Although his association with Paul Morphy was somewhat minimal, Frederick Perrin's chess career was very often viewed though Morphy-colored glass. When Morphy first arrived in New York for his national debut, Perrin was the first man he played. When Morphy made his triumphant return from Europe, landing in New York, Perrin was the first person he played - at Knight odds, the same odds at which Morphy would soon require of any American player, winning one out of four games. Perrin challenged Morphy to a match at the same odds with the winner as the first to score five games. Morphy again won with 5 wins and one draw. Later in life, often when his name was mentioned, the press felt compelled to insert the fact that Perrin had once been an opponent of Morphy. But as much as this fact gave him a certain stature, Perrin had plenty of reasons to stand on his own accomplishments.
Frederick Perrin was born in England on December 5, 1813, to Swiss immigrants. His father James Frederick Perrin was a business man who operated a counting house. He was deemed a merchant, who went bankrupt with his partners, Joseph Clansie and John Bodman in 1817. His father must not have been held down to long because 12 years later, Frederick was sent to school in Switzerland. Returning to England, he took a commercial position and spend his free time in Simpson's Divan accepting Knight odds from the better players there. His principle opponent was Mr. Daniels who is mention by Bird as well known for his brilliant play and by Walker as playing in the style of John Cochrane. The Chess Players' Chronicle give some games by Daniels that confirm his ability. At any rate, Mr. Daniels died in 1845, the same year Mr. Perrin moved to the United States. Apparently he moved to New York with his mother, Henriette, his brother Alphonse who settled in Hoboken, N. J. and a sister whose name is a mystery but who married William Pollock of Elizabeth, N. J. Upon his arrival in the United States, the "Book of the First American Chess Congress" informs us that he continued his serious study of chess with Charles Vezin (who died in 1853) of Philadelphia.
Some references call Perrin a Professor of Modern Languages at Princeton College. Actually, his position at the College of New Jersey (renamed Princeton University in 1896; ) was initially teacher of French, and later of French and German.
from the "History of the College of New Jersey," 1877
Perrin taught there from 1849 until 1852. According to the "Brooklyn Daily Eagle," January 28, 1889, "for the last twenty years he was confidential clerk at the home of Brinckerhoff, Turner & Co." Actually it would have had to have been 19 years since Perrin died in 1889 and Brinckerhoff, Turner & Co. (who manufactured and sold cotton duck, canvas, ravens, awning stripes, bags, twines and bunting) was formed in 1870. In 1852 Perrin "took a position in the National Bank, and superintends the Chess column of the Albion" [according to Willard Fiske].
Perrin was also a skilled violinist and according to his obituary in the "Columbia Chess Chronicle," he owned "two old and valuable violins." Another fine New York player and well-know problemist, Theodore M. Brown, owned a music school. "The Brooklyn Daily Eagle," Sept. 5, 1872 noted:
Professor Brown's Reception
Last night the rooms of the Washington avenue Conservatory of Music, of which Mr. Theodore M. Brown is the principal, were filled with a gathering of the professor's musical friends. The occasion being a private opening reception of his newly fitted up Conservatory of Music. A choice programme of classical and popular music was performed, in which the professor too a very prominent part, his excecution of several of his own compositions eliciting loud applause. The feature of the extemporized concert was the performance of two of de Beriot's concertos for violin and piano by Mr. Perrin and Professor Brown, the veteran chess player handling the bow in knightly style. After partaking in refreshments, the guests formed themselves into a chess coterie for the evening, and over the
checquered squares fought several interesting mental battles under the generalship of such experts as Captain McKenzie, Dr. Barnett, and Messrs. Gilberg, Munoz, Delmar, Perrin, etc. The Conservatory is now open fro the Fall and Winter season.
While Perrin was at the College of New Jersey he became acquainted with a student named Eugene Beauharnais Cook. Although Cook was forced to leave in his Junior year due to illness, he and Perrin became friends. Perrin taught Cook, who learned the moves from his mother, the ideas behind the moves. They started at Knight odds and soon progressed to even game at which Cook was gradually becoming Perrin's equal. Cook eventually grew into one of the best problemists of his day. On December 9, 1857, during the First American Chess Congress, Morphy, accompanied by Perrin, Willard Fiske, and W.J.A. Fuller, visited Cook at his home in Hoboken. The three visitors played in consultation against Morphy and won.
The "American Chess Magazine" described this game, with some factual errors, in the April 1917 issue:
IN THE GOOD OLD DAYS OF MORPHY.
One bright Sunday afternoon in October, 1857 [December 6, 1857], four young men sat about a table in a quiet room on the first floor of the residence of Eugene B. Cook in Hoboken, N. J.
A fifth person, about fifty years of age [42 years old], lay on a lounge near by. Somewhat indisposed, the latter was resting, and, though interested in the proceedings, contented himself with asking now and then, "Did he move?" This was Frederick Perrin, teacher and mentor of Mr. Cook, world famous American problem composer, who was not a participant in the play [he was a participant], but keenly watched the game as it developed gradually. The two players seated beside Mr. Cook were Daniel Willard Fiske, editor of the then newly established "American Chess Monthly," and William James Appleton Fuller, a young lawyer and one of the organizers of and participants in the first American Chess Congress. This pair and the elderly [?] gentleman on the lounge were contesting a consultation game against no less an opponent than the illustrious Paul Morphy, which, after several hours, ended in a splendid victory for the three allies, who had put their heads together to such good purpose.
