Cyril Magnin

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Magnin with Charlotte Mailliard Shultz, 1985

Cyril Isaac Magnin (1899–1988) was one of the most prominent San Francisco businessmen of the post-World War II era, chief executive of the Joseph Magnin Co., which evolved into a multi-million dollar chain of upscale women's clothing stores.

Personally gracious and urbane, Magnin was a veteran political fund-raiser and power broker in the Democratic Party, dating back to New Deal days. He was Treasurer of President Franklin Roosevelt's northern California re-election campaign in 1944, a delegate to the Democratic National Convention in 1948 (that nominated President Harry Truman) and again in 1964, when he co-chaired the Finance Committee of President Lyndon Johnson's campaign in California.

Throughout the 1950s and 1960s, Magnin was one of a quartet of fabulously wealthy San Francisco Jewish contributors to Democratic candidates, appreciatively called "The Green Machine" by career politicians,[1] the others being Fairmont Hotel magnate Benjamin Swig, Lilli Ann clothing company founder Adolph Schuman, and real estate mogul Walter Shorenstein.

The four did not always agree in their choice of candidates. Magnin himself was a major donor to the presidential candidacies of John F. Kennedy in 1960 and Robert F. Kennedy in 1968, and, in the interim, developed a close friendship with Lyndon Johnson.[2]

Magnin was the first of the "Green Machine" multi-millionaires to fade from the national political scene after the Party was bitterly divided over the Vietnam War in 1968 and 1972. But he later worked closely with San Francisco Mayor Joseph Alioto and was deeply involved in the civic affairs of the city for the remainder of his life. He was President of the Port of San Francisco and was instrumental in establishing such internationally-renowned institutions as the Asian Art Museum, the American Conservatory Theater and the California Culinary Academy. Serving also as the city's first "Chief of Protocol", Magnin reveled in the informal title of "Mr. San Francisco".

He appeared in the film Maxie as Mr San Francisco, and in Foul Play as Pope Pius XIII.

The two-block stretch of Fifth Street north of Market and adjacent to Hallidie Plaza were renamed Cyril Magnin Street in his honor.


  1. ^ Willie Brown, Sen. Kennedy Drew on S.F.'s Green Machine early,, August 30, 2009
  2. ^ Cyril Magnin and Cynthia Robins. Call Me Cyril (NY,1981); Bernice Scharlach. Dealing From the Heart, A Biography of Benjamin Swig (San Francisco, 2000)