Thursday, January 08, 2004

"Le Roi est Mort"

On this day in 1880, Norton I, Emperor of the United States died.

Born in London, England on February 14, 1819 to John and Sarah Norton, Joshua Norton was a failed businessman living in San Francisco when, on September 17, 1859, he proclaimed himself Emperor of the United States and Protector of Mexico.

During his reign, Emperor Norton broke the Federal monopoly on currency by printing and distributing his own money, usually in 50cent denominations. These were accepted all over San Francisco by bar keeps and tavern owners. His various proclamations were published in the San Francisco Herald, though it is now suspected that some of the proclamations were written by the newspaper's editors for satirical purposes. One proclamation, though, is known to be authentic:


Norton I., Die Gratia, Emperor of the United States and Protector of Mexico, being desirous of allaying the dissensions of party strife now existing within our realm, do hereby dissolve and abolish the Democratic and Republican parties, and also do hereby decree disfranchisement and imprisonment, for not more than ten nor less than five years, to all persons leading to any violation of this imperial decree.

Norton I.

Given at San Francisco Cal., this 12th day of August, A.D. 1869

Known for his progressive attitude towards the city's large Chinese population, The Emperor once halted and dispersed a lynch mob by standing in the street, head bowed and praying.

His majesty was also a forward thinking civil planner, suggesting on September 21, 1872 that a survey be made to determine if a bridge or tunnel would be the best possible means to connect Oakland and San Francisco. This led to the construction of the Golden Gate Bridge.

On January 8, 1880, Norton I fell dead on the corner of California St. and Grant Ave. He was on his way to a lecture at the Academy of Natural Sciences. Emperor Norton I was buried at Masonic Cemetery. The procession was two miles long and more than 10,000 people turned out for the funeral.

ìEverybody understands Mickey Mouse. Few understand Hermann Hesse. Hardly anybody understands Einstein. And nobody understands Emperor Norton."

~Malaclypse the Younger, K.S.C.


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