VIPs in the Port of San Francisco

The Tobins

° R. J. Tobin, September 1847
° R. Tobin and Lady, March 19, 1848, Providence, Captain Hinckley, from Tahiti via the Sandwich Islands
° Richard Tobin, June 4, 1849, Chilean brig Catalina, 69 days from Valparaiso (8 passengers)
° J. W. and W. Tobin, SS Tennessee, April 14, 1850
° James Tobin, September 1849
° Mrs. A. J. Tobin, SS Panama, September 22, 1850?
° Wm. Tobin, Barque Canton, July 28, 1851, 50 days from Acapulco<

° J. M. Tobin, SS Columbus, May 20, 1853
° J. Tobin, SS Golden Age, October 16, 1854

Tobins are a part of the deYoung/Tobin/Thieriot/McEvoy/Martin clan that in 1865 started the San Francisco Chronicle. Then owned the paper until August 1999, when The Hearst Corporation (owners of the San Francisco Examiner) purchased The Chronicle. As of January 2003, Joseph O. Tobin II was part-owner in Slim's, the Great American Music Hall, and other music entities.

Tobin & Tobin was founded on October 15, 1852 when Richard Tobin, after studying law in the office of Judge Barry, was admitted to practice before the Supreme Court of California. Richard Tobin had arrived in San Francisco from Waterford, Ireland, by way of Valparaiso, Chile, with his father and brother on June 4, 1849 on the Chilean brig Catalina. In 1859, Richard Tobin and a few other gentlemen organized The Hibernia Savings and Loan Society. He was at once elected Attorney for the Society, a position he held for the next 28 years. He also served as legal advisor to the Most Rev. Joseph Sadoc Alemany, the first Archbishop of San Francisco. In 1875, Richard Tobin's eldest son, Robert, joined him in the practice, and they, in turn, were joined by other sons Alfred, Clement and Joseph Sadoc Tobin. Their offices were at the corner of Montgomery and Market Streets.

September 12, 1853, Daily Alta California, San Francisco:



Would respectfully call the attention of buyers, and merchants generally, to their assortment of fancy and variety goods, which will at all times to found to be the most varied in this city, and will be constantly adding to by succession of arrivals from the Atlantic States, of the newest and most desirable goods in our line.

We would therefore solicit the attention of city and country merchants, who have heretofore found great trouble in completing their orders in small wares, notions, fancy and variety goods, to examine our stock, which will be found what it purports to be -- the most varied and extensive in this city, and every article appertaining to the trade will be found therein, and sold at the lowest market rates. The following comprise a portion of our stock, viz:

Stationery, Looking glasses,
Playing Cards, Dolls, Toys,
Violins, Harps, Marbles
Accordeons, Suspenders
Porte monies, German silver spoons,
Fishing lines, Silver spoons,
Fishing tackle, Metallic spoons,
Combs, Spectacles,
Brushes, Pocket cutlery,
Perfumery, Table cutlery,
And a large assortment of zephyr patterns, sewing and floss silk, ladies' silk buttons, silk and worsted braids, fancy hat and plain ribbons, etc., with a great variety of articles too numerous to mention.

JONES & TOBIN, Importers,
57 Sacramento Street, one door above Front.

A young Irish immigrant, Richard Tobin, was among the men who established The Hibernia Savings and Loan Society in 1859. After just 10 years in San Francisco, Tobin's career was made: Elected the society's attorney, he -- or his firm, Tobin & Tobin -- served the organization for 130 years, as it became The Hibernia Bank and was eventually acquired by the old Security Pacific National Bank.

When Tobin died in 1887, the San Francisco Bar Association noted that "the very extensive business of that vast institution" had prevented him from building a wider practice, but he "had no superior at the bar" in his chosen field. "His professional conduct was courteous and honorable. He possessed the esteem and respect of his professional brethren," the Bar said. "He rarely and reluctantly spoke ill of any man."

Born in Waterford, Ireland, Richard Tobin came to San Francisco via Valparaiso, Chile, on June 4, 1849, arriving by ship with his father and brother. Soon, Tobin was studying law with Judge Barry, and on October 15, 1852, he was admitted to practice before the Supreme Court of California.

Among Richard's first partners were his oldest son, Robert, who joined him in 1875, and later his other sons: Alfred, Clement and Joseph Sadoc Tobin. The latter was named after the Most Rev. Joseph Sadoc Alemany, the first Archbishop of San Francisco, whom his father had served as legal adviser.

May 21, 1877, Daily Alta California, San Francisco

The Stabbing of Tobin.

On Thursday morning Charles A. Crocker and William Tobin engaged in a row in a Market street saloon, during which Tobin was stabbed in the abdomen. Yesterday Crocker was examined before Judge Lawler, and Tobin asserted that they were both drunk, and that the stabbing was done accidentally. The charge was consequently dismissed.

