His father, George Christian Anthon, was a German physician who served in the British Army during the American Revolution until the surrender of Detroit in 1788. He attained the rank of surgeon general, resigned, married the daughter of a French officer, and settled in New York City.
The son, John Anthon, received a classical education, and then attended Columbia College from which he graduated in 1801 at the head of his class. He then studied law, and, upon attaining his majority, was admitted to the bar in 1805. He started a practice in New York City around 1807, initially in the mayor's (or municipal) court. In 1810, he married Judith Hone.
During the War of 1812, he was in command of a company of militia, and served in the defence of New York City. He was also frequently employed during this period as judge advocate. The establishment of the Supreme Court of the City of New York is largely due to his efforts, he having successfully urged its necessity upon the state legislature. He was one of the founders of the New York Law Institute, becoming its president in 1852 and continuing until his death.
- Digested Index to the Reports of the United States Courts (5 vols., 1813)
- Reports of Cases at Nisi Prius in the New York Supreme Court (1820)
- An Analytical Abridgment of Blackstone's Commentaries, with a prefatory essay “On the Study of Law” (2d ed., 1832)
- Anthon's Law Student
- American Precedents (1810)
His brother Charles Anthon was a noted educator and classical scholar. Another brother, Henry Anthon (1795-1861), was a noted clergyman. John's son Charles Edward Anthon (1822-1883) made a name for himself as a numismatist. Another of his sons, William Henry Anthon (1827-1875), was a noted lawyer.
- This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Wilson, James Grant; Fiske, John, eds. (1900). "Anthon, John". Appletons' Cyclopædia of American Biography. New York: D. Appleton.
- Charles Edward Anthon (1872). Narrative of the settlement of George Christian Anthon in America, and of the removal of the family from Detroit, and its establishment in New York City. New York: Bradstreet Press. Further reading on John Anthon's father.