Quinn was born in County Tipperary, Ireland, immigrated to the United States in 1866, and settled in Manhattan, New York City. He engaged in the real estate and building business. He was president of the West Side Electric Light & Power Company and was one of the founders and a director of the Homestead Bank of New York.
Quinn was a member of the New York State Assembly (New York Co., 17th D.) in 1883; and was a member of the board of aldermen in 1885–1887. He was a delegate to the Democratic National Convention in 1884 and 1888.
Quinn was elected as a Democrat to the Fifty-first Congress (March 4, 1889 – March 3, 1891). Quinn died in New York City on February 23, 1903, at the age of 63, he is interred in Calvary Cemetery, Woodside, New York.
- United States Congress. "John Quinn (id: Q000018)". Biographical Directory of the United States Congress.