John Quinn

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John Quinn circa 1913

John Quinn (1870-1924) was a second generation Irish-American corporate lawyer in New York, who for a time was an important patron of major figures of post-impressionism and literary modernism, and collector in particular of original manuscripts.


John Quinn became a successful New York lawyer, art patron and collector, and collector of manuscripts. He was the principal supporter and purchaser of manuscripts of Joseph Conrad during his lifetime. He met W. B. Yeats in 1902, and was a major supporter.

He was an organizer and spokesperson for the 1913 Armory Show, and later legal defender of James Joyce and T. S. Eliot. He was a friend of Ezra Pound.

He was a supporter of the Irish nationalist cause and associated with figures such as John Devoy and Roger Casement, though he worked for British Intelligence services before, during and after World War One. In this role he acted as case officer for, among others, Aleister Crowley who was an agent provocateur posing as an Irish nationalist in order to infiltrate anti-British groups of Irish and Germans in the United States.

Art promotion

In 1913, he convinced the United States Congress to overturn the 1909 Tariff Law, which retained the duty on foreign works of art less than twenty years old and which discouraged collecting modern European art.

A huge and controversial event, the 1913 Armory Show (officially The International Exhibition of Modern Art, in New York City) included examples of Symbolism, Impressionism, Post-Impressionism, Neo-Impressionism, and Cubism. John Quinn opened the exhibition with the words:

"... it was time the American people had an opportunity to see and judge for themselves concerning the work of the Europeans who are creating a new art."


Quinn was born in Tiffin, Ohio, to an Irish baker and grocer, James W. Quinn, and Mary Quinlaw Quinn, and grew up in nearby Fostoria, Ohio, where his parents relocated in 1871. His paternal grandparents, James and Mary (Madigan) Quinn, natives of County Limerick, Ireland, settled in Tiffin in 1851, where the grandfather was a blacksmith by trade.

Quinn died at age 54 and was buried by his family in Fostoria, Ohio.


  • Benjamin Lawrence Reid (1968) The Man from New York: John Quinn and His Friends (1969 Pulitzer Prize for Biography or Autobiography)
  • Spence, Richard B. (2008). Secret Agent 666: Aleister Crowley, British Intelligence and the Occult. Port Townsend: Feral House. pp. 54–57, 60–61. ISBN 978-1-932595-33-8.

Additional reading

  • William M. Murphy. Prodigal Father: the Life of John Butler Yeats (1839-1922) (Ithaca and London: Cornell University Press, 1978; paperback 1979; revised paperback, Syracuse University Press, 2001)
  • Richard and Janis Londraville. Dear Yeats, Dear Pound, Dear Ford: Jeanne Robert Foster and Her Circle of Friends (Syracuse University Press, 2001)
  • Janis and Richard Londraville, eds. John Quinn: Selected Irish Writers from his Library (Syracuse University Press, 2001)

External links

  • Tiffin, Ohio (John Quinn Birthplace)Tiffin, Ohio, see Reid biography for more information.

Retrieved from Wikipedia on November 12, 2010.