Jonathan Thorne was born in Washington, New York, on April 20, 1801, the son of Samuel Thorne, a Quaker. In 1828, he moved to New York City, where he worked in the dry goods industry. He joined Israel Corse's leather business after marrying Corse's daughter Lydia, and later became the firm's senior partner. In addition to his interests in the leather industry, Thorne held stock in the Western Union Telegraph Company and other firms, raised cattle in Dutchess County, New York, and owned land in Berrien County and Kalamazoo County, Michigan. Jonathan Thorne and Lydia Corse had at least five children: Edwin, Samuel, Jonathan, William, and Phebe Anna. After Lydia's death, Thorne married Eliza Fox. Jonathan Thorne retired around 1874, and died in 1884.