Biographies of American Seedsmen and Nurserymen Thorburn, Grant–(1773-1863)–New York, New York–Thorburn was born near Dalkeith, Scotland on February 18, 1773 and was a nailmaker before he came to America at age 21.  Thorburn arrived in New York in 1794.  He sold novelties and hardware in New York City but found that his flower pots sold better with flowers in them.  Thorburn’s was probably the first business of importance in America devoted to stock seeds.  Thorburn began selling seeds in 1805.  He began his business by buying out the seeds of George Inglis who agreed to give up the market and grow seeds for Thorburn’s business.  In 1808, his store escaped destruction by fire after a soap and candle factory next door to his establishment burned.  His business was “prostrated” in 1814 due to over extending his capital, but by 1816 he had recovered.  The G. Thorburn & Son’s catalog of 1822 was the first to be issued in pamphlet form, and it was the first to include illustrations.  The catalogs of the firm between 1827 and 1844 were destroyed by mice.  He died in New Haven, Connecticut on January 21, 1863.  The company was continued as J. M. Thorburn & Company.  It was incorporated in 1895 with F. W. Bruggerhof as president, having been associated with James M. Thorburn and the company for over fifty years.
Sources:  Thorburn; FlorEx-Oct. 13, 1906; Plants; GM-1863; Woodburn2; Bailey; SW1; HG; GT; Bryan; VanRav; Wright