Thursday, August 27, 1895, San Francisco Call


The Resident of Mrs. Richard Tobin Was Almost Destroyed
Careless House-Painters With Gasoline Lamps?
Started the Blaze

The residence of Mrs. Richard Tobin, on the southeast corner of California and Taylor streets, was gutted by fire yesterday afternoon, causing between $10,000 and $15,000 damages. The fire was started by house-painters, who were using gasoline lamps for burning off the old paint. The men were at work on the bow-windows on the second story at the southwest corner. A high wind was blowing from the south, and the small flame started by the burning lamp was soon leaping up the dry wooden walls until it reached a small cupola, where it flared up like a torch.

An alarm was sounded from box 132 on the corner of Pine and Mason streets at 3:15 o'clock. For a time the fire held full sway in the building, which is on the top of Nob Hill, because it was very difficult to reach with the heavy steam engines. The first on the ground was the engine on California street, near Leavenworth. The Stockton-street engine was the next, while engine 2 took up its position on Pine street, and ran a line of hose up the steep Taylor-street hill. The Broadway hook and ladder company took a stand on California street.

Residence of Mrs. Richard Tobin.

While this was going on the flames were being swept by the high wind through the bedrooms of the second story and along beneath the high mansard roof. The building was erected fully thirty years ago and was built in the style of those times, with a total disregard for protection against fire. The spaces between the outer and inner walls served the fire as so many chimneys and the falling spares dropped down to the first story, where in a short time they set fire to the building in fresh places. For a short time it looked as though the fine old structure was doomed, but the firemen worked hard to save it. Ladders were were run to the roof and several lines of hose were directed against the flames from the top. In fact they fairly flooded the house.

While saving the house the beautiful furniture, books, pictures, etc., were threatened with destruction by water.

Captain Comstock of the Underwriters' Fire Patrol was among the first on the ground and the work of saving the contents of the house was taken in hand by his crews. The walls were stripped of their ornaments and pictures, which were taken to a place of safety. All of the heavy furniture was quickly covered with rubber blankets so that it was saved from damage by the water that soon began to pour in torrents from the floor above. In the upper part of the house the larger part of the contents was removed to the north side of the house and covered with the rubber blankets. The valuable carpets, however, were ruined either by fire or water.

The house presented a sorry appearance when the flames were conquered. The south wall was riddled with large holes from the first story to the roof. At least ten rooms in the second story were gutted. The west side of the building was but little better than the south, but on the north and east sides the structure is not badly injured.

The total loss will be between $10,000 and $15,000. There was only $5000 insurance on the house and none on the contents so far as can be learned. The house had been very recently in the hands of the carpenters who had repaired it from the bottom to the top. The painters had not been at work very long and only about a quarter of the work was done. They were removing all the old paint by the application of a gasoline flame and as stated are responsible for the blaze. They did not remain long after the firemen arrived. Mrs. Tobin had removed for the summer to Burlingame and the house was in charge of the gardener. As soon as the blaze was extinguished friends telephoned to Mrs. Tobin who replied that she would leave at once for San Francisco. She places a high valuation upon the paintings, books and bric-a-brac, which are the result of many years of collection by the late owner and Mrs. Tobin.

Joseph S. Tobin.

In 1901, the younger Tobin (image right from San Francisco Call, November 4, 1901), was a candidate for mayor of San Francisco. Although he lost, Joseph remained in public service, serving on the Committee of Fifty after the 1906 earthquake and on the Board of the 1915 Panama Pacific Exposition. Joseph also led Tobin & Tobin until his death in 1919, when Cyril R. Tobin, Richard's grandson and Robert's son, took over.

Cyril was the firm's dominant force until his death in 1977. During all those years, The Hibernia Bank remained the firm's principal client. In fact, for a time, the firm's offices were on the second floor of the Bank's headquarters at One Jones Street. A brass plaque at the front door read, "Tobin & Tobin -- Attorneys -- Up Stairs." That plaque has a place of honor in the reception area of Tobin & Tobin today, and a replica is on the building at 500 Sansome that is its present home.

Old Chronicle Building,

In 1984, the California Historical Society placed the firm on its register of historic California businesses "in recognition of more than a century of service and contribution to California's economic growth and vitality."

In later years, Richard Tobin Thieriot became publisher of the The San Francisco Chronicle.

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Sources: As noted on entries and through research centers including National Archives, San Bruno, California; CDNC: California Digital Newspaper Collection; San Francisco Main Library History Collection; and Maritime Museums and Collections in Australia, China, Denmark, England, Finland, Germany, Ireland, Wales, Norway, Scotland, Spain, Sweden, etc.

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