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John Quinn, a wealthy New York lawyer and art collector, defended Ulysses against obscenity charges in 1921

John Quinn was a finance lawyer with connections to Wall Street, Tammany Hall and Washington, D.C. He started his own law firm when he was thir-ty-six, and he worked tirelessly. He dictated letters and memoranda to stenographers arranged around his desk in his Nassau Street office, and at the end of the day an assistant would lug a leather briefcase filled with unfinished business to Quinn's apartment overlooking Central Park so he could work through the evening. In the morning, another stenographer would arrive and take dictation while Quinn dressed and shaved.

John Quinn used his clout for modernism. He spent his precious spare time collecting art and man-uscripts, sometimes at above-mar-ket prices. In 1912, Quinn legally incorporated a group of dissident New York artists who split from the fusty National Academy of Design and helped them secure a space for the most ambitious art show anyone had seen in decades. The exhibition was housed in the new armory of the New York National Guard's 69th Regiment (Quinn liked the fact that the regiment was known as "The Fighting Irish").


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