California Genealogy and History Archives
The position of an humble apprentice in a mercantile establishment in the north of England rarely points to the presidency of a large American department store, but such represents the beginning and the climax of the career of Harry Thorp, recognized as one of the merchant princes of the capital city and as one of the most experienced authorities in dry goods that the Pacific coast can boast. Apparent chance or the over-ruling destiny that guides all humanity turned his steps toward the occupation for which he was best qualified, and when he received admission to an established mercantile house as a , junior apprentice he placed his feet upon the rounds of the ladder leading upward to success. Years of the most conscientious labor followed. Experience developed a natural aptitude for the business and cultivated his sagacious judgment concerning the quality of fabrics, the correct value of cottons and woolens, and the inherent worth of the vast number of supplementary articles included in every complete stock of merchandise.
The genealogy of the Thorp family indicates a long line of English ancestry, many of them identified with the shire of Lancaster, where Harry Thorp was born and where his parents, John and Helen (Parker) Thorp, made their lifelong home. Primarily educated in the free schools, he later attended an academy, but in 1880 left school in order to begin an apprenticeship to the dry-goods trade in Burnley, Lancashire, England. The next four years represented a period of the greatest importance in his commercial life and laid the foundation for all subsequent prosperity. In the midst of his monotonous task as an apprentice, he kept an attentive mind, a clear vision and an open ear, so that he quietly absorbed a vast fund of information concerning mercantile pursuits. When he left the English firm in 1884 he crossed the ocean to New York City and secured a clerkship in the dry goods house of John Daniels & Son, remaining with that firm until December, 1887, when he came via the Isthmus of Panama, to Sacramento, his subsequent headquarters and present home.
By a fortunate coincidence the ability of Mr. Thorp attracted the attention of Weinstock, Lubin & Company, and he was given a position in their department store, where he was promoted from one post to another until he was made general buyer for the dry goods department. After two years in that position he became eastern buyer for several departments, making semi-annual trips to Chicago and New York. He soon became foreign representative for the house, making a number of business trips to Paris and other important European trade centers. After being financially interested in the company for some years he was made a director in the company. During January of 1910 he was elected president and manager of the concern, which since has reaped the benefit of his wise counsel as chief executive and his efficient oversight as manager. The same ability which has helped to bring success to his mercantile establishment enables him to serve with discretion and sagacity as a member of the executive board of the Retail Merchants' Association, also as a director of the Chamber of Commerce. With other capitalists he was interested in the starting of the Hotel Sacramento and became one of the directors of the company owning the same. In addition he acts as a director of the Sutter club, and his social and fraternal connections are further broadened through his association with the Masons of the thirty-second degree, Scottish Rite, and Islam Temple, N. M. S., of San Francisco. While never prominent in Partisan affairs, he is loyal to the Republican party and gives his stanch allegiance to the men pledged to promote party principles. About three years after coming to Sacramento, on New Year's Day of 1890, he was united in marriage with Miss Lillian E. Smith of this city. They are the parents of an only son, Harry Sam, now a student in the University of California. The family are actively connected with the Episcopal church of Sacramento.
Transcribed by Peggy Hooper 2011