The board and set of chessmen with which the foregoing game was played were subsequently used on only rare occasions, as Mr. Cook was the possessor of other boards and sets. The paraphernalia employed in the conquest of Paul Morphy was preserved thereafter as a treasured relic of the good old days when the New Orleans youth electrified the chess community with his genius and, as we put it nowadays, placed America fairly and squarely upon the chess map of the world. After sixty years the board and chessmen, having been used so little, are still in well-nigh perfect condition and are now the property of Dr.H.Keidanz, of New York, who is at present engaged in the preparation of the material for a collection of E. B. Cook's problems, to be published soon. Mr. Cook made a gift of the board and chessmen to Dr. Keidanz in recognition of the services of the letter in helping the author in his researches and editorial work prior to his decease. [Dr. Keidanz also published "Twenty Years of the Rice Gambit."]
In this connection it will be of interest to quote from a letter written by Mr. Fuller to Thomas Frere, editor of the chess column in "Frank Leslie's Illustrated
Magazine" and author of a handbook on chess and of a collection of Morphy's games. This letter was printed as part of the introduction to the Steinitz-Zuckertort chess match (January, 1886):
"After his return from Europe he (Morphy) was the lion of the day and people vied with each other to do him honor and get him to play at fashionable parties. I
played more games with him than any other man. The reason he preferred to play with me at these parties was because I knew I should be beaten as a matter of course and I was not afraid to play an open game so that he might exhibit his great brilliancy. Mr. Perrin, Mr. Fiske and myself, in consultation, won one game from him on even terms. We shall live longer in that one game than in any other way. How well I remember that Sunday in Eugene B. Cook's room! Perrin's face so beamed with satisfaction and delight, especially as Morphy said that he suggested the winning course of play and had to fight hard to bring the others to his way of thinking."
After moving to New York from the Princeton, N.J. area in 1852, Perrin joined the New York Chess Club where he immediately took an active role, according to Willard Fiske, "for the re-organization of the Club and for its flourishing existence during the following five years. In the fall of 1852 his efforts succeeded in rousing the players to action, and rooms were taken in Broadway near Franklin street. The Club removed, in the spring of 1853, to number 85 Fourth avenue, in the spring of 1854, to Tenth street, near 4th avenue, and in the spring of 1856 to number 19 East Twelfth street. During all these changes its affairs were conducted solely by Mr. Perrin, under whose kindly auspices it continued to increase in number and prosperity. Upon its last removal the members expressed their sense of the obligation which they owed to Mr. Perrin, by presenting him with the two handsome engravings of Mate Pending and Mated, by Frank Stone."
By 1860 Perrin was also a member of the Brooklyn Chess Club. The Brooklyn Daily Eagle, Oct. 30, 1860 announced:
A chess match has been arranged between five players of the Brooklyn Chess Club and five players of the New York Chess Club
They are to be paired off, each pair to play three games exclusive of draws, the club winning the greatest number of games to be declared the victors. The match is to be played partly in New York and partly in Brooklyn. The gentlemen selected to represent the Brooklynites are: Messrs. F. Perrin, N. Marache, Horner, B. Rice and Endall. The New York Club, we understand, have chosen Messrs. Lichtenhein, Thompson, Loyd, Michaelis and Barnett, to be their champions.
Then, by 1863, Perrin was president of the Brooklyn Chess Club. That chess club disbanded and reformed numerous times throughout the years and Perrin always joined the each reincarnation. On Oct. 8, 1888, Perrin, along with Wilhelm Steinitz, Philip Richardson and Henry Chadwick, was made an honorary member of the Brooklyn Chess Club.
It's usually hard to determine the strength of player from this time period. Perrin participated in the First American Chess Congress where he won the first round against Hubert Knott winning 3, losing 2 and drawing two, but lost in the second round to Theodor Lichtenhein 3-0. During that time he played Morphy some off-hand games, losing all but one in which he manage a draw (a feat in itself):
Perrin played in the 3rd American Chess Congress. He only won 2 games, coming in 6th out of 8 participants, but his win over James A. Congdon is considered one of particular beauty:
Not known as a problemist, Perrin did try his hand at that art. The following problem appeared in the "Dubuque Chess Journal," reprinted from the N.Y. "Spirit of the Times."
His obituary in the Columbia Chess Chronicle said, "The following game, rattled off a few years ago, is a happy example of his play:"
Miron Hazeltine, one of the great chess editors and writers of the 19th century, dedicated his book, "Beadle's Dime Chess Instructor," to Perrin:
"To Frederick Perrin, Esq., President of the "Brooklyn Chess Club," who has approved himself for so many years one of the truest, most persevering, and most consistent friends and promoters of American Chess."
Perrin was a popular speaker and, as evident with his remarks recorded in the "Book of the First American Chess Congress," a fairly good one. The "Dubuque Chess Chronicle" added that "Mr. Perrin was an ideal speaker and for years past "old Perrin's speech" has been an enjoyable feature at most of the Club dinners in this vicinity."
The New York Times, Oct. 21,1864 gave this sprightly win by Perrin:
Perrin was able to compete with the better players with a degree of success. Here is a game againt Eugene Delmar in the Brooklyn Chess Club Tourney of 1870:
On January 27, 1889 Frederick Perrin succumbed to a lingering case of pneumonia.