Patrick Henry Quinn was born in 1869 in the Warwick mill village of Phenix. He followed the successful path of many ambitious Irish-Catholics by interlacing labor union activity with legal training and Democratic Party activism within the even larger framework of his ethnicity and religion. He was a masterful speaker and seemed to belong to most of the clubs and organizations of his day.
Quinn had a grade school education and entered the Clyde Print Works as a finisher for nine years”his childhood spent like so many others in the state as a child laborer. However, like the proverbial cream that rises to the top, Quinn studied life through observation and books at the end of the day. He found his initial success as a member of the Gilded Age’s most powerful labor union, the Knights of Labor which had a meteoric rise in Rhode Island. Quinn achieved the union’s highest state ranking, District Master Workman, just as the Order began to decline in the 1890s.
Quinn secured a job at the printing house of William R. Brown and Company and studied law under his mentor Edward L. Gannon forming a partnership with Gannon after his entrance to the bar in 1895. Later he would join with his famous nephew and protégé, future governor Robert E. Quinn, in the practice of law and politics.
Patrick Henry’s political activism began in elementary school and included an unsuccessful race for governor in 1914. He was often elected delegate to national Democratic conventions and served his home town of Warwick zealously.
Quinn helped to create the state’s 39th municipality, the densely populated industrial town of West Warwick. When it peeled away from Warwick in 1913 Quinn served as first president of the new town’s council. The Rhode Island General Assembly approved this division of Warwick, with Quinn its leading advocate, in order to safeguard Republican ascendancy in that original town, the eastern part of which was predominantly rural.
In later life, and in true West Warwick fashion, Quinn became a manufacturer prior to his death in 1956 at the age of eighty-seven.