Monday, January 26, 2015

Daniel W. Quinn (1860-1938),Columbia's dandy

Daniel W. Quinn was born in New York in 1860, Quinn never stated his exact age(all due to his vanity...). So according to one of his living descendants, the family moved to San Francisco around c.1865-67 and they lived there until the late-1870's, then back they went to New York.  So he was not very well trained as a singer, as the only training he seemed to have had was when he was a boy in the local church choir. After his childhood, he still held on to the desire to perform and play the piano. Quinn married his wife of 55 years, Mary Jane Ritchie in 1883 and they went on to have five children. Here's a kind of odd thing, his youngest child, who was born in 1901 was named after Edison's beloved house pianist of the late 1890's Frank P. Banta, so his name was Frank Banta Quinn, what d'ye think of that? 
Apparently to Quinn's letter's to Jim Walsh in the 1930's,  Quinn first became a recording artist completely by accident in 1892, as he was just engaged to entertain a sort of board meeting in Hoboken, but one of the members brought one of these new-fangled phonographs to joke around and record some novelties. But to their surprise, Quinn's voices recorded rather well, even if they thought of it just as a joke to dare him to record something. 
Not long after this "mistake", the boys who dared him recommended him to the few phonograph companies in the area. 
He was an immediate hit. 
The recording managers loved him, his dandyish personality, his piano playing, dedication to all kinds of music, and of course, his voice. 
Even though his singing wasn't the best, it makes him more authentic as a slightly amateur singer. He was apparently a great sight-reader, and learned literally everything, whether he liked it or not. Which he said that many of his fellow recording artists were not the best sight-readers(such as J. W. Myers and George J. Gaskin). Quinn is always an interesting character to fathom to me, as in all of the SEVERAL pictures that are out there of him, he always looks perfect, even in his old age he had the same look to him:
always had a perfect face, flawless hair, and all of these factors literally display his vanity. He was nothing like Len Spencer on his opinion of his looks, Spencer hadn't the time to bother with such things, which is why he always looked rough in all those picture of him(I'm sure that they had a little of "cleaning up" to do with Spencer even...) He was a part of Columbia's elite staff, but he was also an independent, as a booking agent and performer, he wasn't like the many of his fellow in recording who joined forces to create these many small businesses.

Dan Quinn is often considered one of the "Big Three"in recordings of the 1890's, when these three are listed, Quinn's name is most often listed second.
*this post is dedicated to the few descendants of Mr. Dan W. Quinn, which I know that there are some out there*

I hope you enjoyed this! 


  1. Hi Ramona! I am Dan W Quinn's Great Granddaughter and came across this post while getting together my family tree for my children! Love it! I thought i could answer some questions for you. Daniel Quinn was born in 1960 to Bernard and Sabina Quinn. He was actually born in New York, however his family moved to San Francisco, I believe after the Civil War. Probably for more opportunity. Dan, his mother and sister were back in New York in the late 1870's, where he worked as an iron moulder, like his father. His father had joined them by 1880. I am not sure what happened to his older brother in that time period. Dan W married Mary Jane Ritchie in 1883. Their 5 children were Daniel Jr., Ritchie, Mary, Jane and my grandfather, Frank Banta (born in 1901). Dan W died on November 7, 1938, one month after my mother was born (Marilyn Jane).

    I hope this info solved some mystery for you and thank you for enjoying my great grandfathers music!

    Kari Clark

    1. BTW- He was born in 1860, not 1960. ;)

    2. I cannot thank you more for what you have given me. I have been wondering about you. One of my acquaintances, Cliff Kennedy had told me of you. I have been meaning to speak to you ever since your mentioning. I have been a great admirer of your great-grandfather for years now, and i have always found him to be a true fascination in this old recording field of mine. I not only study the records of the artists, such as your great-grandfather, I try my best to get a true picture of them as they were, their personalities, and habits, whether they be good or bad. am glad to know you enjoyed this! I just cannot thank you more! I

    3. You are welcome and please feel free to email me at anytime! :)

    4. You are welcome and please feel free to email me at anytime! :)

  2. Dear Kari,

    We here at Archeophone are putting together the first-ever CD retrospective of your great-grandfather's recording career. In fact, that photo of young Dan that Ramona is using above is from our sheet music collection. We have spoken with a couple of your relatives but would love to hear from you too--it sounds like you have more family memories!


    Richard Martin