins; Francis Codman Perkins and Louisa Dumaresq Perkins
Brother of Elizabeth Perkins; Caroline Perkins and Mary Ann Cushing Perkins

Occupation: Lt.Colonel
Managed by: Private User
Last Updated:

About Col. Thomas H. "Short-Arm Tom" Perkins, Jr.

"Upon retirement, Perkins built a summer home on Swan Island and helped the island achieve independent municipal status by paying legal fees for the charter. So they named the town after him. " ------------------------------------------------ source for the following: Merchant Prince of Boston. Colonel T. H. Perkins, 1764-1854 Carl Seaburg and Stanley Patterson Harvard University Press 1971

p 213 “Early that September [1809], the colonel's oldest boy, Thomas, Jr., went back to Exeter Academy in Exeter, New Hampshire, where his uncle, Dr. Benjamin Abbott, was the strict and successful headmaster. Young Gorham Palfrey, whose father once worked in the Perkins countinghouse, went over and spent the night with young Tom, as he was going to the academy too. With several other returning Exeter students they crowded into the coach early the next morning. Tom Jr. was almost thirteen. That he may that early have been following in his cousin Jim's grapestained footsteps is suggested by the report that Palfrey 'was constantly jostled by his rowdy and drunken companions.'"

1813 p 242 “While hoping that the Russian mediation would eventually terminate in peace, the [Perkins] brothers made plans in case it failed. If the war was to continue, they decided to send a vessel to Canton that winter and "let her run the gauntlet," of blockading ships. If they sent it out without funds, they would "hazard nothing further." The ship they planned to send was a new one-the Jacob Jones. "She is 500 tons, and promises to be as fine a sailing vessel as can be built here." It was also the largest ship the Perkins had owned up to that time. "We think she will sail in December." They planned to send T. H. Perkins, Jr., out in the vessel, so something was being "hazarded." But if the war was coming to an end, it would mean that the Jacob Jones might be one of the first ships to return to America with a cargo from Canton. It turned out that their planning was almost on the button. Their incredible luck for shrewd guesses and taking their risks at the right moment was an indefinable but definite factor in the success of J. & T. H. Perkins."

1814 p 244 “Another new ship, the Jacob Jones, 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.”

1815 p 263 "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. p 264 "The colonel's son 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. Cushing was happy to welcome his young cousin and hear the news from home. Early in September, the Rambler slipped through the British net, to join the American ships at Whampoa. Acting on the theory that there might be escape in numbers, five American ships—including the two Perkins vessels—made a break for it on January 18, 1815. The joke of it was that a paper already signed in Ghent had put them all at peace. Since it would be summer before the news could reach Canton, they went through the motions of escape and pursuit in deadly seriousness. The dash was successful, and three days later the two Perkins ships parted company and sailed separately for Boston. It was not until the Rambler was almost into Boston that it spoke to another ship and heard the news of peace. The Jacob Jones learned it only two weeks before arriving.

p 268-70 "Yet to be seen too was the future of the elder sons of the two [Perkins] brothers. Both were juniors by name but neither seemed to be cut from the same cloth as their fathers. They were the sons of rich men, they were young, and their own pleasures seemed to be the most pressing concern to them at the moment. T. H. P., Jr., as he is styled in the letters of the firm, had been born with an infirmity like his father, though not the same one. He was nicknamed "Short-arm Tom," because his left arm was bout three inches shorter than the right one. In his boyhood fights this 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 apparently been a problem to his parents. References in the colonel's letters hint at extravagance with money and general intractability. 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, in Maryland, a Roman Catholic institution, where an escapade caused his expulsion. When morning Mass was celebrated, the Protestant students were obliged to remain outside the chapel in a sort of porch area. Winter mornings it was very cold, and the young Protestants protested vigorously but to no avail. One morning, with Catholic students comfortably inside with their God and the Protestants out in the cold with theirs, someone suggested making a fire. Young Perkins looked at the wooden steps leading up to the chapel, then started pulling off the treads and risers, split them into small pieces" and soon had a fine fire blazing. The Catholics emerged from chapel into smoke and flames-a reverse inquisition! But Perkins was suspended for 6 months and sent back to Boston in disgrace. It was then that his father found it prudent to send him off in the Jacob Jones. 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 Perkinses knew him well, rated his nautical ability highly, and made him a good offer in order to secure him as captain of the voyage. 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. While the ship was making its way out, the colonel and his friends were below having dinner with the departing officers and T. H. P., Jr., who was acting as supercargo under Captain Hill. After tacking and hauling and anchoring five miles below the lighthouse, the colonel and his companions went down the ropeladder and returned to town, while the ship waited for another boat to bring back some light sails they had inadvertently left ashore. About sunset, the ship got under way again with a pleasant gentle evening breeze, and by morning they watched Cape Cod disappear behind them. 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." THP 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.

