Of all the personalities who made San Francisco early into a great theater city, the most flamboyant, controversial and indispensable was an irrepressible Irishman from New York named Tom Maguire. Known as the “Napoleon of the Stage,” Maguire was the city’s leading theater producer for over 20 years. Born in humble circumstances and blessed with an uncanny ability to bounce back from disaster, he was the perfect impresario for Gold Rush City.
As Lois Foster Rodecape wrote in the California Historical Society Quarterly in a series of articles beginning in December 1941, Maguire grew up in New York City, where he was a hack driver, Tammany Hall assistant, and bartender. He was a young bravo, fearless and quick with his fists, and supposedly illiterate. In 1849, this energetic and ambitious young man decided to try his luck as a theater director in San Francisco.