Appleton's Cyclopedia of American Biography, edited by James
Grant Wilson, John Fiske and Stanley L. Klos. Six volumes, New York: D. Appleton
and Company, 1887-1889 and 1999. Virtualology.com warns that these 19th Century
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THORBURN, Grant, merchant, born in Dalkeith. near Edinburgh, Scotland, 18 February, 1773; died in New Haven, Connecticut, 21 January, 1863. He early entered his father's business of nail-making, and became so expert that he is said to have made with his own hands in a single day, between 6 A. M, and 9 P. M., 3,221 nails. In 1792 he became involved in a political movement concerning parliamentary reforms, and was charged with treason, but he was released on bail and soon afterward emigrated to New York, where he arrived on 16 June, 1794. At first lie continued his old trade of nail-making, but in 1801 he engaged in the grocery trade, and lie finally established himself in the seed business in Newark, New Jersey This proved unsuccessful, but, on removing his business to New York city, he acquired a handsome fortune. In 1854 he retired from active trade and settled at first in Astoria, New York, and then in Winsted, Connecticut. The house he founded is continued under the style of James M. Thorburn and Co. He was noted for his charity, and during the epidemic of yellow fever in 1798 he and his wife remained in the city, devoting themselves to the care of the victims. Under the pen-name of Lawrie Todd he contributed to the " Knickerbocker Magazine," the "New York Mirror," and more than twenty other papers, principally concerning his reminiscences of New York city at the beginning of the present century. His publications in book-form included "Forty Years' Residence in America" (Boston, 1834); " Men and Manners in Great Britain" (New York, 1834); "Fifty Years' Reminiscences of New York" (1845) ; "Lawrie Todd's Hints to Merchants, Married Men, and Bachelors" (1847); " Lawrie Todd's Notes on Virginia, with a Chapter on Puritans, Witches, and Friends" (1848); "Life and Writings of Grant Thorburn" (1852); and "Supplement to the Life of Grant Thorburn" (1853). His experiences furnished the novelist John Galt with the incidents described in his "Lawrie Todd, or Settlers in the New World" (London, 1830). See "A Bone to Gnaw for Grant Thorburn," by William Carver (New York, 1836).
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