1821? p292-3 [THP jr] “had had himself a fine time in Europe. It was the day of the dandy, and the colonel's eldest son had both the money and the inclination to play the role. He had taken a semi-military appointment in a group styled the Liberal Army of Columbia, been promoted to a lieutenant-colonelcy in the Bolivar Rifles, and served on the staff of Major-General Devereaux. What advantage the groups were to Simon Bolivar and the revolutions in South America is dubious, since they did all their fighting in the bedrooms and gambling dens of London. The young colonel was principally interested in his uniform. An observer described him looking as if he had been "run into his top boots and breeches, so perfect was the fit." Dressed in a buff waistcoat, blue coat with gilt buttons and velvet collar, sporting a white cambric cravat, white hat and gloves, with a little gold-mounted stick, he turned himself into the very model of a dandy. And the very model of a lady-killer. Family recollections still linger fondly over his success with the fair sex, particularly a certain Lady Jane Paget. But all good things must end, and finally the young colonel yielded to the entreaties of his father and returned to undandyish Boston to do his duty by his partners. When the old colonel saw him he was disgusted. Tom was wearing the latest English mode: his pantaloons outside his boots. "Such a dirty habit!" exclaimed the colonel. One who did not find it so, was a young girl from Maine, Jane Frances Rebecca Dumaresque. (The family pronounces it Du-mer'-ick.) She had come to Boston to visit her relatives, the family of the Rev. John Gardiner, rector of Trinity Church where the James Perkins family worshipped. With a delightful figure, beautiful teeth and complexion, wonderfully flowing raven hair (in the sunlight, said her son, it had the sheen of that steel-colored blue seen on a crow's wing) and eyes the color of dark sapphire, she quickly became talked of as a beauty in Boston society. She was a prize well worth the young colonel's best efforts. On Monday, May 15, at Trinity Church on Summer Street, he won his prize. It was a glittering wedding; so many of the men wore uniforms and swords, they almost outshone the pretty girls. Mrs. Samuel Perkins wrote Fred Paine about it some months later. 'Tom P-the wild dog-has got a sweet little wife, a very very pretty and sweet mannered-pleasing woman-and if he does not make her a good husband-I shall hate him for it-at present there is every appearance that he will-he has conducted very well since his return.'"

In 1826: p 340 "The young colonel, THP jr, was "very much improved" and promised to be a respectable member of society, but his business talent would never make him distinguished as a merchant."

p 362 [late 1820s] “Apprentice Jim Perkins remembered those days in later years, with "the young Colonel" turning up whenever a ship arrived. He would busy himself with the out-of-door work "which alone was congenial to him." With a fine yacht, good horses, an elegant home in Winthrop Place, he had more interesting things to do than hang around the counting rooms. He was "always kind and hospitable to us Juniors," wrote young Jim, "taking us occasionally to the theater and home to supper after the play." The old colonel only appeared "on great occasions, when the larger voyages and operations of the house were under discussion, and then occupied a separate office." The brunt of the daily work was undertaken by Samuel Cabot.”

THP jr retired from business in the early 1830s. At the time he had 5 living children. He died 16 Jan 1850, of cancer, at age 53-3-8 (page 410.) --------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- source:




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."

[illustration of THP jr] From a painting Kindness of Mrs. W. Austin Wadsworth

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."

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.

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. [4]

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Thomas Handasyde PERKINS (AFN: 1V0W-LRD) Pedigree

Sex:  M  Family  



Birth:   1796   
Death:   1851   





Spouse:  Jane Frances Rebecca DUMARESQ (AFN: 1V0W-LSL)  Family  
Ancestral File is a collection of genealogical information taken from Pedigree Charts and Family Group Records submitted to the Family History Department since 1978 

Jane Frances Rebecca, b 1799 of Vasselboro, mar in Boston 1820 Lt. Col THomas Handasyde Perkins Officer of the Liberal Army of Columbia, chief of Staff to Maj. Gen Devereaux 6 chn.

Perkins died in 1851, his wife in 1856

from the book..........

The Quiet Adventurers in North America,&source=bl&ots=WxR-m6WiJi&sig=L3czRt_Z93qZ0fX2fyFLBt5q0_Q&hl=en&ei=NkbdSrXUI4-8sgPjsrXoDw&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=9&ved=0CCIQ6AEwCA#v=onepage&q=Capt.%20Henry%20Ferry%20of%20Boston%2C&f=false

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Col. Thomas H. "Short-Arm Tom" Perkins, Jr.'s Timeline

October 8, 1796
Boston, Suffolk, Massachusetts, United States
Age 26
Age 29
Age 29
Age 33
Age 34
January 14, 1850
Age 53
Boston, Suffolk, Massachusetts, United States
Cambridge, Middlesex, Massachusetts, United States