Biography of Frederick Conrad Chinn

Frederick Conrad Chinn, of Sacramento, is a man who entered upon a special business career with large ideas and ambitions for the future. Now at the age of thirty-four years he has what is probably the largest optical business in the United States, having retail stores in several California cities, and daily extending his trade into new sections. Mr. Chinn unites with professional zeal the executive and organizing ability of a captain of industry, and has built up in an incredibly short time an enterprise which is well known in business circles throughout the country, and of which he is president and general manager. Like so many others who have won prominence, he started with all his capital in brains and energy, not in money, and has progressed by self-achievement.

Not only has Mr. Chinn built up his business to a point of secure financial prosperity, but he has rendered incalculable benefit to the optical profession in general, especially in California, and, indeed, by initiating an excellent precedent, setting the pace for other states of the Union to follow up. this achievement for which Mr. Chinn is mainly responsible was the establishment, by legislative enactment, of the state board of optometry, during the session of 1903, and in July of the same year Governor Pardee appointed Mr. Chinn secretary of that board for a term of four years. California is the second state to adopt a similar provision, and practically the same measure has been defeated thirteen times in other states, thrice in New York alone, the same influences being arrayed against the proposal as are brought against any wholesale reform demanding higher qualifications for a certain class. the board of optometry in California regulates the practice of optometry, and by requiring an examination before the board of all applicants desiring to become opticians places opticians on the same plane as physicians and dentists and recognizes them as professional men. this law was the result of the agitation of the State Optical Society, which was practically organized by Mr. Chinn and of which he was elected first president in 1899. The society gave Mr. Chinn charge of the matter of pressing the measure before the legislature, and in face of considerable opposition he obtained its passage. This law is a protection to the public, and guarantees that only competent men may examine and treat that most delicate of all human organisms, the eye. No one may practice the profession of optician in California until he has passed an examination before the state board.

Mr. Chinn was born in West Baton Rouge parish, Louisiana, November 2, 1870. His father, Bolling Robertson Chinn, was also a native of Louisiana, and of an old American family of Revolutionary stock, and with English and Welsh progenitors. He was a sugar planter in Louisiana and was a Mexican war veteran, and in the Civil war was a colonel of the Fourth Louisiana Infantry of the Confederate army. He died in 1888. His wife was Frances Conrad, a native of Louisiana and of German ancestors who had settled in this country before the Revolutionary war, in which they took part. Two or three of her brothers were soldiers in the Confederate army. She survived her husband until 1892. One son of these parents, Thomas W., is in the fruit business at Red Bluff, California, and the three daughters, Misses E. J., F. A. and E. S., reside in Sacramento.

Mr. Chinn was educated in the public schools of Louisiana and at the Louisiana State University. At the age of sixteen he came to San Francisco and went into the optical business. In 1897 he came to Sacramento and established his enterprise at 526 K street, and a year later established another store at 456 Thirteenth street, in Oakland; two years later one of his stores was opened at 991 Market street, San Francisco, followed a year later by the establishment of one at 407 East Main street, Stockton. He now has the largest retail business in this line in the United States. The business is incorporated under the name of Chinn-Beretta Company, I. A. Beretta being secretary and treasurer.

Mr. Chinn has taken an active part in the affairs of the Republican party, and his fraternal relations are with the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks. He was married in San Francisco, in February, 1892, to Miss Rose McKenna, a native of New York and of Scotch-Irish descent. Her father, John J. McKenna, is a retired merchant of New York city. Mr. and Mrs. Chinn have three sons, Frederick Harold, Bolling Robertson and Francis Conrad.

Source: Leigh H. Irvine; A History of the New California Its Resources and People, 2 Volumes; New York and Chicago: The Lewis Publishing Company, 1903.

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