JOHN PERKINS CUSHING Biography - Bussiness people and enterpreneurs


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Name: John Perkins Cushing                                                         
Born: 22 April 1787                                                                 
Died: 1862                                                                         
John Perkins Cushing (b. April 22, 1787 - d.1862), called "Ku-Shing" by the         
Chinese, was a very wealthy Boston sea merchant, opium smuggler, and               
philanthropist. His sixty-foot pilot schooner, the Sylph, won the first recorded   
American yacht race in 1832, and the town of Belmont, Massachusetts is named       
after his estate.                                                                   
Perkins was born in Boston, Massachusetts to Robert and Ann Perkins (Maynard)       
Cushing. His sister Nancy later married Henry Higginson. When his mother died of   
smallpox, Cushing was raised by his uncle, Thomas Handasyd Perkins, and in 1803     
at age 16 sailed for China to become clerk in his uncle's counting house. The       
head of the firm in China soon fell ill and died at sea. Cushing thus arrived in   
China to find himself Perkins & Company's sole agent. There he remained for         
nearly 30 years.                                                                   
Cushing managed the affairs of the firm skillfully and was soon taken into         
partnership. Under Cushing, the firm of Perkins & Company was formally             
established in Canton in 1806. At one point he made a good profit during a         
famine in China by importing rice. During the War of 1812, the family loaned       
their money out--at 18 percent interest--to other merchants in Canton. But the     
fur trade paled and when hard cash grew harder to come by, a search began for a     
substitute for the furs and specie that had been foundations of Boston's China     
trade. Opium seemed the ideal commodity. By the 1820s Cushing was known as the     
most influential of all the foreigners in Canton, and had struck up a close         
relationship with the hong merchant Houqua, who at his death in 1843 was said to   
be the richest man in the world.                                                   
In 1820 Cushing brought on his cousin Thomas Tunno Forbes to train for the         
business. Forbes, however, died in 1827 before assuming control of the firm.       
Cushing, eager for retirement and lacking a suitable replacement, made             
arrangements to dissolve Perkins & Company by an 1827 consolidation with Russell   
& Co (created by China trader Samuel Russell in 1823).                             
He returned to Boston in 1830 with Eastern manners and manservants, and soon       
married the only daughter of the Rev. John Sylvester John Gardiner of Trinity       
Church, Boston. It was rumored at the time that there was much disappointment       
among the young ladies of Boston, who, as some one expressed it, "beset him like   
bumblebees about a lump of sugar."                                                 
Cushing built himself a handsome mansion on Summer Street, acquired a splendid     
200-acre (0.81 kmĀ²) estate in Watertown named "Bellmont" (now part of Belmont,     
which is named after his estate), and erected one of the finest conservatories     
in New England. His house was one of the finest and most comfortable of any in     
or near Boston. It was a double one a house within a house and thus warm in         
winter and cool in summer. Its 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."                         
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