Russell Sturgis (1805–1887)

Russell Sturgis (18051887) was a Boston merchant active in the China trade, and later head of Baring Brothers, London.


Born in Boston, Massachusetts in 1805, Sturgis was a grandson of the noted merchant of the same name and his wife Elizabeth Perkins Sturgis, a son of Nathaniel Russell Sturgis (1779–1856) and his wife Susannah Parkman,[1] and a great-nephew of Thomas Handasyd Perkins. Sturgis went to Harvard College at the age of twelve. In 1828 he made his first voyage abroad then practiced law in Boston for a time. He sailed for Canton in 1833 on behalf of opium trader John Perkins Cushing, settling for some time in Macau where Lady Elizabeth Napier, wife of British emissary William John, 9th Lord Napier, found him "very intelligent". [2] While he was there, his portrait and those of three of his four children by second wife Mary Greene Hubbard — Russell, Lucy Lyman Paine, and John Hubbard (who became the architect John Hubbard Sturgis) — were painted by the English portraitist George Chinnery. In Asia he entered a succession of trading firms (Russell & Sturgis of Manila; Russell, Sturgis & Co. of Canton; Russell & Co.), and in 1842 he became a full partner.

In 1844 Sturgis retired to Boston to rejoin his children who had been sent there to school after their mother's 1837 death in Manila. He married, for a third time, Julia Overing Boit (who bore him four more children -- Henry Parkman, Julian Russell, Mary Greene Hubbard, and Howard Overing) and decided to return to China with his family in 1851. The steamer on which they crossed the Atlantic arrived too late to catch the onward ship from London. In their interval there, Sturgis was asked by the senior member of Barings Bank to become a partner. He accepted and ultimately became head of the firm.

Although he never renounced his US citizenship, Sturgis did not return to the United States and died in England in 1887.

Sturgis family and George Santayana

John Sturgis, a Boston architect, and Robert Shaw Sturgis, Santayana's half brother, were cousins. John's father was Russell Sturgis (1805–87), brother of Santayana's mother's first husband, George Sturgis (1817–57).[3]

When Josephine Borrás Sturgis (1853–1930) died she left half her money to her brother Robert Shaw Sturgis and the other half to her half brother George Santayana.[4] George Sturgis (1891–1944) was Robert Shaw Sturgis's son.[5] In 1939 George Sturgis was elected the first President of the United States Chess Federation.[6] George's eldest child, Robert Shaw Sturgis (1922–2008), knew George Santayana and became an architect and the chair of the Boston Architectural College from 1981 to 1985.[7]



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